Is this series worthwhile or is it just one big Golden Sombrero?

The Amityville Horror

Film The Amityville Horror
Year Released 1979
Director Stuart Rosenberg
Screenplay Sandor Stern based on the book by Jay Anson
Starring James Brolin, Margot Kidder, Rod Steiger, Murray Hamilton
Synopsis The one that created a national sensation when it was released in 1979, based on the story of George and Kathy Lutz after they moved int 112 Ocean Avenue in Amityville, New York. The house’s last inhabitants, The DeFeo family, were all murdered by the oldest son, Ronald Jr. a year prior. A series of events as depicted, but not necessarily in the same order as, in the book brings the family to the brink of destruction.
Review The Amityville Horror is a pretty average film for late 70’s horror. James Brolin and Margot Kidder were more than competent to play the leads, but this material is not worthy of Rod Steiger. There are a few scenes that evoke actual dread, but very little of what one could actually consider building of tension. There is nothing here evocative of Rosenberg’s best work, including his films with Paul Newman (Cool Hand Luke, The Drowning Pool) or his best film The Pope of Greenwich Village. The end result is muddled as the source material. It mattered a lot to those who believed in the supernatural back in the 70’s but at this point, it’s a better idea to stick to to The Conjuring 2 is you want scares based on anything this series has to offer.
Rating (**1/2 out of *****)
Where can you find it? Streaming on Amazon, Vudu

Amityville II: The Possession

Film Amityville II: The Possession
Year Released 1982
Director Damiano Damiani
Screenplay Tommy Lee Wallace, Dardano Sacchetti based on Murder in Amityville by Hans Holzer
Starring James Olson, Burt Young, Rutanya Alda, Jack Magner, Diane Franklin, Moses Gunn, Andrew Prine
Synopsis This film changes the names of the DeFeo family, adds some abuse by the father (Young) and incest between the murderous son (Magner) and his eldest sister (Franklin), while making it a film of modern time (set in 1982, with a walkman-type tape player as one of its key sources of communication between the demon and the killer). Essentially it’s a very loose retelling of the murders for which the house was first made famous.
Review The film is by the numbers. The whole family is done in at the one hour mark. The last act of the film is researching the house, done by Father Frank Adamsky (Olson) and the court case subsequent to the murders. The film is not scary, so much as it is laborious. There is nothing enjoyable about the story. Even the things meant to inspire dread lack any sort of intrigue whatsoever. Ultimately, though, the biggest problem with the film is casting of the family. The parents were too old to have two young kids. And who would ever want Paulie as their father? The scariest thing about this film is the bad teeth and borrowed ideas from The Exorcist (“…take me!”)
Rating (* out of *****)
Where can you find it? Streaming on HBO Max

Amityville 3D

Film Amityville 3D
Year Released 1983
Director Richard Fleischer
Screenplay David Ambrose, William Wales
Starring Tony Roberts, Tess Harper, Robert Joy, Candy Clark, Meg Ryan, Lori Loughlin, Robert Joy, John Harkins
Synopsis Based on nothing more than just keeping the name Amityville on movie screens, this film is an attempt to make it look like the demons of Amityville are beyond skeptics and more fully enjoyed in three dimensions. In this version, Tony Roberts is part of a team of skeptics working for a magazine. He buys the house on the cheap after revealing a team of scammers there and while going through a divorce from his wife (Harper). As he’s in the process of moving in, one death after another brings a challenge to his skeptical viewpoint.
Review Who in the hell thought of Tony Roberts as leading man material even in B grade material like this? His skill as a sideman in Woody Allen films is wasted here. He lacks the charisma to lead this clunky story that tries to inject science, skepticism, family drama into the increasingly more boring presentation of the house on 112 Ocean Avenue. Ryan and Loughlin are suprise additions to the series. Most people will have no clue to their appearance in this film at the start of their careers. Fleischer makes one of those “just keeping busy” films that happens to directors late in their career. He’d follow this up with the competent Conan The Destroyer and the misfire Red Sonja before killing his career with the awful Million Dollar Mystery. That all of these are Dino De Laurentiis productions is no coincidence. Most of the film moves from one excuse for bad 3D to the next until the absolutely comical ending. The 3D rendering makes the non-3D viewing of it dull and overly glossy. When it gets down to it, there are only so many times one can see the famous exterior of the house before it loses the essence of what once made it scary. At this point, it’s all gone by the wayside.
Rating (* out of *****)
Where can you find it? Streaming on HBO Max

The Amityville Horror 2005

Film The Amityville Horror 2005
Year Released 2005
Director Andrew Douglas
Screenplay Scott Kosar
Starring Ryan Reynolds, Melissa George, Philip Baker Hall, Chloë Grace Moretz, Jesse James, Jimmy Bennett
Synopsis Supposedly they base this remake on “newly found” material based on the house at 112 Ocean Avenue (now 412 Ocean Avenue). One might speculate that the ghost of one Reverend Jeremiah Ketcham is the new twist (centered loosely on a fictionalized version of John Ketcham who featured in the book on which the second film is based). One could more accurately conjure that the new material is just trying to hunt up more revenue one last time before the series succumbed to straight to video hell.
Review The film streamlines the Lutz story into bare bones this time around. Almost the entire priest subplot is removed – though they do find a way to waste a completely lost Philip Baker Hall for a few minutes here or there. There is even less tension than the original. The two young boys (James, Bennett) are annoying, but Moretz is actually pretty good. Reynolds and George have some chemistry, when not constrained by ridiculouse plot mechanisms. There are no buildups and almost no connective tissue between scenes. It’s just a bunch of stuff that happens. The only times the film resonates are when we get to see Reynolds riff comically as well as when we get to concentrate on the burgeoning acting ability of Moretz.
Rating (*1/2 out of *****)
Where can you find it? Streaming on Amazon, Vudu

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