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The Amityville Horror
Stuart Rosenberg, USA, 1979
Rating: 3.3
  Amityville II: The Possession
Damiano Damiani, USA, 1982
Rating: 2.5


  Amityville III: The Demon
Richard Fleischer, USA, 1983
Rating: 3.4 (3.3 bonus for 3-D effects)

Posted: May 17, 2004

It ain't often that I lower myself to reviewing movies edited for television, but it just so happens that AMC (which really might want to consider changing its name from "American Movie Classics" to "American Movie Cheesefest") was showing its little Friday night spooktacular horror-show marathon last week. I figured this was probably my one and only chance to see the first three Amityville Horror films back to back to back, and I mean really, how often does an opportunity like that come along? If you have basic cable, probably only two or three times a month. Anyway, I decided to give it a go.

The Amityville Horror is a cornerstone of American horror cinema. Perhaps I should have put a question mark at the end of that last sentence, but at least everyone knows the story. The brutal murder of a family in a spooky house leaves behind demonic spirits that haunt the new inhabitants. Or maybe the spirits were there before. I'm a bit fuzzy on that, but I know for sure that James Brolin is in it. He and Margot Kidder move into the spooky dwelling and soon become victimized by the spirits inside. It's all here: Bleeding walls, puking nuns and priests, buzzing flies, and a little girl's creepy imaginary friend who locks babysitters in closets and makes rocking chairs move. This movie truly has it all. Anyway, James Brolin becomes whacked out by the spirits, his dog finds what may be the gateway to Hell in the couple's basement, and the whole clan eventually hauls ass, never to return. Who would?

Who? How about Burt Young and his family, that's who. That's right, Rocky's often intoxicated brother-in-law decides that the Amityville house would be perfect for his family. Not exactly the wisest real estate transaction ever, uh, transacted, but without it, you'd have no Amityville II: The Possession. Not that that would be an especially bad thing. It's essentially the same story as the first here, except Burt's son becomes possessed by the spirits and ends up gunning down most of the family. I'm not really sure who exactly gets killed, because during a commercial I flipped the channel to Univision, the Spanish network. There was this dude who was offering $50 to people on the street if they allowed him to take scissors to their pants and make shorts out of them. Trust me, it's more entertaining than you would think. Anyway, when I flipped it back, I think the son was in jail or something, and a priest was trying to help him out. But Burt Young definitely got waxed, of that I can assure you.

By the time Amityville III: The Demon rolled around, I was seriously flagging. But then, I discovered that this offering was to be in 3-D. 3-freakin'-D!! Zounds! No sooner were my spirits buoyed than they came crashing down, for I had no 3-D glasses. Determined not to be defeated, I quickly gathered some cardboard, plastic wrap and a red and blue marker. I cut two pieces of plastic wrap and colored one red and the other blue (I couldn't remember if the other lens was blue or green, so I made it blue). I stapled the lenses to a cardboard frame, and then Scotch taped two Popsicle sticks to the sides for earpieces. When I donned them, I had some parallax problems. Also, I accidentally put the colored side against my face and some of the ink ended up in my eye. Undaunted, I quickly grabbed some aluminum foil and fashioned a crude helmet, and stapled the lenses over the front. But the frame kept slipping down, so I tied it to a string, ran it through a loop I made on the top of the foil helmet, and brought the string around to the side. This way I could manually adjust the lenses' position.

In retrospect I guess the smart thing to do would have been to try to construct some 3-D opera type glasses, but that just seemed too, er, poncey. Anyway, I slipped on the helmet, and just for a second I thought I was receiving alien invasion plans for Earth, but that signal soon faded. As fate would have it, the time it took to construct my 3-D helmet coincided exactly with the running time of Amityville III: The Demon. I did catch the ending credits, but sadly, they were not in 3-D.

So anyway, uh, this whole Amityville thing. What with the ghosts, the possessions, the bleeding walls, Burt Young, and leave us not forget the 3-D -- I mean, Whew! What an ordeal! The first film may well be the defining "haunted house" movie -- that is, providing you've never seen House on Haunted Hill, The Haunting (the original, not the crappy remake), The Old Dark House, The Others, Poltergeist ... you get the idea. The second film has Burt Young, and believe me when I tell you it is a joy to see him stretch his acting legs. The third film sounded really good, but, as I mentioned, I kinda missed it, what with that 3-D problem and all. But never mind all that. Check them out for yourself. And if you happen to see the third film, please drop me a line and tell me what happened, wouldja? Thanks, 'preciate it.

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 Clemenza's Ratings Key:

 5.0: A drop of bliss

 4.0-4.9: Touchdown!
 3.0-3.9: Close, but...
 2.0-2.9: Box of Rocks
 1.1-1.9: Time bandit
 0.0-1.0: Soul scarring
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