The "Someone Died Here" Setup
THE GOOD: The Amityville Horror traces its roots back to 112 Ocean Avenue. The property played host to the real life murder spree of Ronald DeFeo Jr., and that’s not even the only cursed factor supposedly infesting residents with miserable karma. The house was built right over the top of an Indian burial ground, and devil worshipers even resided at the location. A long line of sordid and sketchy behavior predates the Lutz family’s move at the start of Amityville Horror, and these exhaustive details are very carefully unfurled throughout the film’s runtime. The fact that someone died at 112 Ocean Avenue matters. It’s the whole reason there’s a movie.

THE BAD: Don’t Be Afraid Of The Dark essentially operates as a creatures vs humans horror movie. It lets the creatures reside inside a fireplace in the old, sealed off basement, and it lets the family be immersed in their own worlds enough to allow for plenty of alone time. As a back-and-forth, this angle is marginally successful. Unfortunately, that’s not the only angle the film takes. It also gives us the backstory to the house, which involves Lord Blackwood distraught over his son’s disappearance. When the mood strikes them, a little research is done by the main characters to find out what happened before, but mostly, it’s a half-hearted timekiller to try and explain the presence of the creatures, which don’t really need to be explained.

WHAT WE'VE LEARNED: Finding out someone died inside a house is always creepy. It’s a great horror movie angle to take, but if a film is going to go there, it can’t just be an afterthought. Amityville Horror works because everything relates back to the house’s past. Don’t Be Afraid Of The Dark doesn’t because it could have easily let its monsters go unexplained.

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