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DOWSE Guide to the
by Tony Lee editor of
The Amityville Horror
117 minutes (18) 1979
Director: Stuart Rosenberg
Cast: James Brolin, Karen Black, Rod Steiger
review by Tony Lee
I have fond memories of this as one fo the first horror films I saw at the cinema
but, today, as I watch it again for this review, the pace seems ponderously slow,
with the development of plot and characters too easily predictable, even taking into
account my knowledge of the Amityville series over the last twenty years.
Parts of the film, though, are still creditable as fine genre material. The
brooding presence of axe-wielding James Brolin, the hideously frightful 'voice' of
the fly-infested house which orders an unwary clergyman to "Get Out!", the
black slime that oozes from the loo and streaks down the walls. Some of the details
that seemed fresh and original way back in 1979, have retained their power to chill,
if not really scare, and even scenes that might once have had the quality of
nightmare may still entertain, albeit more likely as wry amusements in the manner
of black comedy rather than anything genuinely fearsome.
In short, then, The Amityville Horror is a good old fashioned haunted
house movie that maintains its sense of mystery (unlike, say, 1973's The Legend Of
Hell House which is, I feel, flawed by the explanations of its finale) right to
the bitter end.
Amityville II: The Possession
104 minutes (18) 1982
Director: Damiano Damiani
Cast: Burt Young, James Olsen
review by Donald Morefield
Written by Tommy Lee Wallace, this prequel to The Amityville Horror is actually
superior to its predecessor in terms of full-blooded horror, instead of merely creepy
atmosphere and unmoving inexplicable events. The curiosities of the first film have
been replaced with something quite terrifying, which seems closer to the spinoff
book, Murder in Amityville, also exploiting the era's craze for spooky stories.
What's more, the film daringly features, in the Lutz family, a cast of entirely
unsympathetic characters. Burt Young, sleazy toe-rag of the Rocky series, here plays
a wife-beater. His screen son (Jack Magner), as the victim of possession who seduces
his sister, is quite unnervingly convincing as the central villain driven to slay his
whole family. And, even if the ending with James Olsen's concerned priest attempting
an exorcism is risibly derivative, the film generates enough Italian style lunacy by
director Damiano Damiani, reputedly an accomplished maker of gangster thrillers in
Rome. His film about Jesus, The Inquiry, cast Harvey Keitel as Pontius Pilate!
(aka Amityville: The Demon)
105 minutes (18) 1983
Director: Richard Fleischer
Cast: Tony Roberts, Tess Harper, Candy Clark
review by Jeff Young
Produced as part of the shortlived boom in 3D pictures during the early 1980s (others
were Spacehunter, Metalstorm and Jaws 3), this is a sequel in
name only, with a plot unconnected to the earlier films.
John and Nancy Baxter (Tony Roberts, Tess Harper) unwittingly buy the infamous
Amityville house. Can they cope with the horrors? There's no chance of that when the
evil forces somehow leave their residence - as we know, built over a gateway to Hell -
and reach the local town to destroy photographic evidence threatening to reveal too
much! There's a minor role here for today's superstar Meg Ryan, but very little else
likely to appeal to post-millennial audiences.
Amityville 4: The Evil Escapes
95 minutes (18) 1989 Medusa
review by Tony Lee
Back on the property market, ten years after the hauntings began, this made for TV
chiller is written and directed by Sandor Stern - who was responsible (some might say
to blame for) the first film's screenplay, as adapted from Jay Anson's book.
In the strong opening, a team of clergical exorcists clean out the old house
but we see that a grotesque standard lamp has become the repository of all the
satanic forces. After a house clearance sale, the lamp ends up in California (where
else?), at the home of Alice Leacock (Jane Wyatt), sent to her as a white elephant
from her loving sister.
The old lady's daughter Nancy, and three grandchildren come to stay for a while, and
they arrive about the same time as the gift. Uncrated and left alone, the light plugs
itself in, and plays havoc with the house's electrical system - apparently feeding
off the power supply. When everyone grows tired of seeing the antique monstrosity,
the housekeeper shoves it up in the attic, out of eight - but not out of mind, as it
begins to exert a malevolent influence over the house.
Repairmen called in to fix faulty appliances are attacked, and the youngest kid
atarts talking to the lamp, claiming it is a link to her dead father. All the old
ghostly cliches get a fresh airing here, and along with some clever camerawork snd a
good solid cast (including Norman Lloyd as Father Manfred) there are a few effective
sequences to make this a surprisingly entertaining hour and a half.
Viewing by appointmant with your local video agents only.
originally published in Strange Adventures #16 (May 1990)
The Amityville Curse
91 minutes 1990
Director: Tom Berry
Cast: Kim Coates, Dawna Wightman
A review of this title will appear here, shortly.
Amityville 1992: It's About Time
95 minutes 1992
Director: Tony Randel
Cast: Stephen Macht, Shawn Weatherly, Megan Ward
review by Steven Hampton
Perhaps it's too similar in approach to the events of Amityville 4 for comfort,
but this installment of continuing saga does boast an intriguing timewarp element -
which may be enough to sttract SF fans even if it's unlikely to please the horror
crowd. Crippled by a monster hound from Hell, Stephen Macht finds himself trapped in
his room at the mercy of dark spirits inhabiting an antique clock, from that recently
demolished haunted house in Amityville.
Some of the effects are competently staged, as we may rightly expect from any
nineties' movie, but Tony Randel's uncertain direction and the script by one Antonio
Toro and Christopher Defaria piles obvious plot twists on top of all those cheapo
genre cliches to dash any hope that this might throw up some bits of entertainment.
Instead, we're left with a middling effort, and the urge to fall asleep before it's
Amityville: A New Generation
82 minutes (18) 1993 Medusa
Director: John Murlowski
review by Michael Hamilton
Fantasy cinema's most infamous haunted house is gone. The contents have been
auctioned off, and the building site cleared. All that remains of the legacy of
horror is a mirror, and one Franklin Bonner - released from a mental hospital and
living homeless on the streets.
A photographer, struggling to pay for his studio apartment is spooked when a
mysterious vagrant offers him the gift of an antique mirror. And later, when the
tramp turns up dead, he learns that the man was his father, and that childhood
memories he has always suppressed link him to the tragic slaughter of the Bonner
family, in Amityville.
The cursed mirror begins to exert a malevolent influence over the photographer
and he begins to doubt his sanity when it seems he has inherited delusions of
possession from his father. Is 'evil' hereditary? Will there be a re-enactment of
the Amityville murders or will our hero get off lightly with just seven years bad
This latest Amityville shocker supposes the demon is now resident in said
mirror, feeding on the darkest emotions of a group of artists and causing Elm
streetwise nightmares for the troubled son of the Amityville killer. Here we have
the obligatory visual riffs; distorted reflections in the mirror, paintings coming
to life, visions of death, and the seamless hallucinatory flashbacks now commonplace
in this form of dreamscape horror.
Ross Partridge's moody expressions suit his role as the haunted son-of-Bonner,
and he receives sterling support from David Naughton, Richard Roundtree and Terry
0'Quinn - as a psycho-pathologist investigator neatly reversing the screen image
he'd created in The Stepfather.
This plays out pretty much like an 'Elm Street' clone, but has enough going on
to hold your interest. Sadly, little use is made of the mirror imagery, so don't
expect anything quite as eerie as John Carpenter's quintessential horror-through-the-looking-glass
movie, Prince Of Darkness
originally published in Strange Adventures #49 (August 1993)
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