The infamous house on Long Island remains the most well-known “haunted” house in America, and for good reason. The tragic 1974 murders would forever cement the dark mark on the property.
But the subsequent book and film adaption would cement it in the cultural zeitgeist of America for decades to come.
However, as always, Hollywood’s obsession with remakes took over, and in 2005, remake of the classic 1979 Amityville Horror was released, one which is now celebrating its 15th anniversary.
So in the interest of commemorating this, as well as delving deeper into the Amityville mythos, let’s try and objectively compare both versions, 1979 vs. 2005!
Round I – The Lutz Family
George and Kathy Lutz (along with their children) famously only spent a month in the house on Ocean Avenue before the supernatural terror drove them out (assuming you believe the “true” story).
But they also serve as the surrogates for the audience themselves. The 2005 version makes an interesting choice in casting by putting Ryan Reynolds in the lead as George Lutz.
At the time, Reynolds was still coming off of the comedic success of Van Wilder, and he was trying to branch out into other genres. And through no fault of his own, he just seems miscast here.
Reynolds shines best with this sarcastic sense of humor, which worked out brilliantly in Deadpool and Detective Pikachu. But in Amityville Horror, he jumps between sarcastic and funny to unconvincingly creepy.
This does allow for Melissa George’s Kathy Lutz to shine a bit more, and at times, she even feels like the main character.
Also to the remake’s credit, it gives much more development to the three children, whom we get to know much better than in the original.
Which brings us to James Brolin and Margot Kidder. While we barely get to know the children in the 1979 original, George and Kathy’s marriage is at the center of everything.
As the paranormal occurrences start happening, there’s an immense tension between the two. One which we’re never sure is the result of the house being haunted, or George simply hating his lot in life, and that’s very much the point.
Brolin perfectly embodies the “mean stepfather” trope, and he sells with his subtlety, rather than ever having to get over the top (which Reynolds does from time to time).
Round I Winner – 1979
Round II – Story
Both versions follow the same basic storyline, but with two distinct differences. The original follows the book and true story much closer, complete with the wedding scene, as well as giving more screen time to the priest and how the house affected him as well.
The remake on the other hand, keeps the family much more isolated, but does get a little over the top at the end, when they fully delve into Shining rip-off territory.
The original makes the house feel more like its own character, which seems to threaten people not even inside, while the remake keeps the family seemingly more cut off from society, while also going full into possession territory.
Ultimately, what this round comes down to is the explanation for the haunting itself. The 1979 version barely scratches the surface of the house’s cursed history, while the 2005 one features it much more prominently. It’s a very close round, and the remake only wins by this very slight edge.
Round II Winner – 2005
Round III – Tone/Atmosphere
Both films are very representative of the times in which they were released. The remake is much more overt with the scares, featuring “ghosts” in full make up, on screen with them. This certainly makes for better jump scares in the movie theater, but has no real lasting effect.
The original gets the tone much better, relishing in a more subtle, but unsettling tone throughout. It’s one of the examples of less is more, because the original leaves us thinking about it long after the movie is over.
And it’s all rounded out by an incredibly creepy musical that that’s very easy to get stuck in your head!
Round III Winner – 1979
But at the same time, the 1979 original has a few effects that look cheesy by today standards, particularly the red eyes outside the window.
Both are certainly dated in hindsight, but to its credit the remake has far more effects, and aside from a couple CGI ones, the vast majority are done practically, and still hold up pretty well.
Round IV Winner – 2005
Round V – Scares
Of course this showdown wouldn’t be complete without figuring out which one is scarier! It really comes down to two different types of horror, whose results are bound to be controversial, due to the subjective nature, but we’ll be as objective as possible.
As previously mentioned the 2005 iteration relies very much on jump scares. The movie very clearly has certain scenes where it’s trying to frighten its audience, but seems benign at other times.
But we have to give to the 1979 original for creating a foreboding atmosphere of dread that lasts long after the movie is over. Rather than overtly jumping out to scare you, it slowly unnerves you, never letting up the tension.
Round V (and overall) Winner – 1979
Sometimes, you just can’t mess with the original, at least that’s how Scream 4 put it! Which version is your favorite and why? Let us know in the comments below.