An all-new Pop Culture Beast is coming!

An all-new Pop Culture Beast is coming!
Pardon our dust!

Pop Culture Beast proudly supports The Trevor Project

Pop Culture Beast proudly supports The Trevor Project
Please consider doing the same.

Thursday, October 31, 2013

31 Days of Scream-O-Ween! - The Amityville Horror Trilogy

By Adam Ruhl

Happy Halloween Scream fans! Tonight is the night for dressing up, getting candy, drinking (for the adults), and watching scary movies with your loved ones. For many of you, it’s your favorite night of the year, as it is for us too and we’re going out with a bang. Thank you for following us on this strange and terrifying journey through a lot of great horror films (and, with all due love to Scream Factory, a couple of appalling bad ones). We’ve covered 30 Scream Factory films and now it’s time for the grand finale, our review of the Scream Factory’s The Amityville Horror Trilogy. This film has been a household name for almost 35 years; it has spawned numerous sequels and remakes and continues to scare the hell out of us. Did it really happen? Was it faked? Only the people involved know for sure, but one thing is certain, it captivated us and chilled us to the bone and continues to do so. Fire up the Jack-O-Lanterns and turn out the lights as we explore review 31, The Amityville Horror Trilogy.

The Films:
The Amityville Horror

Even if somehow you haven’t seen the original Amityville Horror or it’s Ryan Reynolds remake (See the original or better yet buy this box set at the bottom of this page), the story has become so ingrained in our culture that I bet you can recite a bunch of it. You may not have the exact scene context, but you’ve probably heard someone reference “Get Out!” in a haunted house demonic voice multiple times. At the very least I think just about every ‘Scary Movie’ has gone back to mine it for a little more material.

The story goes like this, a young couple, the Lutz’s, buys a long island home. They got a great price because a sextuple murder happened there. Yeah, this is still the legal fact part of the story; we haven’t gotten to the titular Horror yet. They lasted 28 days in the house before fleeing without taking their possessions. The movie takes a couple liberties with the original ‘true’ story, but the most pants-crapping, scream-in-a-crowded-movie-theater moments are lifted right from the text. The Lutz’s are tormented with everything from smells, to flies, to slamming doors, to demonic pigs.
I read the book before seeing the movie when I found an old dog-eared copy at a flea market. It was one of the most terrifying reads of my life. Even if you don’t buy the Lutz’s story, the book creeps off the page and into your imagination and then good luck turning the lights off at night. The movie manages to transform that printed terror into visual and auditory nightmares. Even now, when the audience is savvy to all the editing tricks; the jarring cuts and soundtrack are extremely unnerving. It must have been traumatizing when the 1979 crowd that first experienced it. Also the film is helped by its stars Margot Kidder and James Brolin (fun fact for you kids that are too young to make the connection, this is Jonah Hex’s dad).

If you want to try and calm down afterwards, I recommend turning to Netflix Instant View and watching My Amityville Horror, a documentary about Daniel Lutz, the now grown step-son of George Lutz. He’s an interesting man and he has some fascinating insights into what went on in that household.  

Amityville II: The Possession
This film serves as a prequel; following the Defeo family (the sextuple murder mentioned above) as they move into the infamous house. Before the film even gets started we run into the common problem of prequel films, that is, you have already seen how it turns out. In this case it just serves to remind you you’re essentially sitting to watch a 104 minute snuff film. Amityville 2 blurs the reality/fiction line in a more extreme and totally different way. Instead of just real people in a story that might be made up; here we have people who were murdered horribly in real life and they’ve superimposed a supernatural bend to the tragedy to crank out another film.

The plot is standard, family moves into haunted house, house does spooky things, son is possessed and shotguns whole family. The casting is positively surreal with Burt Young (Paulie from the Rocky movies) as the father of the Montelli family (They changed the family name for the movie). It’s not a terrible film but on some level it doesn’t work for me and think there are two reasons for this. First, in an effort to make the family look dysfunctional; the filmmakers only succeed in making the characters completely unlikable. Second, this film lacks the tension and clever sound editing of the original. It’s not scary, its just the uncomfortable experience of being locked in a room with a family argument for over an hour.

Amityville 3D
Story-wise this is by far the weakest and most derivative entry in the trilogy. If it weren’t for the 3D gimmick Part 3 would have almost nothing going for it. Investigative Journalist John Baxter (Tony Roberts) buys the Amityville house (just because) after exposing some fraudsters there. He still moves in after it kills the realtor in front of him. From there his partner and daughter are tormented by the same flies and doors slamming as we saw in the first movie, while John stubbornly demands that nothing’s wrong.

The film is shot competently but flatly. Scenes are staged with as much suspense as an episode of Knot’s Landing and it doesn’t build much tension let alone any terror. Meg Ryan appears in one of her early roles as the daughter’s friend and when she’s onscreen she steals the show.

The Set:
The three films come packaged in individual standard Blu-ray cases that are inserted into a cardboard slip case. The art for each film is the original poster art on the cover and film stills on the inside. The Transfer of Amityville Horror is clear but looks like it might have had some scrubbing, despite the presence of a lot of single-frame grain flaws that pop up throughout the film. Amityville II’s transfer is a nice, clean image without obvious flaws. Amityville 3D looks not so great in 2D; the left and right sides get downright blurry. This appears to be a byproduct of either the 3D process used or the anamorphic widescreen it was filmed in and not a problem with the disc mastering.

The Amityville Horror –
  • Audio Commentary with Parapsychologist Dr. Hans Holzer (Were James Brolin and Margot Kidder too busy? With what?)
  • “For God’s Sake, Get Out!” – Documentary with James Brolin and Margot Kidder
  • Haunted Melodies with Lalo Schifrin
  • TV Spots
  • Radio spot
  • Still Gallery
  • Theatrical Trailer

Amityville II: The Possession –
  • Audio Commentary with Alexandra Holzer (Daughter of the man who wrote the book that Amityville II was based on)
  • Interview with Director Damiano Damiani
  • Interview with Actors Andrew Prine, Diane Franklin, and Rutanya Alda
  • Interview with Screenwriter Tommy Lee Wallace
  • Interview with Alexandra Holzer
  • Still Gallery
  • Theatrical Trailer

Amityville 3D –
  • A Chilly Reception – An Interview with Actress Candy Clark
  • Photo Gallery
  • Theatrical Trailer


The Amityville Horror -
  • 1080p Hi-Def widescreen 1.85:1
  • DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1
  • DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0
  • English-only Audio & Subtitles
  • Original Release: 1979
  • Runtime: 119 minutes
  • Rated: R

Amityville II: The Possession -
  • 1080p Hi-Def widescreen 1.78:1
  • DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1
  • DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0
  • English-only Audio & Subtitles
  • Original Release: 1982
  • Runtime: 104 minutes
  • Rated: R

Amityville 3D -
  • 1080p Hi-Def widescreen 2.35:1
  • DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1
  • DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0
  • English-only Audio & Subtitles
  • Original Release: 1983
  • Runtime: 93 minutes
  • Rated: PG

Final Grades:
The Amityville Horror/ Amityville II: The Possession / Amityville 3D
Mastering Quality: B / A / C
House Haunting: A+ / C- / B-
Hokey Grade: B- / A / A+
Kept me up at night afterwards: A / D / C+
Retro Terror: A / C / B

Add The Amityville Horror Trilogy to your collection, click HERE!

Check out yesterday’s Scream Factory review, Halloween III!


Post a Comment