The first film in the series, entitled The Amityville Horror, arrived in theatres in 1979. It is based on the wildly popular novel of the same name, which chronicles the supposedly true story of the Lutz family and their increasingly disturbing encounters with evil supernatural forces which reside in their home. As the film begins, George and Kathy (James Brolin and Margot Kidder) purchase a home and move in with their children, knowing full well that, a few years previous, an entire family was brutally murdered there. However, times are tough and the house is cheap, so they attempt to make the best of it. Needless to say, within a day or so, strange things begin to happen. When a friendly priest arrives to bless the house, he is overcome by a feeling of suffocation and is attacked by a swarm of flies in the upper floor of the house. After a demonic voice demands that he get out, he flees in a panic. His many attempts to warn the family of the evil in the house are thwarted in various ways. At one point, he even loses his eyesight.
Meanwhile, George develops a bit of an attitude problem. His temper rages over small things, and he spends most of his days splitting wood, sharpening his ax, and screaming at Kathy and her children. One of Kathy’s sons gets his fingers smashed in a window, and Kathy spies two red eyes staring at her from outside of the house. It soon comes to everyone’s attention that the house was built atop of an Indian burial ground, and that a devil worshiper once lived there. Oh, and there is a well beneath the floor that acts as a gateway to hell.
Will the Lutz family survive with their sanity intact? You’ll have to see for yourself – that is, if you haven’t seen it already. The performances from James Brolin and Margot Kidder are the stuff that B-movie dreams are made of.
The second film in the series, Amityville II: The Possession, which is a prequel to the first film. With Amityville II, we witness the events leading up to the massacre of an entire family at the hands of Sonny Montelli, the elder son of Anthony and Delores Montelli. The film opens as the family moves in to the house. They seem happy enough, except for the fact that Anthony is a short-tempered brute who subtly bullies Sonny, hates priests, and occasionally slaps the two younger children, as well as Delores. Added to that, both Sonny and his teenage sister, Patricia, constantly flirt with one another and are a little too close for comfort. It should be obvious right from the beginning that this family is incredibly dysfunctional.
As they are moving in, Delores discovers a secret tunnel in the house. It’s full of flies and smells horrible. As you may have guessed, strange things begin to happen. Mirrors fall over. An unseen entity bangs on the doors and scribbles a naughty message on the wall of the children’s bedroom. Last but not least, Sonny starts hearing strange voices coming from the headphones of his Walkman, instructing him to kill his family. Days pass by, and Sonny’s demeanor begins to change. He becomes belligerent and anti-social, and on one particular occasion, he seduces Patricia and sleeps with her.
Delores calls the priest, who comes to bless the home, but Anthony rudely sends the priest packing. With no one to turn to, the Montelli family begins to fall apart. Even though Patricia is racked with guilt over the incestuous incident with her brother, she still attempts to comfort him. She sees that he is changing. Even his face begins to twist and contort into something evil.
And then it happens. One night, Sonny grabs his father’s gun and murders the entire family. The priest arrives, but alas, he is too late. As the family is carried out in body bags, Sonny is taken into questioning by the cops. The priest vows then and there to rid Sonny of this evil presence once and for all, and the film turns into an Exorcist rip-off for the next half hour – but make no mistake, you will enjoy it. This film goes above and beyond the limits of bad taste and totally delivers. You don’t want to miss it. Plus, Rutanya Alda of Mommie Dearest and The Deer Hunter plays Delores, and dives right in to the role with an incredibly fearless performance. She’s phenomenal!
The third – and last – in the series, Amityville 3-D, concerns a skeptic named John who moves into the infamous house on 112 Ocean Avenue, in order to prove that the house is normal and that no such paranormal entity exists. John remains firm in his beliefs that the house is completely harmless, even as his friends encounter the evil that lives within and try to knock some common sense into him.
We spend most of the film waiting for John to accept the fact his home is evil. When his daughter, Susan, toys around with a Ouija board with a few of her friends, she finds that she may be in real danger when the spirit in the house delivers a sinister message. Amityville 3-D is largely a “been there, done that” affair, and is easily the weakest of the three. However, it is notable for the fact that it stars a very young Meg Ryan in one of her first screen roles!
I highly recommend Shout! Factory’s The Amityville Horror Trilogy on Blu-ray. Fans of the films will rejoice!