Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Unseen A to Z # 1: Amityville II: The Possession

I own a metric shitload of movies. I've seen the majority of movies in my collection, but there are also plenty I've bought with the intention of seeing them for the first time that still have the plastic on them. From 1997. Ahem. Since I show no sign of stopping the collection from growing anytime soon, I figured it might be worth my while to try an experiment to at least make a dent in the chunk of my collection that I've never seen, so I decided to go alphabetically and choose one movie that I've never seen for each letter of the alphabet and write a little bit about them as I watch them. It appears I can only do it this way once, as I only own one Q title I've never seen and one X title I've never seen, but other than those two I have a fairly wide range of options for each letter. The goal is to encourage myself to watch something new rather than, say, John Wick for the 85th time, and also to fill in some glaring #MovieShame holes in my viewing history (I'll note which ones I'm particularly ashamed of not seeing until now as I get to them). There's no real schedule to this thing (it certainly won't be daily), so let's see if I manage to stick with it, shall we?

So...let's get started! 

A is for Amityville II: The Possession 

I've seen the first Amityville Horror a couple of times and I am not a big fan. I also read the book and liked it even less than the movie, so I never had much desire to check out the sequels. That being said, a blu-ray set from Scream Factory is a siren call that cannot be denied so naturally now I own the first 3 Amityvilles in glorious high definition. This first sequel is actually a prequel, loosely based on the real-life DeFeo murders (in which 23-year-old Ronald DeFeo, Jr. murdered his parents and his four young siblings while they slept in their Amityville home, leading to the alleged haunting of George and Kathy Lutz when they bought the home afterward which was the basis for the first movie). 

In this fictionalized take, Anthony Montelli (aggressively unappealing human sweatsock Burt Young) moves his family into the soon-to-be-infamous Amityville house (actually shot in NJ, but what are you gonna do?) and almost instantly things start to get creepy. Objects move on their own, messages are painted on their walls, a drippy, cobweb-festooned crypt is discovered within those know, haunty stuff. The whole family is constantly fighting, verbally and physically. It's suggested that this is the influence of the malevolent house, but since we don't meet the Montellis until they're moving in we have no frame of reference to know whether or not this is just how they are all the time. Oh, and also the eldest son and daughter start fucking. This too is supposed to be seen as part of the haunting, but from the moment they're introduced they are very clearly intending to jump in each other's pants and wiggle around, so I don't know that ghosts had all that much to do with it. 

For the first half it's a fairly standard haunted house movie (except for the incest), but once the murders occur (in a well-staged, legitimately frightening sequence) it shifts gears and becomes a poor knockoff of The Exorcist as a priest (James Olson, fairly bland) attempts to exorcise the murderous demon from Ronald DeFeo simulacrum Sonny Montelli (Jack Magner). The second half suffers from the loss of the family and gets a bit draggy and repetitive, mostly suffering from the fact that we've seen all this exorcism stuff before in another, better movie. 

Awesomely-named director Damiano Damiani brings some fun (if sleazy) style to the proceedings, and there are some pretty terrific makeup effects (courtesy of the great John Caglione, Jr.) that do a lot to make this a better movie than the original, despite the fact that it's still not very good. I imagine that it would make for a tremendously fun midnight screening with the right crowd, but in the unforgiving glare of home video it's eminently skippable. 

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