James Brolin (Catch Me If You Can)
Margot Kidder (Superman)
Rod Steiger (Mars Attacks)
Don Stroud (Django Unchained)
Murray Hamilton (Jaws)
K.C. Martel (E.T.)
Based on the best selling novel by Jay Anson and supposedly based on true events, this first film in the series follows the misadventures of George and Kathy Lutz (James Brolin of Westworld and Margot Kidder of Superman), a recently married couple who are buying their first home. When they come across a gorgoues old house that needs a litle bit of work but is conveniently in their price range, they decide to snatch it up despite the fact that a few years earlier an entire family was gunned down on the premises.
Things seem okay at first – George and Kathy get along just fine as they work on the house and Kathy’s three children, two boys and a girl, have fun playing with the family dog outside on the lake front property. But things soon start to get a little strange, starting when the local priest, Father Delaney (Rod Steiger of Duck, You Sucker! and who was fantastic opposite Sidney Poitier in In The Heat Of The Night) who comes over to bless the house finds an overwhelming amount of flies in a certain room upstairs, and very clearly hears someone or something tell him to ‘Get out!’
The more time that the Lutz family spends at the house, the stranger and more powerful the evil manifestations become. Soon the door to the basement and to the front of the house is blown off its hinges from the inside, and George’s behaviour becomes more and more aggressive and he begins to look very sickly. Windows slam shut, catching a child’s fingers, and the dog keeps digging at something behind a wall in the basement. A babysitter gets locked in the closet for hours, and the walls tend to bleed. Tensions build, the police and the local clergy become involved, and eventually it all hits the fan and George ends up going a little nutty, obsessed with chopping wood, sharpening his axe, and yelling a lot.
While the film takes its time getting going once we get past the very strong opening scene, it does build nicely to a creepy conclusion and Rosenberg, who that same year directed Brolin again in the Charles Bronson vehice Love And Bullets, does a good job of picking the pace back up and letting the actors go a little over the top. Brolin in particular does a nice job of going nuts from about the half way point on, although there are a few spots where his incessant yelling becomes a little too much. Overall though, the performances aren’t half bad in this film. Margot Kidder is pretty solid as the matronly character concerned for the well being of her children and for her husband as he grows more and more detached. She’s got the right kind of face that portrays fear very well, with those big expressive eyes of hers. Regardless of some of the strange behaviour she displayed in the late 90s when she kind of went off the deep end for a while there, she is very good in this role. The rest of the cast does okay as well, with Steiger as the priest who becomes blinded by the evil putting in a memorably over the top performance as well.
While there are a few logic gaps and a couple of inconsistencies in the film, and the languid almost surrealist pacing of the film might put off modern audiences who want their horror films to come at them fast and furiously, The Amityville Horror remains a pretty solid entry in the supernatural horror that Hollywood became so obsessed with for a while in the later half of the seventies. But did we really need Brolin to run around in his underwear? Let’s just assume that the devil made him do it.
James Olson (Commando)
Burt Young (Rocky)
Rutanya Alda (The Deer Hunter)
Jack Magner (Firestarter)
Andrew prine (Gettysburg)
Diane Franklin (Terrorvision)
Leonardo Cimino (V)
This prequel, directed by Damiano Damiani , is loosely based on the bizarre true story of the DeFeo murders that occurred in Amityville New York in November of 1973, in which a 23 year old Ronald DeFeo shot and killed his family and then in court used the defense that he was possessed by a demon.
Obviously a few liberties were taken, as is the case with most ‘based on a true story’ horror films (well, most films in general, actually), and the names were changed, but the basic principle behind the events is maintained to some extent.
Before the Lutz family of the first Amityville Horror resided there, the Montelli family moved into a familiar looking house built on an Indian burial ground. Strange things start to happen right off the bat. The family members are almost immediately at each others throats, the youngest kids in the family see paint brushes move on their own and scrawl blasphemous phrases in red paint on the wall of their bedroom. The oldest son, Sonny (Jack Magner), begins to act very strange and becomes extremely reclusive, electing to hide in his bedroom as he becomes more and more sickly.
Then one night, shortly after having an incestuous sexual experience with his sister, Sonny becomes fully possessed by the evil of the house and shoots to death every member of the household. He is, shortly after, taken into custody by the police.
Father Adamsky (James Olson of The Andromeda Strain), the family priest, believes Sonny to be possessed by a demon and tries to go through the proper channels in the Catholic Church to get an exorcism to happen. Unfortunately, he isn’t given the proper authority he needs so he decides to go it alone in an attempt to try to free Sonny from the evil that has taken him over.
While it’s not a perfect film, nor is it particularly original, Amityville II: The Possession still manages to offer up some decent weirdness and some creepy set pieces as well as some other, less effective scares. The film, about half way through, takes a sharp right turn into The Exorcist territory and comes dangerously close to being a blatant rip off of Friedken’s film. Some of the special effects don’t hold up very well either and give the movie a very dated look, particularly those make up effects used on Sonny towards the end of the film and the wirework used to make inanimate household objects fly around the room don’t exactly fit in on the top tier either. Those issues aside, however, the film works on enough levels to give it a mild recommendation. Even if slightly seasoned horror movie veterans will see where it’s all going early on, it’s still fun getting there. The direction is slick, the house is sufficiently morbid and dark looking, which gives the first half of the movie and appropriately eerie feel, and the performances are no worse than most horror films of the era.
Tony Roberts (Serpico)
Tess Harper (The Jackal)
Robert Joy (Land of The Dead)
Candy Clark (Zodiac)
Lori Loughlin (Full House)
Mega Ryan (You’ve Got Mail)
Richard Fleischer, who directed Conan The Destroyer, got behind the camera for the second sequel to what is arguable the most successful haunted house film franchise of all time.
John Baxter writes for a tabloid that happens to do thinks like prove psychics to be fake. Baxter is a skeptic, through and through, but that’s all about to change. He’s recently seperated from his wife, and looking for a new home when he finds the infamous Amityville home up for sale – ‘they’re practically giving it away’ he says. He buys it up, and shortly after that his daughter (a young Lori Laughlin) winds up dead in a boating accident. The curse is back.
Baxter, denying that the supernatural has got anything to do with any of the stranges occurances at the home, finally caves and calls in some paranormal investigators who prove that yes, the house really is a gateway to Hell and that no, even if it’s up for sale cheap you should probably never aspire to move in there to begin with.
One of the most notable things about Amityville 3 is that it features a young Meg Ryan in a fairly large role as a young woman obsessed with the occult and the supernatural who holds a Ouija board session on the land. Overall, this one has a feeling of ‘been there, done that’ to it that drags it down a little bit. Even the murder set pieces are a little familiar feeling, particularly the fly attack that once again happens in the attic of the house.
That being said, the film is still worth a look if you dug the earlier entries. Flesicher’s direction is solid and atmospheric, the score isn’t bad, and most of the performances are actually pretty good. There are a few brief flashes of creativety evident in the cinematography and over all, visual effects not withstanding, the movie looks quite good making it a decent time killer, even if it is hardly a classic.