Published Apr 01, 2005With the success of The Texas Chain Saw Massacre remake in 2003, the film's producers felt the need to give new life to another classic '70s horror film. It's quite a rarity for the remake to better the original (TCM came close but missed the mark by abandoning the frighteningly real docu-style cinematography), but Douglas has pulled it off in his first major work.
Though Stuart Rosenberg's original film starring beardy James Brolin and Margot Kidder was a huge success, looking back on it now it carried few scares and failed in giving a viscerally creepy haunted house sensation. Douglas obviously took notes, as the creepy story of the Lutz family living in a possessed house has been revitalised as a slick yet gruesome film that out-muscles and out-scares the 1979 original.
There are obvious attempts to turn this into more of a seat-jumping horror flick, as it diverges quite a bit from the "true story," abandoning the Lutz's real account for a good spooky, even gory piece of fiction. And even though it neglects the historically biopic feel of the original, Douglas takes a lot of chances that Rosenberg should have taken 26 years ago.
Adding a welcome dose of humour with the casting of Ryan Reynolds was a smart choice, as was the decision to give the three children more of an identity and include them in the central struggles with the demon house. Perhaps his infatuation with grossing out the viewer with the back story's Indian torture scenes and the little ghost of the DeFeo girl are cheap shots to give it more thrills, but overall Douglas has made a good contemporary horror film that may not tell the truth in its script, but delivers all the right shocks required to make even the most desensitised viewer flinch. (MGM)