After five years on the shelf constantly being rescheduled and postponed, “Amityville: the Awakening” is here and–makes apparent why it was postponed for so long. At ninety minutes, “The Awakening” feels like there are at least twenty minutes of good exposition missing. What we get is a pretty ineffective and monotonous horror film that feels very much like another run of the mill sequel in the oddly long running “Amityville” series. It has a lot of potential to really break out of the doldrums of being just another cash grab, and could have done some great things with its emphases on family, but every time it reaches out to become something different, it inevitably just pulls back again and seems intent on just making it to the end credits with no real effect.
Set in a reality where the Amityville murders occurred and spawned a bunch of movies based on it, “The Awakening” is kind of a meta-sequel. I think. It’s almost kind of canon, but not really, considering it’s supposed to be outside the established universe. Whatever gimmick the writers are going for is fairly ineffective as it goes nowhere and is never quite implemented beyond reminding us that Hollywood never got tired of exploiting this long debunked scary story. Young Belle has taken residence in the infamous Amityville house (if this is reality why does the Amityville house look the same?) with her young sister Juliet, mother Joan, and disabled twin brother James, who is on life support after a horrific accident two years prior. Struggling to fit in to her new surroundings, Belle makes friends with two classmates that warn her of the curse of the Amityville house.
Things go awry when the once brain dead James begins responding to stimuli and awakens with the ability to communicate, and breathe on his own. Certain that he’s been possessed by the force inside house, Belle struggles to find a way to convince Joan that he’s being used as a vessel for the demonic entities before he repeats the cycle of murder. A lot of “The Awakening” rushes through so much of its story that nothing ever quite binds together in to a cohesive experience. There’s not a lot of explanation as to why Belle’s mother is so attached to James to the point where it’s obviously incestuous, there’s never an explanation as to what happened to James, and it’s never clarified why we have to be very clear that Belle and James are twins.
Plot elements are just introduced and tossed out, from the family guard dog, the odd meta-angle involving the Amityville mythos, the insinuation Belle’s mom is also being possessed (or is at least cognizant of the ghosts), the family doctor’s confrontation with the iconic house flies, the oedipal angle with James and Joan, and Bell’s friends. They’re simply there to relay information about Amityville, pile on endless heaps of exposition, and never quite prove to be of any use to the overall film. Despite strong performances from Bella Thorne, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Cameron Monaghan, and McKenna Grace respectively, “Amityyille: The Awakening” feels half baked and woefully under developed. It is ultimately yet another forgettable “Amityville” sequel.