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How does the infamous terror house fare in high-def...?
Shout! Factory / 305 Minutes / 1979-1983 / Rated R / Street Date: October 1, 2013
The Amityville Horror (1979) had a sizeable budget for its time and was a box office hit, banking over $80 million at the box office, under an independent film banner, American International. This story of George and Kathy Lutz and their new home that turns out to be more than they bargained for is an uneven though often enjoyable haunted-house screamer. Rod Steiger received quite a bit of heat for his unintentional "over-the-top" role as a priest who’s brought into the fold, and I have to admit it's hard to deny. But I thought Steiger's operatic passion was great and genuine. And some moments in the movie are truly creepy; when a loathsome neighbor visits Kathy (Margot Kidder), she turns around and he's gone except for some autumn leaves blowing in the wind. My biggest complaint here involves the movie’s ending. It doesn't pack nearly the punch that the book spectacularly delivers: dressers moving like crazy, Kathy levitating, a storm inside the house, and a creepy hooded figure at the top of the stairs.
Based on the very strong box office success of the first film, Amityville II: The Possession (1982) was born. This is really a "prequel," portraying the time and demise of the DeFeo family (who occupied the Amityville house before the Lutzes arrived) in 1974. The DeFeos lived in the home for nine years, but the film makes it seem like they moved in and died within only a few months. The film takes Butch's original claim that he was possessed by a demon and runs with it. Remember, it's the early 1980s here, and wild horror films were at their prime trying to out-do each other. But the film has a poorly written ending that is, yes, a jaw-dropping rip-off of The Exorcist. We're left with some questionable latex shedding during the climax, inexplicable fireballs exploding from the house, occasionally dumb dialogue, and the fact that the real-life events would have made a better film if the writer had stuck with them.
Most of Amityville 3-D (1983) feels somewhat strained since this is the start of the completely fictional sequels. With the Amityville house on the market again, a skeptical journalist (Tony Roberts) purchases it at a low price with the intent of studying it, learning its history, and writing his first novel. But as soon as he moves in, many who come into contact with him meet tragic fates. With a strange tunnel in the basement, could this house remain a passage to hell? Legendary director Richard Fleischer (20,000 Leagues Under the Sea) took a go at directing this film, and while the pace is snappier than the first two films, it's obvious that the film is trying too hard. In the end, it's a hoot, but let's stop driving by that poor house.