Review Date: April 24, 2005
Released by: MGM
Release date: 4/5/2005
MSRP: $14.95 (Single disc) | $39.96 (Box set)
Region 1, NTSC
Widescreen 1.85:1 | 16x9: Yes | P&S: Yes
As the monumental seventies came to a close, The Amityville Horror
would prove to be the decadeís last big horror hit. With that success, it is no surprise that three years later in 1982, the house would be mined once again with Amityville II: The Possession
. But time had changed plenty since the already old fashioned The Amityville Horror
made waves in 1979. The early eighties ushered in a new kind of horror film, one relying increasingly on the prosthetic gore championed by Tom Savini, Rick Baker, Rob Bottin, et al. The days of implicit horror were done, and visceral effects were in, leading to a horror climate that would favor gore-driven pictures like slashers over the passť suspense of haunted house stories. So how did The Possession
measure up in such a changing time? Letís pop in MGMís new DVD and find out.
Although called Amityville II, the film takes place before the happenings of the first picture. It deals this time with the DeFeo murders, where Ronald DeFeo Jr. woke up one night in í74 and massacred his entire family as they lay still in bed. DeFeo awoke the next morning in utter fright, remembering nothing from the previous night, thinking a burglar had come in and killed his family members. Despite his perceived innocence, he was brought to court and found guilty on all accounts of murder. He claimed during court that he had been possessed, but naturally the court would have nothing of it. Possession may not go a long way in court, but in the movies you can draw it out to 100 minutes.
So in Amityville II, the DeFeo family (now called the Montelliís) start by purchasing that damned haunted house. Things are not right from the beginning, as Papa Montelli (Burt Young
) grumbles about the house and yells at his kids. The hostility seeps throughout the family, particularly to the eldest son, Sonny (Jack Magner
). Despite his perky demeanor and loving relationship with his mother and sister, he is nevertheless a man scarred by an abusive father. As the imperfect familial unit moves into the house, they quickly find that the house begins praying on their every weakness. The draft in the basement molests the sexually unfulfilled mother, the walls tempt the sexually budding sister, and worst yet, Sonnyís walkman begins telling him to do cruel and evil things.
Gradually, the house possesses Sonny as it did Mr. Lutz in The Amityville Horror
, but this time with much darker results. Sonny ends up seducing and disgracing his sister, leaving a burden of shame upon her for the rest of her short life. Things get much more violent though, when relations with his dad get worse. We already know the true story inspiring the film, but Father Adamsky (James Olson
) is thrown into the mix, becoming the center of the final act as he attempts to rid the evil from Sonny and the house once and for all. Of course, Adamsky will need more than just the word of the lord to release the demons from within the walls of Amityville.
is a nasty little movie, and it is, moreso even than the original film, a product of its time. The most interesting thing about the differences between the first two films is the way the evil is presented. In The Amityville Horror
, the entire house is haunted, the windows in the top level light up and the walls of the basement speak, the evil is omnipresent. In Amityville II
, the evil is concentrated and made subjective; it is a force that makes its way through the house, watching and praying upon its victims. Fitting for the time, the evil in Amityville II
is little different than Michael Myers or Jason Voorhees. With its first person gaze and its dream-like steadicam movements, the evil is nothing other than a slasher. Instead of the ďHorrorĒ of Amityville coming from an unseen evil in the house like the original, it comes right from our own eyes as we are subject to watch the force lurk through the dark shadows of the house. Dino de Laurentiis turned the franchise from a haunted house film into a slasher, but considering franchises like Friday the 13th
were the new bread and butter of the horror genre, it is no surprise.
As if taking from the slasher genre wasnít enough, Amityville II
cashes in on the latex craze that brought An American Werewolf in London
the first ever Best Makeup Oscar a year prior. As the demon is exorcised, Sonnyís face bubbles and pulsates in all directions, eventually peeling off entirely to reveal an even more morbid visage. In the spirits of movies like The Beast Within
, it is the fear of acne personified to explosive degrees. Although the slasher elements of Amityville II
work well in establishing mood, the effects work seems comparatively out of place. The movie is very light on blood and gore throughout, and it isnít until the final act that the makeup and effects really come into play. Considering the last act of the film seems completely removed from the three acts prior, perhaps the ending was tacked on in order to satisfy the prosthetic requirement at the last moment. Amityville II
would have already been in production before American Werewolf
hit screens, so it would be feasible that the effects-driven finale would have been somewhat of a rushed addition. Regardless, the film comes across as a mix between two conflicting styles, understated at one moment and then over-the-top the next.
If Amityville II
is a result of the big commercial film movements of the eighties, namely the slasher genre and latex effects, then why not extend it to the newly established porn video industry. With the adoption of the VCR in the early eighties, porn found itself relegated to video. Since it was now shown in the privacy of homes, much seedier subject matter could be explored. Of all the twisted fetish films of the video new wave, few were as successful as the ode to incest, Taboo
(now a franchise spanning 17 films). The film seemed to out the idea of incest as fodder for feature films, as both Amityville II
and 1981ís The Incubus exhibited highly sexual encounters between family members. Whatever the reason, few films before or since have been so overt in their incest subject matter as Amityville II. Sonny first flirts with his sister Patricia (Diane Franklin
), then gets her to undress, then has sex with her, and then calls her a slut throughout the rest of the picture. It is incredibly uncomfortable viewing, and as if the clash between suspense-driven and effects-driven horror werenít enough, the incest flavoring makes the film even more of a head-scratcher.
The script, by John Carpenter alum Tommy Lee Wallace, does not stop at incest though. As if it werenít bad enough that Diane Franklin gets raped by her brother, it is also discovered late in the film that (surprise!) the priest was also leering for her virginal body. Between being leered at by her brother and priest in Amityville II, and impregnated by her irresponsible boyfriend in her other 1982 debut, The Last American Virgin
, actress Diane Franklin may just be the teen queen of misogyny. After everything Wallaceís script puts Franklin through though, there are still ample bits of mean-spiritedness to spare. Burt Young takes the belt to his kids, hits his wife and is a general asshole to everyone around him. The most unsettling moment, despite, or perhaps in spite, of its light tone, is a scene where the younger daughter jokingly puts a plastic bag over her little brotherís head. She holds it there for quite a while, and in light of all the child suffocation stories in tabloids, the act seems in incredibly bad taste. Merits of the film aside, if nothing else this film will shock just based on the nastiness of the script alone.
Nastiness needs a point though, and in the end Amityville II: The Possession
ends up derivative, disjointed and displeasing. The interesting true story of the DeFeoís is rushed in order to get to the prosthetic parade of Exorcist
-lifting in the finale, and the incest, spousal abuse and pedophilia all seems put in just for the sake of shock. It flip flops between being a slasher and a haunted house film, and never ends up feeling like either. The Amityville Horror
may not be a great film, but at least it stuck to a single theme and a single genre enough to be moderately effective. Amityville II
is just a potluck of offense, full of vile indigestion. It has some nice cinematography, good performances and some notable effects, but it all gets drowned out with the nastiness. The Possession is a film possessed with bad taste, and if it is depression you seek, then look no further.
MGM presents Amityville II
on a dual-sided DVD with anamorphic 1.85:1 widescreen on one side and pan and scan on the other, guess which I chose to review? The print looks very clean, and the resulting picture is sharp. The colors donít quite jump off the screen, but that muted eighties look is preserved nicely. Reds arenít as vivid as the were for the first film, but at least there is no color bleeding. Black levels are a bit better than the first, with the darks looking very strong and deep without graying. There arenít many things to complain about, MGM has done a great job.
While the first film was given a 5.1 restoration, this one stays in plain Jane mono, but it sounds respectable. It sounds a lot fuller than most flat mono tracks, with stuff like yelling (and the mother certainly does enough of that) and ambience registering nicely on all levels. The music is mixed nicely, never impeding on the dialogue. Perfectly serviceable.
The only extra is the original theatrical trailer, which is about as dark and depressing as the film itself. It is notable for having more insert shots than actual actor footage, and because of such it would be safe to view before the picture.
Amityville II: The Possession
is a morbid little movie, filled with deplorables from incest to wife battery. It is a lot edgier than the first film, but a lot more depressing, and as such tough to recommend. Still, the transfer MGM has done is commendable, with a sharp and detailed anamorphic picture and a nice sounding mono mix. The extras are slim, but the cheap $14.95 price tag makes the lack of features ignorable. If it is mean-spirited depravity you seek, this will certainly deliver, otherwise this house is best left for sale.
Movie - C
Image Quality - A-
Sound - B
Supplements - C-
- Running time - 1 hour and 44 minutes
- Rated R
- 1 Disc
- Chapter Stops
- English mono
- Spanish mono
- English subtitles
- Spanish subtitles
- French subtitles