The Amityville 2017 “Awakening” movie recaps the infamous Defeo Murders and the odd occurrences surrounding the aftermath including the alleged terror the Lutz family experienced one year later. After the recap, it jumps forty years to modern times. The movie stars Jennifer Jason Leigh (Joan), Bella Thorne (Belle), Jennifer Morrison (Candace), and Mckenna Grace (Juliet.) Joan is the mother and she moves her three kids Belle, James, and Juliet to the infamous house on Ocean Avenue. Belle and James are 17 year old twins. James is an invalid and it is hinted that whatever happened to James, Joan blames Belle for it. It is a reoccuring theme in the movie that is not answered until much later in the movie. Like many of the other remakes the family has a dog. For this incarnation, they have a German Shepard named Larry. In Belle’s self-imposed isolation she feels Larry is the only one who loves her without question.
As the oldest, Belle gets the upstairs loft room with the creepy windows. Once they are settled into the new house Joan and Candace discuss whether or not to tell the girls about what happened forty years prior with the Defeo and Lutz families. Joan decides not to tell either of the girls, despite the fact Belle is 17. She does not want to frighten them. At dinner for some reason Joan decides not to pray before the meal. Belle is confused because her mother used to force them to say it before they moved. Juliet decides to say grace. An argument occurs between Joan and Belle in which she basically reminds Belle that it is her fault that her brother is in a coma. She forces her out of his room when Belle reminds her that the doctor said that he would never recover. She is also forbidden that she will not allow her to be apart of any conversations concerning him. Since the two are arguing they miss one of his fingers flicking a fly away.
Belle is upset that she has to restart her senior year in a new school. She is immediately greeted by snide whispers that she attributes to being new and goth. She is angry but ignores them. A boy named Terrence informs her that it has nothing to do with her, per se, but more about the fact that she lives at 112 Ocean Avenue. She snaps at him wondering if he’s stalking her. When he reveals that he’s not but it has to do with the fact that everyone knows about that house. She does not know anything about it and tries to avoid him. Even though the two eventually become relatively friendly despite his obsession with the house, the movie, and Jay Anson’s book.
Belle is curious about why Larry is constantly barking at James’ room and the dock where the old boat house where Defeo used to keep his speed boat. As she investigates she starts to hear whispered voices. She is the first to notice any weirdness about the house. A window refuses to stay closed no matter how many times she closes it. She is frightened by the image of a little girl in the window but is relieved that its her little sister, Juliet that she refers to as “Baby.” She indulges that little girl’s belief that James talks to her and asks what she and James talk about. Juliet is upset that James is now using bad language with her when he did not before. She is not concerned until Juliet reveals that James told her to let Belle know that he misses talking to her as well. Juliet had not even been downstairs when Belle had told her brother sadly that she missed talking to him. She is even more concerned when Juliet asks her why Mommy does not love Belle anymore. She reveals that James told her. It is scary since James is in a coma and unresponsive. He has also not shown any of the signs he would eventually start showing.
When James codes Joan begins CPR which upsets Belle. She wants her mom to stop CPR and to let him go so that he is no longer in pain. Joan becomes physically violent and the animosity explodes. She slaps Belle across the face and tells her that she’d like that since its her fault that he is like this. She kicks Belle out of the room as Juliet enters the room. Joan lifts her up so that she can kiss her brother and talk to him. She’s terrified by the fact James’ eyes suddenly pop open. This gives Joan hope that he is going to come back to her despite the doctor’s believe that he is forever locked in the vegetative state. He does begin to come around even though the doctor warns Joan about becoming overly optimistic. The diabolical forces that dwell within the home need to get the doctor out of the house, once he has outlived his usefulness. It’s weapon of choice is flies. The doctor screams and is almost choked to death by swallowing a horde of flies. After this occurrence and the constant annoying curiosity of Terrence Belle begins to research the history of the house and why people whisper about her as she walks past.
Belle goes home to confront her mother about not telling her about the terrible history of the home. She expresses her concerns about what it could do to James and Juliet. Joan is quite aware of the home’s bizarre macabre history. She tells her that she prayed when her husband was sick with cancer and how God did not answer her prayers that he would get better. She also admits that after praying for two years that James would heal and get back to normal that she was not being answered for him either. Joan was now angry and said that she was now turning her back on God. That she hoped that whatever it was in the home would allow James to come back to her. Joan does agree that at seventeen that Belle should have been told about the history of the home but only because of the fact that she would have to deal with the people at her school. Belle is adamant that James not be forced to endure any more medical procedures and especially not any demonic interference. Joan ignores her and appears in a kind of fugue state as if she’s in an oppressive state. She suggests that Belle take a nap and she’d feel better. Instead Belle investigates her torn wallpaper in her room, discovering blood stains on the wall. This fuels her imagination and the diabolical tormenting her.
Now that Terrence and another girl are friendly with Belle, he is adamant that they all watch the movie in the actual house. He is determined to not start watching the movie until 3:15 which is the believed time in which Ronnie Defeo began to slaughter his family with a shotgun. While the teens are trying to watch the original Amityville movie, the lights go out. They go down to the basement, Terrence is hyped about going downstairs, but is to afraid to go first. He does however change the breaker that popped. They are frightened by Joan confronting them with a shotgun, that Belle was not aware that she owned.
There is a special computer that allows them to communicate with James now that his eyes are open and somewhat responsive. The family starts crying when James responds to Belle that he misses her too. She is concerned when he says that he forgives her and the mom hugs her. As if she was physically responsible for what happened to him. She gives him an odd look and she later reveals to the girl that even though she had been acting out at 15 she was not physically responsible. The actual accident occurred when he got into a fight with a boy who had spread private photos of Belle not just around school but sent them to their mother, Joan as well. He had been defending her when he fell off a third story balcony. Her friend tells her that she should talk to James privately and see if James is alone in his head. He reveals to her that he is not and that he’s afraid for the family. He begs her to kill him and that she should get the family out of the house. She does not want to but ultimately pulls his breathing tube but the alarms bring Joan running. Joan is furious but later is thankful that Belle did pull his tube because they would not have known he could breathe on his own.
In an attempt to help James, Belle goes looking for the red room and she is disgusted by the smell. While she is attempting to open and try to figure out some way to destroy the room the diabolical is desperate. It needs the power from fear. So after murdering the dog is sends the body through the water to freak Juliet out as she stands on the dock looking out over the water.
Belle is adamant about getting the family out of the house. Her mom refuses to leave so she makes plans to try to smuggle Juliet out of the house and runaway to their Aunt Candace’s house a few blocks away. Unfortunately, the diabolical informs Joan and she attacks Belle with the butt of the shotgun. She comes to later and for sometime is trapped in her room as the possessed James tries to stalk and terrify Juliet. The diabolical is distracted when Candace shows up after work. James murders her and it allows Belle to get to Juliet. She is able to protect Juliet and make the diabolical think it has murdered Juliet. The shotgun blasts wake Joan and she suddenly realizes that while James has been brought back to her he has been possessed. She begins to cry and try to get out of her room to try and protect the girls. When James enters her room she tries to hold a cross out for protection. Of course, since she no longer has faith in God and had embraced the demonic in order to get James back it has no effect on him. She has no faith in the protection of the crucifix so it holds no symbolic power over the demon.
It is left up to Belle to protect herself and Juliet. In full blown desperation she risks her own life by tackling James out of her third story bedroom window. When she realizes that they both survived she remembers the ring at the back of the house that she had heard was to protect places and people from demons. It allegedly had the power to destroy demons. She has to drag James body toward the circle. Once she has James in the circle Juliet rushes to her scared. Belle is pragmatic enough to know that she could be blamed for the murders. She tells Juliet that she must tell the truth even though its hard to believe.
As a hopeful criminologist I was concerned with the fact that Belle would take the full brunt of the suspicion since she had dragged James by the hand. I thought the gunshot residue would transfer onto her hand but they do not discuss that. They admit that even though she is being held as a person of interest they do not understand how only his fingerprints are on the gun. They are baffled. The doctor, despite his horrific experience with the vision, and the swarm of flies forcing themselves down his throat he denies that James would have the strength to do get up and use the shotgun.
© 2018 Kristina Stancil