Not many new horror fans know the long and sordid history behind the true Amityville Horror tragedy nor do many know anything about the long and sordid history behind what amounts to the shittiest franchise in horror. What’s really funny is that most hardcore and old school horror fans have no idea there’s 7 sequels to the original 1979 film. That’s not even counting the remake!
Recently I was forced to purchase the box set containing movies one through three because my favorite online retailer had run out of The Man with No Name trilogy. Instead of crying tears of regret, I purchased the Amityville Collection and put on a brave little smile. I’ve seen the original dozens of time so I figure…why not check out parts two and three for Joe Horror? I haven’t seen them in over twenty years. Some films…like this one…should have been left back in the early 80’s
Tony Roberts, a man who looks hauntingly similar to Ron “Hellboy” Perlman, plays John Baxter, a skeptical reporter/debunker working for a Skeptic-style magazine. After Baxter and his partner Melanie (Candy Clark) expose a couple scamming people out of the old Ronny DeFeo home (ignoring the Sonny Montelli angle), John decides to actually purchase the home in order to begin work on his “Great American Novel”.
It’s no big surprise when the wife he’s separated from, Nancy (Tess Harper) disagrees with his purchase and forbids their daughter Susan (Lori Laughlin) to enter the house. The old man who rented the home to John had a stroke in the house and John’s partner Melanie met with a fiery end in a vehicle accident. She fears something bad may happen to Susan if she goes near or in the house. Yeah, right lady…kids stay away from a haunted house…not likely to happen.
Kids will be kids and Susan and her aggravating friend Lisa (Meg Ryan) decide to head into the house with some friends in order to hold a séance! A jarring incident during the séance chases all the kids into the backyard where they discover a boat. Seances…boats…it’s a dumbass wonderland! Nancy soon gets worried and begins looking for Susan and her friends in the house. Daughter Susan saunters into the home soaking wet and proceeds to head upstairs despite the protests of Nancy.
Meanwhile, John comes home from some shopping and spots some commotion down by the water. Seems the boat flipped and poor Susan drowned! So…who was in the house? Nancy begins losing her grip on reality after the tragic death and John decides to allow his friend Elliot West (Robert Joy) to bring his paranormal investigators into the house in order to either prove there’s ghosts or help Nancy get over the loss. Yeah, brilliant plan. Hasn’t anybody ever heard of grief counseling?
The rest of this snoozefest feels a bit familiar. Poltergeist hit theaters a year before this saw release. It’s a by-the-numbers flick. A ghost lures people into the basement (to the light) where they all believe they’ll be able to free Susan’s trapped spirit, instead “The Demon” leaps from the water, claims Robert Joy as it’s watery love slave and the house begins to fall apart, start on fire, freeze and eventually…blow up. Yeah…great ending.
If you’re brave enough to watch this I’m sure you’ll get a kick out of seeing a young Lori Laughlin as Susan Baxter. She played Becky, Uncle Jesse’s pincushion in the sappy sitcom Full House. It’s also interesting to note that Susan’s best friend Lisa was played by the one and only Meg Ryan delivering an embarrassing and barely comedic impersonation of Ray Bolger as The Scarecrow from the Wizard of Oz. Newbies may also recognize Robert Joy as the deformed, semi-retarded sharp-shooter Charlie from George A. Romero’s Land of the Dead.
This movie was completely void of any tension. We weren’t even treated to a couple 80’s jump scares. This was an utter waste of time. Granted, I probably turned on all the lights in my house after watching this back in 1983 but it hasn’t aged well. It was akin to watching The View with Starr Jones. For those of you bitching and whining about the Amityville Horror remake and how bad you thought it was…lemme just say…it’s a masterpiece in comparison.
As a quick aside, I should also probably bring up the fact that this film was shot in 3-D, so be prepared to have things hurdled at the screen like flies on wires and swordfish. Correct me if I’m wrong but…isn’t the swordfish gag a cartoon thing?