It doesn’t matter to me whether or not The Amityville Horror is truth or fiction. The truth is that the original film isn’t all that exciting. But the sequel? Holy shit — the sequel is pretty much everything you want in a movie — if you love movies filled with horrifyingly sick moments of glee.
Damiano Damiani, whose 1960’s and 1970’s western and crime output were marked by a streak of social criticism, directed this film from a screenplay by Tommy Lee Wallace (who not only played Michael Myers in the original Halloween, but would go on to direct Halloween III: Season of the Witch and the original version of It).
The film is actually a prequel, telling the story of the Montellis, who are based upon the DeFeo family. Anthony (Burt Young from Rocky) is the father of this brood. He’s rude, ill-tempered and ready to abuse everyone at a moment’s notice. If you’re looking for any family values — in fact, any values at all — you’re watching the wrong film.
He’s married to Dolores (Rutanya Alda, Carol Ann from Mommie Dearest), his long-suffering and very Catholic wife. They have four kids — Sonny, Patricia (Diane Franklin, Monique from Better Off Dead, as well as TerrorVision and Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure), Mark and Jan. Even from the very beginning of the film, the family is on edge. Every single interaction between them is marked by weirdness before we even get into the occult portion of this film.
Things get worse — much worse — after a tunnel is found in the basement. This leads to doors knocking all night long and demonic messages showing up in the youngest kids’ room. Turning to the Church, Dolores tries to have Father Frank Adamsky bless the house. That lasts for all of ten seconds before Anthony flips out and throws the priest out.
When he gets to his car, the door is open and his Bible is torn apart. Clearly — all is not well. Again — the family is a mess before the Devil even gets involved. Dad is overly strict and abuse, mom clings to the Church and Sonny and Patricia yearn to have sex with one another (seriously, their first interactions define the word creeptastic).
While everyone else goes to church, Sonny stays behind and is taken over by a demonic force. The film nearly descends into body horror as we see the creature take root inside him. Soon, he’s playing fashion photographer with his sister, a game that quickly turns into sex. Instead of her being upset, Patricia instead tells him that she loved it. Keep in mind these are pretty much the two main protagonists of the story, so the tale takes a very Flowers in the Attic turn.
As Sonny becomes more demonic, Patricia decides to confess to Father Adamsky, but breaks down before she can. At Sonny’s birthday party — a scene where this film layers on the insanity — he goes full demon as she freely tries to give herself to him. She decides to call the priest and confess everything, but Father Tom (Simon himself from Simon, King of the Witches, as well as the original version of The Town that Dreaded Sundown) takes the phone off the hook so the priests can go skiing (!!!).
That night, Sonny fully becomes possessed and murders his entire family with shotgun blasts as a voice tells him to “kill them all.” Father Adamsky blames himself and even after the church refuses to allow him to exorcise the demon, he still makes an attempt. The demon goes from Sonny into his soul and the Amityville House is put up for sale…setting up part one.
If you think this is a rough little movie — and trust me, it is — it was even worse in its original cut. Test audiences were assaulted by scenes where Anthony anally rapes his wife Dolores and where the incest is on graphic display (versus being hinted at with an “after the loving” quick cut). Damiano stated that he wanted to really upset viewers. Well, he succeeded, with those scenes going the way of the dodo. A very depraved dodo.
Originally, this film was to be based on John G. Jones’ book The Amityville Horror Part II, but producer Dino De Laurentiis, in conjunction with American International Pictures, decided to be inspired Hans Holzer’s book Murder in Amityville. George Lutz, whose family’s 28-day residency at the haunted house led to the original film, sued and got a disclaimer on the posters for the film stating “This film has no affiliation with George and Kathy Lutz”.”
Even better — Ed and Lorraine Warren, the demonologists who are the basis for The Conjuring series of films — served as the demonology advisors. One only wonders how they felt about the tremendous amount of blasphemy on display here.
This is a film where no traditional structure can save anyone. The family unit is a joke. The Catholic Church does not care. And the police only exist to pick up the pieces at the end. It’s a grimy, gory, gross little film that has more in common with the grindhouse than its major studio origins would suggest.
Long story made short: I love this fucking movie.