On the evening of November 14, 1974, in the small town of Amityville in Long Island, Ronald "Ronny" Defeo murdered his parents and four siblings with a shotgun. All of the victims were found laying face down in their beds; the only motive that Ronny could proffer, after being arrested a few days later, was that he had heard voices in the house inspiring him to murder.
Shortly thereafter, the same house was bought by George and Kathy Lutz, a couple looking for a home suitable for their three children. They abruptly abandoned the home after 28 days, however, claiming that there was some sort of "evil presence" in the house and, had they not left, some serious shit would've gone down.
While there are numerous (conspiracy) theories about the Lutz' experience in the home, the truth is hardly an issue when Hollywood sees something to exploit, and exploit this story they have -- several times.
"We got a lot of discouragement from people asking us not to make this movie," says Brad Fuller, co-producer of the new film The Amityville Horror. "It was either because of exploitation or because they didn't want us to ruin the original." Fuller is referring to the first Amityville Horror from 1979, a horror classic whose considerable success was largely attributable to its "based on true events" tag.
Fuller and co-producer Andrew Form have made their own killing in recent years by remaking classic horror films (most recently with 2003's Texas Chainsaw Massacre), and already have others in the works. So why only horror remakes? "When I go to the movies," Form says, "I like to be entertained, and since these movies have done it so well in the past, why not remake it for the newer generations to enjoy?"
In the latest Amityville, Ryan Reynolds portrays George Lutz opposite Melissa George's Kathy Lutz. The casting of Reynolds for such an intense role has jarred many in Hollywood, who are mostly familiar with the actor for his roles in National Lampoon's Van Wilder and the sitcom Two Guys, a Girl and a Pizza Place.
"Yeah, I knew people were going to say that," Reynolds says of his casting, "but as an actor you've got to mix up your roles in order to get respect."
So what do the cast and crew of The Amityville Horror think about the supernatural backdrop of this story?
"Do I believe in ghosts? I believe in ghosts about as much as I believe in God," says director Andrew Douglas. The rest of the cast also seems to regard the film's paranormal underpinnings mostly as a Hollywood creation, but "clairvoyant" Lorraine Warren, who along with her late husband Ed has studied the Amityville house in depth, "knows" otherwise.
"I don't think the Amityville house is haunted. I know it's haunted," says Warren, now 78 years old. Warren claims that her sixth sense allows her to walk into a house and know whether evil forces are at work or not. "I'm not talking about ghost stories, though," she clarifies. "There are no ghosts in the Amityville house or any house."
Whether the stories are true or not, they make for a good advertising campaign, and as a result, Amityville is likely to perform well at the box office. There's nothing like a good re-exploitation to line your pockets, is there?