[Review] Zombie Horror Movie ‘Amityville Uprising’ Has a Neat Premise But Weak Execution

Written and directed by Thomas J. Churchill, Amityville Uprising starts with views of the beautiful town, highlighting several cozy locals. We then get a hard aerial cut that shows a massive explosion taking place within Amityville. The next transitional cut drops us into a military facility in full havoc; bodies lie about as military personnel strive to find survivors. One scientist who is badly injured tells the military folks that chemicals have been unleashed and are now in the air. A warning goes out to the citizens of Amityville, detailing the oncoming of acid rain and to stay inside. And while raining acid is bad enough, this chemical rain also has the means to turn people into the living dead.

When one thinks of Amityville, an immediate association may be that of the classic 1979 film The Amityville Horror, so it’s neat to see a horror film set in the same location offer such a drastic shift in tone. That said, while there are eventually some okay action sequences in the second half, the film struggles with horrid pacing and tonal issues – making for much of the viewing experience to feel like a drag.

With a plethora of side characters introduced from the start, our main cast involves that of the police officers within the Amityville station. A good portion of the screen time, along with the more emotionally driven aspects of the film, is devoted to that of Sgt. Dash (Scott C. Roe). Alongside him are Lt. Howie Stevenson (Tank Jones), Officer Malloy (Troy Fromin), Officer Nina Rossi (Kelly Lynn Reiter), and Detective Lance McQueen (Mike Ferguson). Given that the great majority of the film takes place in the precinct, the quantity of characters establishes the promise of chaos in such a confined place. However, what is really bizarre is how much the film opts for a slice of life sort of focus on these characters, keeping the whole acid rain stuff in the background. For a large chunk of the film, we spend most of our time with the officers in the precinct, listening to them talk about an array of subjects.

That said, among these conversations is the somewhat heartfelt, yet awkward relationship between Sgt. Dash and his son Jimmy (Kole Benfield). There is a distance between the two, but Dash wants to mend things – his desire and efforts coming across genuine, allowing for a sincere emotional bond that brings added tension to the narrative when things go to hell. That is frankly though the deepest Amityville Uprising goes in terms of action, emotion, or suspense.

The action is relatively conventional as compared to a plethora of other infected-based horror stories. Those who come into contact with the acid rain not only have a painful reaction that involves their skin boiling and peeling off, but in time, they become zombie-like. When the infected do make their way into the precinct, the close quarters work in favor to create a claustrophobic aura, making for tense periods as characters slowly navigate their way down hallways.

Accompanying this action though is a decent amount of cheese. Some of it seems on purpose – and in those cases, the humor is effective. But in some moments where something serious or ominous is attempting to be portrayed, it can be laugh out loud goofy. Depending on one’s taste, this can pull you out of the suspense or make for a fun cheesy time. That said, when looking at the greater picture in what the film presents, the cheese factor is odd; particularly in the narrative moments where it aims to explore story beats that are meant to be emotional.

A more problematic issue for the film however is its pacing. It takes a decent 40 minutes to get the ball rolling on anything action related. The acid rain topic becomes more of a side piece – getting more attention via brief interluding scenes where folks come into contact with it, or it being a topic of conversation on news stations. This is baffling. The attention to setting up the characters is nice and all, but that establishment undercuts a good deal of what could have been provided to the action-horror component of the film.

This is unfortunately one of those films with a neat premise but weak execution.

Amityville Uprising is now available on VOD outlets.

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