One of the most widely publicized and infamous hauntings in American history that ended up being one of the most widely publicized hoaxes of all time resulted in an acclaimed novel, and a cinematic adaptation. Said film ended up garnering nine sequels, and one remake, all of which are infamous for being either very bad, or immensely silly horror entries. However, there is a charm there for horror fans that love supernatural cinema, and for those that love the “Amityville” series, Scream Factory allows fans to pick up the first trilogy in a Blu-ray box set just in time for Halloween. Some horror fans prefer to think of the first three films as the true Amityville Horror arc, and it’s available with the original cover art for the films in tact.
Among the trilogy is the 1979 Stuart Rosenberg directed adaptation of the hit book, starring James Brolin and Margot Kidder as young couple George and Kathy Lutz. When the pair along with their children move in to a house, request their local priest bless the house for the sake of good luck. In his attempts to bless the home, he runs afoul an evil entity that assaults him with a swarm of flies, violent sickness, and boils that prevent him from phoning and warning the Lutzes. Rod Steiger gives an especially hammy performance as Father Delany who pays the price for attempting to warn the Lutzes, being tortured with almost ungodly bad luck that involves a car wreck, and eventual blindness and a mental breakdown that leaves him helpless to warn the family.
Meanwhile the couple along with their children begin deteriorating from the inside out, as George begins to form an unhealthy obsession with the house, submitting to its lure, while the family dog anxiously attempts to dig in to a hidden room within the walls. As George rots and mentally regresses, Kathy attempts to make sense of the house’s evil that includes boiling ooze in the toilet, and red eyes peering in through the second story window of her daughter’s room. Though filled with solid performances by Kidder and Brolin, “Amityville Horror” is lacking in scares or genuine tension, and often feels like a television movie sorely in need of a specter that could keep the audiences attention. Featured on the Blu-Ray is an audio commentary with Dr. Hanz Holer, a PhD in Parapsychology. There’s also “For God Sake, Get Out!” a documentary about the film with stars Brolin and Kidder, as well as the theatrical trailer and Radio Spots.
1982’s “Amityville II: The Possession” is a prequel to the first film that sets up the story for the house’s haunted origins, but in a fictionalized account. The family chronicled in “The Possession” are mainly based on the DeFeo murders, and in the end it’s really just an excuse to copy “The Exorcist.” Starring Burt Young in a rare turn as a heel who runs his small family with an abusive hand, eighties star Diane Franklin co-stars in the picture about a troubled family who live in the house and through their pain and misery become the catalyst for the darkness and evil that would overtake the household. Due to their father Anthony’s abusive habits and sacreligious affections toward the local church, the oldest siblings Patricia and Sonny garner a sexual attraction to one another that they’re terrified to act upon.
This allows the demonic entity to enter Sonny, helping him to manipulate the household and engage his sister in a rather disturbing sexual affair. “The Possession” takes bits and pieces from the DeFeo crime case, and even stages the ultimate murder of the family, but never really knows when to end. There’s not a lot of explanation to the mysterious tunnel or Anthony’s vulnerability to evil, and the film just feels mean spirited and cruel. Its ultimate climax is more steeped in demonic possession with James Olson attempting to exorcise the spirit from Sonny, and get to the bottom of where the demon originated from and why it chose the family. The highlight is from the gorgeous Diane Franklin, though, who gives a solid performance. The Blu-Ray offers a commentary with director Damiano Damiani, brand new interviews with the film’s cast including Diane Franklin, and Andrew Prine, a commentary with author Alexandra Holzer, and the original theatrical trailer.
Finally, there’s 1983’s “Amityville III,” or “Amityville 3D”! It’s assuredly one of the goofiest haunted house movies ever made, which is saying a lot considering the remake of “The Haunting” is still out there. There’s a Lazarus pit in the basement of the Amityville House, there’s an evil steam pipe our main character battles with at one point. Seriously, there’s an entire moment where our protagonist spends five minutes battling a hot steam pipe. There’s a lot of inanimate objects thrown at the screen including pipes, flies, and toys. Oh god, a Frisbee! Spooky! “Amityville 3D” centers on a pair of paranormal investigators who spend their days debunking supernatural occurrences. When they debunk a hoax occurring at the Amityville house, John Baxter decides to buy the house and move in with his family.
Before long things go awry as their friends begin dropping dead, mysterious visions and nightmares plague them, and odd objects present themselves through pictures a la “The Omen.” Of course the house begins wreaking havoc on everyone, even beyond the reaches of its threshold, as people who try to warn the new owners die horrible deaths, and the ghost house begins tormenting the new owners. “Amityville 3D” watches like a goofy pulp comic book more than anything. There’s almost nothing spooky that occurs, and when something happens, it’s nothing but cheap jump scares and nightmares. I’m not sure what the Lazarus pit in the basement is supposed to represent, but the symbolism is so nonsensical I never bothered to try to decrypt its meaning.
The flies from the first film turn in to literal characters as they swarm anyone who defiles the house, and seemingly form horrible faces on their backs. “Amityville 3D” is more funny than it is scary, and in the end, is just another lazy cash grab in the tradition of “Jaws 3D.” Fans are given a 2D and Blu-Ray 3D presentation of the film, as well as an interview with actress Candy Clark, and the film’s original theatrical trailer. For completists who love the entire mythos of Amityville, even the made up horror fodder, will be pleased with the presentation from Scream Factory, as all three films vary in quality and assure a very unique time, all things considered.