May 22, 2023

'Amityville: The Awakening’ Brought Bella Thorne into the Franchise




Twice a month Joe Lipsett will dissect a new Amityville Horror film to explore how the “franchise” has evolved in increasingly ludicrous directions. This is “The Amityville IP.”

We’ve reached the last of the studio Amityville films with writer/director Franck Khalfoun’s Amityville: The Awakening (2017). It’s taken this editorial series a while to reach this milestone because we’re going through the Amityville films chronologically, though anyone familiar with the troubled production history of the film could feasibly argue this should have been covered back among the 2014 films (when the film was originally filmed) or 2016 (when reshoots were done and the film was originally scheduled for release).

In addition to those 2016 reshoots – the results of poor audience scores – the film was derailed due to its ties to the Weinstein/#MeToo movement. It was eventually dumped onto Google Play for free in late 2017.

Putting aside the scheduling challenges, though, how does the actual film fare?

For the first time in a long time, this isn’t simply a haunted object film or an Amityville film in name only. The Awakening directly acknowledges not only the existence of the original film, but also its sequel and the 2005 remake. Of course, the narrative purports that the events of the film are “real” while those texts are fictional, but the visual inclusion of not just the box art, but also a clip of the original film and the 1977 novel by Jay Anson, is an interesting creative decision.

Alas, this is one of the few adventurous decisions that Khalfoun makes. The vast majority of Amityville: The Awakening is a relatively derivative possession story, which finds the Walker family move into the iconic cat-eyed house on 112 Ocean Ave in order to provide better care for teenage son James (Cameron Monaghan), who has been in a vegetative state for two years following an accident.

The film’s protagonist is James’ twin Belle (Bella Thorne), who uncovers the tragic history of the house and, in time, deduces that James is being possessed by the same entity that made Ronnie DeFeo kill six members of his family forty years earlier. She does so with the help of new school friends Terrence (Thomas Mann) and Marissa (Taylor Spreitler), though both characters essentially disappear before the last act of the film to retain exclusive focus on the Walker family.

While the actual possession aspect of the narrative is pretty basic, the film has a number of bizarre and/or intriguing elements, although most of them sadly underdeveloped.

Early in the film the main source of conflict is the combative relationship between Belle and her mother Joan (Jennifer Jason Leigh). Right from the start, there’s tension between the two around the move: Belle is frustrated about moving in the middle of her senior year of high school, while Joan blames Belle for James’ condition. As the narrative progresses, we learn that James was injured when he fell (or was thrown) over a balcony and he was only there because he was defending Belle’s honor when the man leaked nude photos of her.

Joan and Belle also disagree about James’ prognosis. We learn that the move was undertaken in an effort to move James closer to his doctor, Milton (Kurtwood Smith), but James’ status hasn’t changed in two years. If similar medical cases are to be believed, he will never improve.

Belle admonishes her mother that “he’s not there” and chastises her when Joan requests an fMRI after James’ eyes open. Obviously discerning horror enthusiasts understand that this is due to the influence of the Amityville house and the Red Room in the basement, which Terrence explains is directly below James’ bed.

Belle believes that her twin brother is “gone” while Joan has literally forsaken God and moved the family, which includes youngest daughter Juliet (Mckenna Grace), to Hell in order to tap into the “power” that presides in the house – all in the hopes of resuscitating her son.

This is fascinating in multiple ways. Not only is Amityville: The Awakening exploring the often unspoken idea that parents may prefer one child over another, but their larger familial debate essentially boils down to the debate surrounding euthanasia. In short: Belle maintains that the twin connection she and James had is gone, and that his vegetative state is nothing more than his physical body decaying. Even when this proven untrue and James begins responding to treatment in the new home, his first request via special AAC computer is to ask Belle to kill him.

This is still an Amityville film, however, so the film doesn’t really engage in a dialogue about each woman’s respective beliefs. And the message becomes confused in the climax when Belle drags her brother’s body past the binding circle to kill the demon and James is not only present, but thanks her verbally for killing him.

Naturally there’s also a hint of incest in the mix when Belle has a nightmare suggesting her mother’s relationship with James is sexual (we see James’ hand stroking his mother’s back). Unlike other films in the “franchise,” though, The Awakening never revisits the idea, defaulting instead to implied violence and predictable outcomes.

There’s a curious blandness to the film, as characters are seemingly forgotten or abandoned for long stretches (Belle’s friends, Jennifer Morrison’s Aunt Candice). Even the visual style of the film feels curiously flat: Khalfoun and cinematographer Steven Poster shoot the film in a perfunctory workman-like way, and despite its well-known cast, none of the performances stand out.

The most memorable aspect is when James finally (inevitably) awakens. His emaciated, shrunken body is done via a combination of special make-up prosthetics and digital effects, which are removed when James touches the wall of the Red Room. It’s a bizarre, almost surreal moment as his body inflates into Monaghan’s usual beefy frame, his jacked muscles and six pack abs fully on display. Alas this is the most exciting moment of the film, which proceeds to sic James on the family with a shotgun. Not only are the resulting deaths underwhelming or offscreen, but Monaghan is barely given the opportunity to play villain. The Awakening suffers in large part because Khalfoun sticks to familiar possession tropes, but also because when he refuses to embrace the interesting facets of his narrative, let scenes play out, or even allow his performers to react. The result is bland; this is a movie that just is.

The Amityville IP Awards go to…

Next Time: We’re checking out Amityville: Mt. Misery Road (2018) from husband and wife directing team Chuck and Karolina Morrongiello!

Joe is a TV addict with a background in Film Studies. He co-created TV/Film Fest blog QueerHorrorMovies and writes for Bloody Disgusting, Anatomy of a Scream, That Shelf, The Spool and Grim Magazine. He enjoys graphic novels, dark beer and plays multiple sports (adequately, never exceptionally). While he loves all horror, if given a choice, Joe always opts for slashers and creature features.

‘Amityville Exorcism’ Is the One That Shamelessly Rips Off ‘The Exorcist’ [The Amityville IP]

‘Amityville Prison’ Is An Amityville Film In Name Only [The Amityville IP]

Analyzing the Queer-Coded Killer in ‘The Hitcher’ [Horror Queers Podcast]




While much of the initial fanbase that helped turn Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles into a pop culture phenomenon aged out following the original cartoon (1987-1996) and live action movies (1990-1993), the property has continued to flourish with reboots in TV, film, and comics every few years.

If the upcoming Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Mutant Mayhem has you interested in exploring various versions of TMNT, there’s no better place for a horror fan to start than Nickelodeon’s Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles animated series that aired for five seasons between 2012 and 2017.

While there’s an inherent connection to horror in the various mutants and monsters that pop up throughout the franchise, no rendition embraces the genre nearly as much as this one. In addition to references to classics like Alien, Friday the 13th, and The Evil Dead, the series employed several notable horror actors throughout its 124-episode run.

Here are 15 horror icons who lent their voices to Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 2012.

1. Corey Feldman – Slash

Corey Feldman may not be synonymous with horror, but the pedigree of Friday the 13th: The Final Chapter, The Lost Boys, and Gremlins is more than enough to make him an icon of the genre. His TMNT legacy is even stronger, having voiced Donatello in the first and third live action films.

In animated form, Feldman play Slash, who was a villain in the original series but an ally in this version. He starts out as Raphael’s pet tortoise, Spike, before being accidentally mutated. He’s introduced in Season 2’s “Slash and Destroy” and appears in total of 12 episodes, culminating with the series finale, “The Big Blow Out.”

2. Kelly Hu – Karai

Feldman’s not the only Friday the 13th franchise alumnus on the show. Kelly Hu’s resume includes The Scorpion King, X2: X-Men United, and Arrow, but horror fans will recall her film debut as Eva in Friday the 13th Part VIII: Jason Takes Manhattan.

Hu plays the integral TMNT role of Karai, a character that debuted in the comics in 1992 and previously appeared in the 2003 animated series. She’s in 31 episodes of TMNT 2012, from season 1’s “New Girl in Town” to season 5’s “The Foot Walks Again.”

In this incarnation, Karai starts out as a fierce, teenage Foot Clan member that was raised by the evil Shredder. She later aligns herself with the Turtles upon the revelation that she’s actually Master Splinter’s biological daughter from before he was mutated. In season 3, she’s exposed to a mutagen that gives her serpent-like abilities.

3. Cassandra Peterson – Ms. Campbell

Cassandra Peterson — beloved by all as horror host Elvira — is usually vivacious, but her part on TMNT required a more monotonous performance. She voices Ms. Campbell/Utrom Queen in six episodes, from season 1’s “The Alien Agenda” to season 5’s “When Worlds Collide.”

Ms. Campbell is introduced as a woman who takes an interest in April O’Neil before it’s revealed that she’s an evil robot sent by the evil Krang, armed with laser eyes and missile arms. When her human disguise is damaged in season 4’s “The War for Dimension X,” the Utom Queen’s true form is revealed.

4. Keith David – Sal Commander

Keith David achieved cult status for his roles in The Thing (which, incidentally, inspired TMNT’s season 3 episode “Burned Secrets”) and They Live, but his rich pipes have also earned him Emmy awards. His extensive voice work includes Gargoyles, Coraline, The Princess and the Frog, Spawn, and Rick and Morty.

On TMNT, he voices Sal Commander (also known as G’Throkka) for five episodes, from season 4’s “The Moons of Thalos 3” to season 5’s “When Worlds Collide Part 2.” An ally to the Turtles, Sal is the commander of the Salamandrians, an extraterrestrial species that resembles large, humanoid salamanders.

5. Jeffrey Combs – Rat King

Rat King is a villain that originated in the comics and appeared in both the 1987 and 2003 animated series. Re-Animator star Jeffrey Combs lends his voice to the character for four episodes of the 2012 rendition.

He debuts as Dr. Victor Falcon in season 1’s “Monkey Brains” and returns in “I, Monster,” in which his experiments yield him the ability to control rats, hence the Rat King moniker. Splinter defeats him and his army of giant rats in season 2’s “Of Rats and Men.” His final appearance is in season 4’s “Darkest Plight” as a hallucination to Splinter.

6. Ron Perlman – Armaggon

Ron Perlman has played and/or appeared alongside various creatures in the likes of Hellboy, Blade II, Alien: Resurrection, The Island of Dr. Moreau, and Sleepwalkers. For three episodes in TMNT’s fourth season, he voiced the villainous Armaggon, an alien cyborg shark.

Armaggon debuts in “The Outlaw Armaggon” as a bounty hunter hired by crime lord Vringath Dregg (voiced by Peter Stormare) to capture the Turtles. He makes his final appearance in “The Evil of Dregg,” in which he’s defeated for good.

7. Chris Sarandon – Dracula

Over three decades after starring as Jerry Dandrige in Fright Night, Chris Sarandon returned to his vampiric roots to portray the ultimate blood sucker: Count Dracula. He plays an integral role in season 5’s four-part Monster & Mutants arc, first appearing (albeit without dialogue) in “The Curse of Savanti Romero.”

Dracula is one of the creatures recruited by time-traveling sorcerer Savanti Romero to take over the world, along with Frankenstein’s Monster, Vulko the werewolf, and The Pharaoh mummy. Dracula plans to betray Savanti, but Michelangelo destroys him before he has the chance.

8. Dana DeLorenzo – Esmeralda

No stranger to being surrounded by monsters after three seasons of Ash vs Evil Dead, Dana DeLorenzo can be heard alongside Sarandon in “The Crypt of Dracula.” She plays Esmeralda, the daughter of Vulko the werewolf. The Romanian traveler shares her knowledge of monsters with the Turtles.

DeLorenzo’s Ash vs Evil Dead co-star Lucy Lawless voices Daagon supreme ruler Hiidrala in season 4’s “The Cosmic Ocean.”

9. Danny Trejo – Newtralizer

Machete don’t text, but he does voices. Genre favorite Danny Trejo plays Newtralizer (also known as K’Vathrak), a Salamandrian bounty hunter who will stop at nothing to eradicate the Kraang — even if that means taking out innocent humans and the Turtles.

The character first appears in Season 1’s “Operation: Break Out,” in which he breaks out of his cell and Donnie gives him his nickname. Trejo came in to play him in season 2’s “Newtralized,” briefly teaming up with Feldman’s Slash in an episode loaded with Star Wars references, and later returning in season 5’s two-part “When Worlds Collide,” where he has the newfound ability to wield electricity.

10. James Hong – Ho Chan

James Hong has over 600 credits — from Blade Runner to Seinfeld to Kung Fu Panda to Everything Everywhere All at Once — but horror fans will always associate him with Lo Pan from Big Trouble in Little China. He plays a similar role in TMNT’s Big Trouble homage, “A Chinatown Ghost Story,” in Season 2.

Hong voices the villainous Ho Chan, an ancient ghost sorcerer who even borrows a line from ol’ Jack Burton, “It’s all in the reflexes.” While the Turtles ultimately defeat him, he vows to return at the end of the episode. He does so in season 5’s “End Times,” but this time around Splinter ensures it’s the last of him.

11. Robert Englund – Dire Beaver / Dread Beaver

Robert Englund is, of course, best known for his work in the Nightmare on Elm Street franchise. When TMNT drew inspiration from the horror classic for season 5’s “In Dreams,” they called on Freddy Krueger himself to provide a voice.

Englund voices Dire Beaver and Dread Beaver, two of the four interdimensional Dream Beavers that trap the Turtles in their dreams. The episode features several nods to Freddy, including the beavers’ long claws, a musical cue reminiscent of the Elm Street theme, and a nightmare involving a furnace.

12. John Kassir – Dark Beaver / Dave Beaver

Along with Englund in “In Dreams,” the other two Dream Beavers — Dark Beaver and Dave Beaver — are played by John Kassir. He has over 250 credits to his name, the majority of which are voice roles, but his unmistakable pipes are best known for Tales from the Crypt‘s ghoulish host, the Crypt Keeper.

13. Bill Moseley – Bernie

Would you believe there’s a third horror icon in “In Dreams?” Bill Moseley — known for The Texas Chainsaw Massacre Part 2, House of 1000 Corpses, The Devil’s Rejects, and Night of the Living Dead — plays Bernie in the same episode.

A physicist-turned-grocer, Bernie has stayed awake for decades to prevent the Dream Beavers from attacking our world. His weapon of choice is a chainsaw with “The Saw is Family” engraved on the blade, in reference to Leatherface: The Texas Chainsaw Massacre III.

The character later makes a photo cameo later in season 3 in “Dinosaur Seen in Sewers,” where he’s featured on a tabloid with the headline “Man did not sleep for 40 years.”

14. Lance Henriksen – Zog

With credits including The Terminator, Aliens, Near Dark, Scream 3, and Pumpkinhead, Lance Henriksen is an undisputed genre legend. He lends his talents to TMNT as Zog, a character that was originally created for the comics and previously appeared in the 2003 animated series.

Zog appears in season 3’s “Dinosaur Seen in Sewers” as a scout who plans to signal his fellow Triceratons to attack the Earth in order to destroy the Kraang – until the Turtles get involved, that is. He refuses Raphael’s attempt to save his life, instead opting to plummet to his death.

15. Michael Ironside – Emperor Zanmoran

Michael Ironside brings a signature gravitas to all of his projects, from Total Recall, Starship Troopers, and Scanners to Terminator Salvation, Turbo Kid, and TMNT, in which he plays Emperor Zanmoran.

Although he only appears in one episode – Season 4’s “The Arena of Carnage” – Zanmoran is a pivotal foe whose presence can be felt throughout the season’s space arc. Zanmoran serves as the sadistic leader of the Triceraton Empire and commander of their armada.

Some of the many other recognizable voices that pop up throughout the series include Sean Astin as Raphael, Seth Green as Leonardo, Clancy Brown as Rahzar, David Tennant as The Fugitoid, Mark Hamill as Kavaxas, Jesse Ventura as The Finger, Paul Reubens as Sir Malachi, and TMNT co-creator Kevin Eastman as Ice Cream Kitty.

Nickelodeon’s Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: The Complete Series is available on DVD. Select seasons are streaming Netflix and Paramount+.

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Mutant Mayhem opens in theaters on August 2 via Paramount.

This is “The Amityville IP.”Franck Khalfoun Amityville: The Awakening (2017)Cameron MonaghanBella ThorneThomas MannTaylor SpreitlerJennifer Jason LeighKurtwood SmithMckenna GraceJennifer MorrisonSteven PosterThe Amityville IP Awards go to…Worst Exchange:Child Acting:CGI Intrigue:Celebrity Nudes: Amityville: Mt. Misery Road (2018)Teenage Mutant Ninja TurtlesTeenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Mutant Mayhem1. Corey Feldman – Slash2. Kelly Hu – Karai3. Cassandra Peterson – Ms. Campbell4. Keith David – Sal Commander5. Jeffrey Combs – Rat King6. Ron Perlman – Armaggon7. Chris Sarandon – Dracula8. Dana DeLorenzo – Esmeralda9. Danny Trejo – Newtralizer10. James Hong – Ho Chan11. Robert Englund – Dire Beaver / Dread Beaver12. John Kassir – Dark Beaver / Dave Beaver13. Bill Moseley – Bernie14. Lance Henriksen – Zog15. Michael Ironside – Emperor ZanmoranSean AstinSeth GreenClancy BrownDavid Tennant Mark HamillJesse VenturaPaul ReubensKevin Eastman