Detail is good, though patchy and the lack of grain and somewhat waxy looking faces made me initially think that the dreaded DNR had been applied with that over-judicial hand. But, when comparing this against the former SD version, the same “pinkish” lack of finite facial information is also apparent. Thus, the print used is probably the same and is certainly clean and lacking in overt age-related damage, and is free from speckles, pops and wobbles. But this is still not exactly the most glowing of transfers even considering the authenticity it shows to the original source.
Basically, I found the transfer to be quite inconsistent. We do get lots of close-ups that reward us with great detail - Brolin's phenomenal facial foliage, some intense eyes (human and fly), the beads of sweat on Steiger's head - but we also get some that lack the same level of finite information only a scene or a shot further in. Again, even the deeper shots can vary in their quality, too. Some of the broad frames inside the house can lose definition further back into the recesses and against the walls, whilst some exterior equivalents, which may be getting some benefit from the brighter daylight colours and contrast, reveal terrific clarity and sharpness all the way to the back of the frame. Scenes when George is out chopping wood, for instance, look quite splendid, with lots of clarity on the leaves on the ground and on the trees behind him, yet some scenes, such as when Father Delaney is arguing his point with his superiors in the confines of an office appear profoundly flat, bland and un-detailed.
Blacks are generally quite strong. One or two moments see them lapsing into less Stygian shades, but there are many occasions when their depth greatly enhances the atmosphere of the film. Scenes of George creeping about the house in the wee small hours and of the “ghostly pig” peering through the window have strong, satanic shadows. When the family return after the wedding reception and hear the babysitter's cries for help upstairs, the hallway is swathed with thick black murk, the faces of George and Kathy and the other two kids well lit and contrasted against them. The later scene of someone literally covered head to toe in vile black gunk from the bowels of God knows where exhibits a fine depth of shiny blackness, too.
Colours are well reproduced, but this is not a colourful film. The autumnal aspect of the setting is naturally adhered to and the disc does this justice, maintaining the earthy hues and bright, lower sunlight well. A couple of early evening sunsets are bright and brilliant, the spreading shadows genuine and convincing. Skin tones run warm with that pink look that often ruddies-up films from this period, so this is nothing especially worthy of note as being a trait peculiar to this transfer. The TV aesthetic is definitely in force.
I did detect some edge enhancement - some particularly glaring haloing around the edges of a nun, which I suppose is only appropriate - and some slight drag on motion. There was also an instance of some slight shimmering on the window-pane during a tracking shot. Artefacts and noise are not an issue, so there is really nothing much to complain about and, at the end of the day, Amityville's BD is a definite step-up from standard DVD, providing a lot more detail on the whole. If it still looks rather flat and un-involving for much of the time then this is down to the style of the cinematography which definitely favours imposing shots of both the house and Brolin, but remains quite lethargic and uninspired when focussed anywhere else.
The DD 5.1 option doesn't fare any better, just a quieter version of the lossless DTS, with the same lack of convincing envelopment going on. So, the best track here, certainly the most authentic and respectful, is the original mono. With this, there are naturally no bogus effects thrown out behind you and the sound is a lot better routed to what we are seeing in the film.
The last SD edition had a commentary track from the psychologist who wrote the book “Murder In Amityville” and a nice little retrospective documentary about the movie. What we are handed here is nothing short of an insult.
Sadly, MGM's Blu-ray release leaves a lot to be desired. Shorn of extras and boasting some ineffective surround mixes and an image that may be better than its SD counterpart, but not by much, this falls far short of the boxset of the first three movies that also contained a bonus disc of features. Thus, really speaking, this edition is only for the most devout of fans.
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