The Amityville Horror ★½

I remember seeing this in a theater with my mom and a group of friends in 2005, and all of us were pumped. Not because we were seeing an R-rated horror movie in theaters as 14-year-olds (though we were most certainly excited for that) but because it was a movie shot partially in our hometown of Antioch, Illinois.

There are only a few scenes that actually feature Antioch, but we practically cheered when we saw them. The first, about 45 minutes in, sees Ryan Reynolds and Melissa George driving downtown; they pass the Las Vegas Restaurant — a favorite diner of ours growing up, with its unmistakable red neon sign — and Persin & Persin Jewelers, the jewelry store run by a kindly middle-aged couple my parents befriended and hung out in while I took guitar lessons. I ended up befriending them, too, as much as a 14-year-old can, and they were instrumental in fostering my love for jazz and blues music.

About 50 minutes in, the big scene we were waiting for happens. In late 2004, a scene was shot at St. Peter Catholic Church, our church growing up that was right next to St. Peter Catholic School, which I attended from kindergarten through eighth grade. Philip Baker Hall shows up and counsels Melissa George, and, sitting in the theater, I cursed myself for not using a bathroom break during school hours to try to sneak out and see some of it filmed. I knew Hall from bit parts in Air Force One and The Truman Show, but more recently, I knew him from Magnolia and Boogie Nights, both of which I saw way too young and loved. Odds are I would've been stopped, but I still thought about the alternate universe where I was the weird 14-year-old who told a veteran character actor that he loved him in Magnolia and Boogie Nights.

It's been 13 years. Not that long, really, and I'm hardly old, but those places that were so important to me growing up are gone or changed. The Las Vegas Restaurant is now The Vegas Cafe; I don't know if the menu is the same, but that red neon sign is gone. Persin & Persin is gone; that friendly couple who lent me books and music isn't there anymore. She died, to my shock and sadness, in 2011; he closed the shop and retired in 2013. The church is still there, but the school shut down after years of bad management. I still like Philip Baker Hall, and I still have those movies I loved and plenty more, from The Insider to Secret Honor. If I want another look at those places outside of my memory, I have to watch 2005's The Amityville Horror.

This movie's fuckin' terrible.