Tuesday, June 25, 2024

The Amityville Horror sequels (1989 - 1996)

The story of The Amityville Horror has been told tirelessly through so many different outlets, so what’s one more half assed explanation going to hurt. A young man murders his family, the crime scene house is sold to a new couple, the walls drip slime, there’s a pig with glowing eyes, and the family moves out weeks after purchasing. Then, the house died on its way back to its home planet. Leading to the events of the 2022 film, Amityville in Space. Wait, what!?

Obviously, the Lutz family story was published into book form, and with every successful novel, comes the movie adaptation. The first film in 1979 was a huge box office hit, becoming the second highest grossing movie of that year. The follow up, Amityville II: The Possession, was released just three years later, acting as a loosely based prequel (my personal favorite). And in 1983 to capitalize on the current trend of gimmicks, we got Amityville 3-D. Which starred a young, Meg Ryan, and her future Sleepless in Seattle co-star, a basement dwelling water demon.

Those first three films in this seemingly never-ending saga were released theatrically, to fleeting success. But this supernatural LIRR train kept rolling straight into home video territory, with a quick stop into made-for-TV town. So, let’s take a trip down the Long Island Expressway, while you brace for your life avoiding the psychopathic motorists. These are the Amityville “cursed object” films. 

Amityville 4: The Evil Escapes (1989)
Debuting on NBC in the spring of ‘89, we get our first look at the items at the unearthly estate sale. Starring, Patty Duke, who is certainly no stranger to television, she had her own self-titled show in the mid 1960's. Unfortunately for her, there’s no miracle worker coming to save her from this project. It's a lamp that stands tall, towering in some human like stature. Seriously, it’s a lamp that harnesses its ability through its power cord. Did I mention this was made for TV? Purchased at a yard sale, the lamp is shipped to a new unsuspecting family where it brings horrifying heights. Like, um, it can run the garbage disposal and it can draw on the bedroom walls with crayon. HORRIFYING. Needless to say, this film is incredibly silly but can be fun and entertaining. It’s clear from the jump what you’re getting with its cheap production. And it ends with quite a cliffhanger. Spoiler: the lamp possesses the family cat. Can’t wait to see how that pays off in the next movie…it doesn’t. 

Amityville 1992: It’s About Time (1992)
FYI, this was the sixth entry in the series, but I’ll get to more of that in a bit. A man brings home a vintage mantle clock from his business trip to NY. Unaware of the history it beholds, he and his family soon learn that something in the house is really ticked off. Ticked. Off. Yikes, that’s a bad pun. Directed by Tony Randel (Hellbound: Hellraiser II), this is the best in this group of latter sequels. We’re talking early decade direct to video, and Amityville ‘92 at least attempts to make decent use with it’s FX and character building. More than any movie should at this point in its chronology. There is a time bending element that’s kind of intriguing. There’s no Dr. Strange magic going on here, just some light suspense and fun death scenes. It’s an improvement over the last few films, and in my opinion is one of the only entries worth making time for. That’s another clock reference. Ok, moving on. 

Amityville: A New Generation (1993)
A haunted mirror. This is starting to feel like an idea that even R.L. Stine would say no, that’s too childish even for Goosebumps. We’re in mediocre-ville now, with a photographer who is given a vintage mirror from a homeless man. Guess what, the mirror is from the Amityville house. Surprise. I should point out that all of these sequels are set in California. Now, you may wonder how a Long Island mirror ended up on the streets of (presumably) LA. And I would retort with, it’s the 7th Amityville movie. Case closed. Aside from a few, and I do mean a literal few decent scenes, this one lacks any creativity. It plays more like an episode from the Friday the 13th: TV series. That’s not good, btw. Such a let down from the previous installment. Although, the supporting cast is at least noteworthy. We get David Naughton (An American Werewolf in London), Terry O’Quinn (The Stepfather), and Richard Roundtree (Shaft). Which are all reminders that you could be watching something much more enjoyable. 

Amityville: Dollhouse (1996)
The sub title really gives this one away. It’s a cursed Malibu Barbie Dreamhouse, complete with all the accessories. Well, no that’s not true, but I am coming to the conclusion that these movies might be really bad. A family moves into a new house, the father finds said dollhouse in the backyard shed, fixes it up and presents it as a birthday gift to his daughter. Plot twist, it’s a replica of the Amityville house. It’s never mentioned that this came from Amityville, but it certainly has mystical abilities. For example: it can start fires, raise the dead and possess a stepmother to lust after her stepson. We’re so many films deep here, and the expectation bar is as low as you can get. It’s barely okay, I guess. There’s really no good reason to pay this a visit. Aside from being able to say that you’ve seen the entire franchise, and as someone who has, this is not worth bragging about. Notable actors include, Robin Thomas (Summer School), and Lisa Robin Kelly (That 70’s Show). 

I have to mention the fifth film that was skipped over. This was not part of the haunted “insert antique here” tetralogy. The Amityville Curse (1990), or aka the Canadian Amityville movie (filmed in Montreal). This is honestly more of an in name only tie in, having little to no connection to the initial story. It revolves around a priest that is murdered in Amityville, and buried in the basement of a clergy house. Fast forward some years later, the property is sold and spooky things happen to the new tenants, etc. It’s basic haunted house 101 storytelling. Nothing special or of note here, just a really dull movie. 

After Dollhouse, the series was rebooted in 2005, with an up-and-coming superstar actor that everyone has come to love. It’s Philip Baker Hall, of course. Thus ending the original run, capping it at eight films in total. Placing it something between Police Academy & The Land Before Time. That seems fitting. 

Luckily, for every filmmaker, the word Amityville cannot be copyrighted. Which has led to an excess of direct to streaming trash. A quick search on Tubi will supply you with over 40+ Amityville movies for your viewing displeasure. Such as: Amityville Bigfoot, Amityville in the Hood, Amityville Death Toilet, Amityville Backpack & last but certainly not least, Amityville Karen. FOR GOD’S SAKE, GET OUT! (of the app). 

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