Following in the bloody wake of ‘The Texas Chainsaw Massacre’ and ‘Dawn of the Dead’ comes another ripe remake of an iconic ’70s horror film. Reportedly based on a true story, this tells of George and Kathy Lutz (Ryan Reynolds and Melissa George) who, along with Kathy’s three children, Billy, Michael and Chelsea, move into a Long Island dream home that they manage to bag for a song. But there’s a reason for the discount: very bad things happened here a year earlier when Ronnie DeFeo shot dead his entire family, claiming voices told him to do it. Undeterred (‘houses don’t kill people’), the Lutzes move in and pretty soon Chelsea’s getting cosy with the ghost of Ronnie’s dead sister and things are going bump in the night. ‘There’s something evil in my house,’ Kathy tells her priest, Father McNamara (Philip Baker Hall), after a few weeks of spooky shenanigans. Well, duh. That would explain why your red-eyed husband’s left the marital bed for the basement and is becoming a little too fond of his axe.
Although the original now looks like an A-Z of haunted house movie clichés, it was genuinely creepy for its time. This update takes modern horror cinema’s assertions that noisy equals scary and the grislier the better, and changes the source of evil from a hellhole in the basement to a religious zealot’s malevolent spirit. Subtlety isn’t its strongest suit, but there’s less reliance on CGI than normal nowadays. Douglas hammers home the gaudy shocks with manic abandon resulting in little real suspense, but this is an effective, pulpy frightener for those who prefer their horror lurid and loud.