AMITYVILLE: HALLOWEEN 2015
(Posted: 16 October 2015)

Film Bizarro seems to have a bit of a reputation for being…shall we say, grumpy. Sure, maybe we are. Maybe we are a bit more cynical and find more things to hate than the average person does. That doesn’t mean we don’t know how to have fun. Especially during the Halloween season. To help celebrate this treasured holiday we figured we’d put together a list of films from a beloved horror franchise.

But which franchise? We could do “Halloween” — the perfect films for the month of October. Or maybe “Friday the 13th” — the slasher classic that helped to define the genre. Possibly “A Nightmare on Elm Street” because who doesn’t love Robert Englund? “Texas Chainsaw Massacre”, “Hellraiser”, “Phantasm”, “Child’s Play”, “Ghoulies”, “Critters”. There seems to be an endless amount of franchises to choose from. Sadly, we could only pick one so we went with the absolute best series we could think of, which was…

”THE AMITYVILLE HORROR”!

Yes, nothing says Halloween like sitting down and watching 13 glorious films from a series that has continued on for over 30 years, even though people stopped watching in 1982. It started out as a fun idea of revisiting a series that we both had seen but forgotten about over the years. However, things turned ugly, quickly, as the movie marathon transformed into an experiment in how many unwatchable sequels it takes to break both the mind and the spirit.

With that being said, because so many of these movies were goddamn unbearable, we decided break from tradition of listing favorties and instead decided to rank the 13 films from best to worst.


THE AMITYVILLE HORROR (1979)
Director: Stuart Rosenberg

The original "The Amityville Horror" is one of the key classic supernatural movies. Along with titles like "The Exorcist", "The Omen" and "The Wicker Man" it is one of the most important movies that deal with the supernatural of that era. It's a family-focused tragedy that is slow by today's standard, but with some powerful imagery such as the bleeding walls/stairs, or the "flashbacks" of the family massacre. What makes this so much more interesting than your typical story of a family moving into a house is that there's both the supernatural aspect (things that happen in the house), and the father (George Lutz, a great portrayal by James Brolin) slowly going mad. I guess he is possessed, but it's much more subtle and realistic. Then there is the whole aspect of it being based on real events that makes the background story of the house so creepy. Everyone with an interest in horror can tell you what movie the house with the two strange top windows is from. It is a real pity that the "Amityville" franchise was plagued by some many shitty sequels, when the original is as iconic as it is. 

AMITYVILLE 3-D (1983)
Director: Richard Fleischer

The third sequel — and subsequently the last movie to use the actual house as the primary plot device until the 2005 remake — is kind of a tricky movie to label. “Amityville 3-D” is not good by any means and features the same setup from the first two movies: a family is terrorized by a possessed house. It is fun to watch though as the movie goes into full blown schlock territory. In part, thanks to the 3-D gimmick of the movie, the other because they tried to do more with the story and have science combat the evil. Sometimes it succeeded with some memorable scenes and other times it ended disastrously. Of course by disastrously, I mean amusingly bad. Those bad and cheesy moments of “Amityville 3-D” are never off putting but instead they helped with the entertainment value overall.
AMITYVILLE II: POSSESSION (1982)
Director: Damiano Damiani

As the years passed on, the "Amityville" franchise became more and more unrecognizable from its source material. With its sequel, "Amityville II: Possession", we have one of the closest to honor the original. The best thing about this sequel is that it's based more on the DeFeo's, and it ends in the family slaughter that the Lutz could have ended in (but luckily didn't, as they left the house). Still the movie is not very good. I think that the problem is that it should have been a prequel. It is based on the DeFeo's after all! And it should not have been fucking bonkers (which it is at times). If this would have been a more brooding, dark prequel telling the story of the family slaughter that went down in that house, this could almost have surpassed the original. The real case is fucking freaky and it's a shame that this attempt to tell it was faulty at best. This movie does not go there - instead it goes down the path of being a "The Exorcist"-wannabe done wrong. The end of the movie is quite good though, and I think the actual slaughter scene is handled well. But there is not much to get from this movie that you don't get in either the original, or in the third installment. There are folks out there who swear to God that this is the best sequel and almost better than the original, but I can only go as far as to call this "decent". It does just a few too many things wrong.
AMITYVILLE 1992: IT'S ABOUT TIME (1992)
Director: Tony Randel

“Amityville 1992: It’s About Time” is a mutt. It wants to be its own movie while still acting as a sequel to “The Amityville Horror”, with a plot device that came from the “Hellraiser” series (for obvious reasons) but done in the style of a Brian Yuzna movie. The movie is about a clock that came from the Amityville house — because a movie about a possessed lamp wasn’t asinine enough — that acts like the puzzle box from “Hellraiser”. Instead of the evil clock trying to destroy the family in its new found home, it causes mischief. And mischief is the only word you can use to describe what occurs within the movie since the only evil thing that happens is that a dog is killed. Well, one character is killed but she had no affect on the story even though the movie tries to insist that she did. Instead it seems this clock’s ultimate goal is only to make the neighborhood hate the family’s son. Which you'd think that means he’s going to be the hero of the movie, but no. It’s actually the father’s live in girlfriend (Andrea) — a character that is designed to be hated by the audience. Andrea is such an awful character that she even goes so far as to tell Jacob (the father) what a selfish asshole he is after getting mauled by a dog. No, seriously. “Amityville 1992: It’s About Time” is directionless movie that doesn’t know what it wants to do. The only saving grace is the fact that it’s completely over-the-top which makes everything come across as comical and there’s a bizarre body horror element to it as well.
AMITYVILLE DOLLHOUSE (1996)
Director: Steve White

"Amityville Dollhouse" remembers the greatness of the original movie, but performs like its retarded third cousin. We're presented with awkward lines of dialogue such as "woah... apocalypse" after the stove erupts in flames, and giant mice under the bed. There's also a zombie character that pops up now and acts like a poor man's Freddy Krueger, a devil and some weird insect monster men towards the end. Still there is no tension or horror left in this "Amityville" sequel, it's more like a '90s soap opera with supernatural elements. It shouldn't be a surprise when a haunted house has been replaced by a dollhouse replica of the original house. It's like a stupid metaphor for exactly what this movie is. Steve White never directed a movie again. You can laugh at the movie at least, which can bring something that reminds me of entertainment. It has some decent makeup jobs as well. Not all bad movies have that!
AMITYVILLE: A NEW GENERATION (1993)
Director: John Murlowski

It’s obvious that in the “Amityville Horror” series parts 4-8 existed as their own movies. Then some producer came along and decided that the best way for them to make money was to force in the “Amityville” element, regardless if it made sense or not. At this point we’ve had a lamp and a clock (and a dollhouse, eventually) as plot devices, so why not a mirror too? Yeah, that’s not laughable at all. “Amityville: A New Generation” might be the most competent of the 5 sequels (that’s arguable, undoubtedly) but it’s also the most obvious that it was not originally intended to be a sequel in a franchise that’s been dead since part 3. “A New Generation” fails because there isn’t much in the way of horror. There’s not much in the way of anything. There's a story...kinda. There are characters...sorta. And there's an evil mirror that can do whatever the movie needs it do. It's all so generic and bland. Granted, it’s still watchable, especially with the surprisingly graphic DeFeo inspired family massacre scene, but in general, it is average at best. It’s the kind of movie where it does just enough to exist and that’s about it.
THE AMITYVILLE HORROR (REMAKE) (2005)
Director: Andrew Douglas

After many crappy sequels (some on an entertaining level, and none as bad as the ones that were to be made after the remake), the remake was the only hope to carry the franchise to a better place. But as with its contemporary, mainstream horror movies, the "Amityville Horror" remake relied on jump scares per minute, bad CGI ghost faces, poor acting, and a complete departure of the originals subtle style (I say that knowing that blood was coming out of walls!). The only thing that the remake did decently was make us hate George Lutz. Ryan Reynolds can't portray any kind of human emotion in a way we can relate in the role, but at least the writing made George Lutz a worse person than the original did. That's not to say it does it better. I prefer James Brolin's George Lutz because we still cared about him and the family even when he "turned". In the remake we don't care what happens to anyone (and that includes the dog).
AMITYVILLE CURSE (1989)
Director: Tom Berry

"The Amityville Curse" was directed by Tom Berry, a producer of nearly 150 titles. You might be asking yourself who it is, but don't worry - I can't tell you a good movie he has been involved with. The closest I'd come would be something like "Screamers". He has had his name on about 140 titles since directing "The Amityville Curse", and they are still no good, so you can imagine the quality of a movie he worked on 140 titles ago, right? Absolutely not the rock bottom of the franchise, but "The Amityville Curse" is a complete bore. We're following a bunch of morons into a random house that's called "Amityville" (it's clearly not the same house or area) for nearly 90 minutes and the most exciting thing you'll see is talking faces on a wall. It's about a priest that was murdered in a confessional, so they pack it up and stick it in the basement of that house. Because why wouldn't you do that? The soundtrack seems to have been mixed up with a comedy, which would make sense in a child friendly horror movie (say, "The Monster Squad"), but I highly doubt that's the target audience here. It takes about 75 minutes for things to happen and even then it is incredibly weak compared to some of the previous sequels. There is just no reason to watch this unless you are obsessively eager to watch all the "Amityville" movies - or making a list like this. It was kinda funny when the woman throws a saw blade into the knee of a severely burned Kim Coates though!
AMITYVILLE 4: THE EVIL ESCAPES (1989)
Director: Sandor Stern

With most film franchises there is a slow decline in quality — there’s still some fun to be had even’t if the followups aren’t as good as the original. “Amityville 4: The Evil Escapes” is where the series just dive bombs into the realm of unwatchable bottom-of-the-barrel garbage. Not because it was a made-for-TV movie, but because someone decided the movie needed to be about an evil lamp that’s possessed by a demon from the infamous Amityville house. They made a movie about an evil lamp. They made a movie about an evil lamp. They made. A movie. About an evil lamp. That statement bears repeating because that’s the only way the human brain can absorb such a moronic concept without instantly rejecting it. What kind of person decides that the best way to make a sequel about Amityville, and not have it be about the house, is to make it about a goddamn lamp that’s taken to another home? Really, who does that? However, that’s not the worst thing about the movie. What makes “Amityville 4: The Evil Escapes” irredeemably awful is because nothing happens. It’s incredibly dull. That is unless you’re terrified of a lamp that can turn off and on by itself…without being plugged in! And you should absolutely stay away from the movie if you have a heart condition, because you will likely die from sheer terror as the lamp scoots across the floor!
THE AMITYVILLE ASYLUM (2013)
Director: Andrew Jones

I'm shocked that "The Amityville Asylum" is not the worst movie in the franchise. It has no redeeming values and is by any standard a horrible movie. But it does try its hardest to have things going on to keep us entertained (unlike "Amityville Playhouse"). It fails to entertain, however, and instead it becomes a game of trying to find the most annoying things in the movie. One of the first things you notice is the soundtrack. It's most likely composed by someone who was randomly given a keyboard and sat in a basement a day before the deadline. The cinematography is very stale but at least they make use of darkness (again, unlike "Amityville Playhouse"). The sound effects used at certain "scary moments" evokes laughter. The story of a young woman who starts working as a caretaker at an asylum leads to exactly the kind of unoriginal bullshit you would expect. Of course the asylum was built on the same spot as the classic house, and that's the only real connection you will get (unfortunately, that's more than "Amityville Playhouse"!). If you can think of a "supernatural" cliché, then it's probably in here. Oh, and there is a predictable twist at the end. Because why not?
AMITYVILLE DEATH HOUSE (2015)
Director: Mark Polonia

Mark Polonia has been making low-budget horror movies since the ‘80s and that drove my curiosity since I wanted to see what he could do with “Amityville Death House”, which turned out to be not much. “Amityville Death House” isn’t good but it’s probably the most commendable movie out of the recent bunch of sequels. For one, because it tries to do something — even though it doesn’t succeed — and also because it finds a way to make it about a possessed house again, even if it’s not the actual house. Outside of a particular scene where a girl grows spider legs (featuring effects from Brett Piper), the worst thing about “Amityville Death House” is how forgettable it is. I actually had to go back through it a second time to try and find something worth discussing. There are some bad moments, and some amusingly bad moments, but nothing that actually makes the movie standout, unfortunately.
THE AMITYVILLE HAUNTING (2011)
Director: Geoff Meed

Sequels for “The Amityville Horror” stopped being produced in 1996. The series tried to be rebooted with a remake in 2005, which failed miserably. So what’s a person to do? Why, make a new sequel in 2011 but try to cash in on another franchise (“Paranormal Activity”) and use the found-footage style. What could go wrong? Only everything. Much like the “Paranormal Activity” movies themselves, absolutely nothing happens. The characters are a collection of people, who are suppose to be a family, that stand around and bitch at one another. Then the house they used for the interior shots doesn’t come close to matching the actual Amityville house. Worst of all, with all of the paranormal incidents that were described by the Lutz family could have been used, effectively, in the movie were completely ignored instead. Honestly, how hard would it have been to digitally insert some glowing red eyes somewhere? "The Amityville Haunting" opts for a single apparition that appears at the end of the movie (and does nothing) and then a random twenty-something kid pops up, with a bloody face, and lunges at the camera. Like so many of the sequels that came before and after, “The Amityville Haunting” is boring and extraordinarily dumb.
THE AMITYVILLE PLAYHOUSE (2015)
Director: John R. Walker

We've reached the end of this devilish list. This is the real curse of the series. "The Amityville Playhouse" (a.k.a. "The Amityville Theater") is about a girl who inherits and old theater in Amityville, and decides to go there with her friends. Yet again, what happens in the next 90 minutes or so has no real connection to "The Amityville Horror", but hey - at least it's fucking horrible too! Every actor is clearly acting opposite a stone wall and the script writers and director must have went on hiatus and left the actors to improvise without direction. This is not the worst part. Practically nothing happens! We spend most of the time listening to poorly written characters call each other stuff like "Butthead" and character names from "Scooby-Doo". From what I could understand, the guy they call the Scooby-Doo of the gang is so upset by that... that he becomes possessed. Him becoming possessed doesn't really change anything except that he gets a deeper voice (that is until later on, when his face is bloody and he has a huge zit that he pops?). I hate this movie. This is the very, absolute bottom of a series that was struggling from the very first sequel. You are forbidden to watch it.

 

I think congratulations are in order for "The Amityville Playhouse". It couldn't have been an easy task being the worst film in a series that has lasted for 36 years with 13 installments. Bravo, "The Amityville Playhouse"! Bravo!

And there you have it: Film Bizarro’s definitive ranking of the “Amityville Horror” series. We’re sure you’ll probably disagree about the placement of the films and that’s fine. Even so, I think what we can all agree on is that this might be the worst franchise to exist with as many movies as it has. At this point, can “Amityville” still be considered a cash-in name when the films stopped generating a profit with the third sequel? I guess we’ll find out when “Amityville: The Reawakening” is released in 2016. Hopefully we’ll all be dead before then.





 

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