Studio: 4 Digital Media
Director: John R. Walker
Writer: Steve Hardy, John R. Walker
Producer: John R. Walker
Stars: Monele LeStrat, Linden Baker, Kennie Bennoit, Hollie Anne Kornik, Eva Kwok, Logan Russell, Gary Martin, Ania Marson, John R. Walker
A teenager and her friends become trapped in a haunted theater with a disturbing connection to Amityville¡¯s secret past.
Film fans can often develop affinities for franchises that end up with longevities outlasting the quality of the franchises themselves. As one example, there are those of us who will still see anything branded ¡°Hellraiser¡± despite knowing full well that the series¡¯ entertainment value has only continued diminishing since going direct-to-video about a half dozen sequels ago.
One of my other Achilles Heels for horror has always been Amityville. It¡¯s an odd personal predilection to have considering that one, I don¡¯t believe the actual Ocean Avenue home in Long Island was ever haunted, and two, there hasn¡¯t been an Amityville-related movie worth much discussion in maybe 30 years. Nevertheless, some kernel of nostalgia from childhood, when naivety had me fascinated with the idea that a legitimately haunted house could possibly exist in reality, engrained in me an OCD urge to see anything featuring box art with arched eye windows or devil tail font.
That¡¯s why even with the fair warning of a 2.3 IMDB rating and user reviews including choice phrases such as ¡°stinker,¡± ¡°cringe-worthy,¡± ¡°trash,¡± and ¡°a disgrace,¡± better sense took a nap in order to give ¡°The Amityville Theater¡± a go. Fully primed for an underwhelming experience, I certainly wasn¡¯t expecting the film, titled ¡°The Amityville Playhouse¡± outside of North America, to be any sort of sleeper hit or mold-breaking stunner. But even the aforementioned verbal venom had not fully braced me for the dismal 98 minutes that ¡°The Amityville Theater¡± forces willful viewers to endure.
By some stoke of law-skirting fiction involving minors and property ownership, high school student Fawn Harriman inherits an abandoned theater in Amityville after her parents die in a fire. Accompanied by her BFF, her sort-of boyfriend, the boyfriend¡¯s brother, and the brother¡¯s random friend, Fawn sets off on an urban explorer weekend to give the cobwebbed old building a look-see. What she and her friends find is a ghost story hodge-podge of paranormal activity, possession, and ritualistic murder that amounts to zero in the scare department despite everything stirred into the stew.
Meanwhile, a B-plot follows Fawn¡¯s geography teacher Mr. Stewart as he takes it upon himself to research the theater¡¯s haunted history. In between scenes of the teens¡¯ theater spelunking, viewers are treated to extraneous asides of Mr. Vincent browsing a bookstore, arriving at a library only to find it closed, being stopped at a railroad crossing while waiting for a train to pass, renting a motel room, returning to the library, and reading a whole lot of books just to arrive at a single page telling him everything he needs to know. Given that Mr. Vincent is played by the film¡¯s director, John R. Walker, I can only assume these scenes are vanity inclusions, as they serve no practical entertainment or story momentum purposes.
The additional inclusion of a pair of facacta backstories set in England and Canada seems designed to get around the fact that the film was shot there instead of actually in Amityville. It also partially explains why everyone in the cast has an accent from one of those two locations instead of from New York.
Discontent to annoy solely through pointless employment of a handheld camera, ¡°The Amityville Theater¡± has a confusing desire to place certain scenes out of order. For instance, the movie starts on an overlong montage of a building surveyor exiting his house, driving into town, and entering the theater basement only to be attacked by something unseen. What does this unnecessarily long sequence establish other than the director¡¯s confusion over shots required to tell this point of the story? From there, Fawn tells her sort-of boyfriend about acquiring building keys from the lawyer before the film flashes back again to the lawyer assigning the surveyor to investigate the theater. Seems like the only sensible explanation for jumbling that thread¡¯s order is to force an off-camera kill as the opener.
Seeing as how the cast is comprised of fresh-faced newcomers, possibly with fragile aspirations of fruitful film careers, ¡°unconvincing¡± would be a charitable way to describe their acting without crushing unwarranted dreams. Regrettably, these performances are deserving of criticism with a harsher bite. I never fully understood the expression ¡°couldn¡¯t act his/her way out of a wet paper bag,¡± because I don¡¯t quite know how someone would do such a thing in the first place. Neither does anyone in this movie.
It would be unfair to single out any performance in particular as amateurish, since the acting across the board is uniformly terrible. The wooden line delivery and expressionless faces might be amusing if it were not heartbreaking to think some of these young greenhorns might believe they have promising futures as professional thespians. Anyone under any such delusion is in dire need of a Simon Cowell reality check about finding a different line of work.
To breathe some much needed fun into this review, I initially planned on several visual diversions about how one of the actors brings to mind an amalgam of Andy Samberg and Jason Biggs, another looks like a young Joel Kinnaman circa Holder on ¡°The Killing,¡± and one more resembles makeup artist J. Anthony Kosar from ¡°Face Off.¡± Sadly, this movie isn¡¯t worth even the small effort it would take to cut and paste those pictures together.
Nearly unparalleled as abysmal in the subgenre of Amityville films, ¡°The Amityville Theater¡± manages to be a worse watch than ¡°The Amityville Asylum¡± (review here), though falls maybe a shade short of out-awfulling The Asylum¡¯s ¡°The Amityville Haunting¡± (review here). Now pardon me as I put a hole in my head for being somehow compelled to seek out a copy of ¡°Amityville Death House.¡±
NOTE: There is a very brief post-credits sting.
Review Score: 15