|Review||Amityville II: The Possession (1982)||Director||Damiano Damiani|
|Writer||Tommy Lee Wallace – Based on the book “Murder in Amityville” by Hans Holzer|
|Cast||James Olson, Jack Magner, Rutanya Alda, Diane Franklin, Burt Young, Andrew Prine, Ted Ross and Moses Gunn|
“They’d be better off if you killed them” – Demonic voice
The real life killings of the DeFeo family on November 13th in 1974 at the home at 112 Ocean Ave. in Amityville certainly inspired a lot of people in the entertainment industry. First up was “The Amityville Horror” (1979) which detailed the “true” story of George and Kathy Lutz who fled their home only 28 days after moving in because of supernatural and demonic occurrences. In relation to their story, and a possible precursor to the demonic aspects of their story, was the fact that the killer of the DeFeos at one time said that that a demonic voice told him to do it. The killer was Ronald DeFeo, the eldest son of the family who one night loaded his rifle and gunned down his entire family; his mother and father, two sisters and two brothers, in a matter of fifteen minutes.
“The Amityville Horror” was based on a book by Jay Anson, published in 1977, and “Amityville II: The Possession” was based on a book by Hans Holzer called “Murder in Amityville” published in 1979. Both these books took the demonic elements and went to town with it. The latter publication explained how demonic forces compelled Ronald DeFeo to kill his family and told how he hadn’t been acting out of free will.
In “Amityville II: The Possession” we’re introduced to the Montelli family. Anthony (Young) and Dolores (Alda) move their family into the idyllic colonial home in Amityville. Sonny (Magner) is the oldest son, Patricia (Franklin) is the teenage daughter and then younger siblings Jan and Mark. Very soon after moving in some strange things start happening and Dolores insists on having Father Adamsky (Olson) come and bless the house. The Montelli family isn’t exactly a well functioning bunch either with tempers flaring and regular shouting matches. The demonic forces at work in the house start focusing on Sonny and he starts hearing a voice through his Walkman. Sonny seduces his sister, starts having physical transformations and finally the voice encourages him to kill his family. One night Sonny loads his rifle and wipes out his family members. Father Adamsky then feels guilt over his indifference to Patricia’s pleas for help and he becomes convinced that Sonny is possessed by an evil entity.
Funnily enough it’s a bit hard to decipher whether “Amityville II: The Possession” is, in fact, a prequel or a sequel to “The Amityville Horror”. The Montelli family is obviously modelled after the DeFeo’s but there are notable differences; particularly in the way that when the massacre occurs the family isn’t sleeping, Sonny bears no resemblance to George Lutz (as was one of the more bizarre plot contrivances in “The Amityville Horror”) and it looks very contemporary rather then being set 8 years prior. For all intents and purposes the film looks divorced from it’s predecessor and functions more like a standalone movie that takes a real life tragedy as it’s inspiration.
Although not entirely successful the film does have a number of striking set-pieces that are very effective and make sure it should not be discarded by fans of the horror genre. The first hour or so is well handled with eerie atmosphere, genuinely creepy and suspenseful scenes and a tension filled build-up to the massacre. The actual sequence is executed really well and makes for fairly tough viewing. Once that’s over and done with the film seems to lose it’s way with the third act and denouement being fairly disappointing. It veers off into “The Exorcist” (1973) territory with wildly uneven results; while producing some visual delights the momentum and suspense has all but vanished and the final confrontation between possessed Sonny and Father Adamsky is awkwardly done. A real shame considering the impressive build-up.
But a disappointing resolution shouldn’t (and does not) diminish the overall effectiveness of the film. The whole mystery surrounding the house of horror in Amityville is morbidly fascinating and whether or not one believes the more fantastical theories there are a number of things that have been difficult to explain in any rational fashion. While the film removes all doubt of a rational explanation there’s still the effective story of a tragedy that’s well conveyed for 2/3 of the film. Some scenes here are really creepy and well done and overall the film has a solid impact. It also aims to make the viewer uncomfortable with the inclusion of incest but it’s not very explicit or gratuitous. Reportedly the film was supposed to be even edgier with more weight given to that aspect along with a rape scene between Anthony and Dolores but I don’t think it would have improved the film any.
The actors are solid overall with Magner and Franklin the standouts in their roles. Young looks and sounds exactly like Paulie from “Rocky” (1976) but he’s always got a commanding presence. Olson tends to overplay certain key scenes but he’s fine and Alda is good if a bit too hysterical on occasion.
Make-up and special effects deserve a mention as they’re very well handled and Sonny’s transformation is quite memorable.
I don’t quite know why “The Amityville Horror” and “Amityville II: The Possession” got such critical beatings at the time of their releases. While neither is a classic they both are above average scare fests that have more going for them than against but the two don’t gel well together as part of the same overall arc and should be viewed as two separate entities.