The Amityville Horror
Made in 1979 and based on Jay Anson's best selling novel, The Amityville Horror is a good old fashioned haunted house story based on actual events. In 1974 Ronald DeFeo of Amityville, Long Island brutally murdered his family. DeFeo claimed in his trial that he heard voices urging him to commit the murders and eventually was sent to Prison with a life sentence. DeFeo to this day is still serving time in an American Prison. One year later, newly married George and Kathy Lutz (James Brolin and Margot Kidder) purchase the ex-DeFeo house at a knockdown price. They move into the house with Kathy's children from her previous marriage and look forward to a new life together. Unfortunately, things don't quite work as planned.
Within a day of moving in, Kathy's friend Father Delaney (Rod Steiger) visits to bless the house. The priest lets himself in through the front and when calling for the family he receives no answers as they are in the back garden. Delaney makes his way upstairs and into one of the smaller rooms where the door slams shut, the room is infested by flies and he is menaced by an unseen force who tells him to GET OUT!! Frightened out of his wits, he leaves the house and is sick violently by his car. Soon, George's personality gradually begins to change, he is constantly cold even when a fire is burning and virtually every night he awakes at 3:15AM (the time of the murders).The Amityville Horror is still an unnerving experience after 26 years. The three main lead's performances still impress especially Steiger as a Priest determined to help rid the house (and family) of the evil. In today's climate of impressive special effects and constant CGI, The Amityville Horror features none of this. All the effects in the film are of the low tech variety such as doors slamming and good old fashioned sound effects. Steiger's scene with the flies at the window is still unpleasant today and it was good to learn on the documentary that he took his role very seriously, which certainly comes across in his portrayal of Father Delaney. Of course, when you have a successful film, you will inevitably get a sequel. The Amityville Horror to date has spawned seven sequels of varying quality and a remake starring Ryan Reynolds. MGM have packaged together the first two sequels in the series in this box-set, along with a fourth disc featuring three documentaries.
Amityville II: The PossessionAfter the first film's huge success, Dino De Laurentiis picked up the Amityville rights and started work on a 'prequel' to the original film.
The Montelli family are a normal middle class Italian-American family. Loosely based on the Defeo case, Amityville II is the story of Sonny Montelli the eldest son in the family. The demonic forces that live in the house start to take control of Sonny's mind and gradually poison him against his family to the extent of committing incest with his sister. The main criticism about Amityville II; The Possession is that the first half of the film is basically a retread of the first film with strange goings-on and the gradual breakdown of the main character. After the murders, the film changes into a second rate Exorcist clone where a Priest attempts to save Sonny's soul. Acting on the whole is good, with Jack Magner playing Sonny well with an evil glint in his eye. Burt Young (Paulie in Rocky) plays Anthony Montelli, the tyrannical Father who has no problem laying the law down to his family. James Olson is equally good in the role of the Priest trying to save Sonny's soul. The annoying thing about this movie is no matter how unoriginal it is, it is simply entertaining. The first half is generally quite creepy and it's the only time I have been disturbed by a flying white sheet.Amityville II: The Possession was a success, so you know what that means.....
Amityville 3D (AKA Amityville 3: The Demon)In the early eighties, video was seriously making a dent in cinema profits so as before in the 1950's there was a brief 3D craze. In a short space of time, we saw Jaws 3D, Friday the 13th in 3D, Spacehunter and Metalstorm. Not wanting to miss out, Dino De Laurentiis gave us Amityville 3D. Veteran director, Richard (20,000 Leagues under the Sea) Fleischer came on board with the studio hoping he would bring some class and talent to the proceedings. However armed with a woeful script and some terrible acting, (The film features Meg Ryan in an early role) Fleischer was fighting a losing battle.
John Baxter has recently lost his daughter and quite sensibly moves into the Amityville house. To actually tell you the plot would be pointless as the film is so boring, I switched it off and watched the second part a couple of days later. Unfortunately, MGM have only presented us with the 'flat' version of the film unlike the UK release which contains both 'flat' and 3D versions. It doesn't add anything to the film being in 3D (I know as I have watched the 3D version). There are a couple of jumpy moments and the creepy demon at the end of the film is pretty disgusting, but that's about it. More fun can be had by watching the 'flat' version and guessing where the cheap 3D gags are such as flying objects coming towards the screen.
De Laurentiis lost interest after this film and the other sequels starting with Amityville 4: The Evil Escapes all went straight to video. I am however looking forward to the remake, as it has got very good advance word and both an impressive cast and behind the camera talent.
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