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December 8, 2013

Movie Review: The Amityville Horror Trilogy (Blu-ray)

Oh, how audiences love that phrase, "Based on a true story." It's been such a wonderful way to reel in horror fans, especially to some of the biggest genre films ever put on screen. Though they're just loosely based, Psycho and The Texas Chainsaw Massacre literally made a "killing" with audiences and critics alike with the big draw being that the events were possibly factual. Jay Anson's best-selling book, The Amityville Horror was another supposed true event brought to the screen by director Stuart Rosenberg. Scream Factory’s popular line of horror classics now include the first three movies: The Amityville Horror, Amityville II: The Possession and Amityville III: The Demon in a lovely Blu-ray boxset, sporting new high-definition transfers and a generous selection of extra features.

When the Lutz family (Margot Kidder and James Brolin) find an amazing bargain on a massive house, they jump into it. Excited to get settled, the family begins their life with their new home not expecting more than maybe a few minor inconveniences get a little more than what they anticipated. The house is haunted by ghosts and demons from some horrific previous events. These entities do everything in their power to scare the living shit out of the Lutz's so they get the hell out. The Amityville Horror is strong on atmosphere and naturally the house is the star over any of the leading players (Kidder, Brolin). With that said, both those actors do a serviceable job of making this one of the more enjoyable haunted house films ever put to film. Rod Steiger fans though, you may wince every time he's on time on screen as he stinks up the place in his turn as the crusty Father Delaney. 

Amityville II: The Possession, much like Godfather II, is the perfect example of where the sequel out does the original film. Instead of a straight sequel - picking where the story of  Lutz family left off, Italian director Damiano Damiani (A Bullet for the General) and screenwriter Tommy Lee Wallace (Halloween III: Season of the Witch) take the approach of doing a prequel to the events. The story is loosely based on the DeFeo murders how the house forced this individual to take out his loved ones. The family this time around are the Montelli's, and much like the Lutz' they decided to grab onto a deal for a massive estate situated off a lake in Amityville, New York. 


The Possession goes places the original film did not and this is part of what it makes it so appealing. In place of the real-life killer Ronald DeFeo is the oldest Montelli son, Sonny (Jack Magner. Following the heinous murders, Possession goes right into Exorcist territory with Sonny being the subject of an exorcism by a priest. The pacing is easily the best of the three and its hard not to get immersed in this seriously twisted tale.

The most notable attention grabber for Amityville III: The Demon is without a doubt the fact that it was shot in 3D when numerous 80's horror films were using that gimmick (Friday the 13th III, Jaws III, Silent Madness).  After a couple of journalists, John and Melanie (Tony Roberts and Candy Clark) uncover a bunch of scammers using the Amityville house as their drawing card, the now vacant house becomes appealing one of them. Not before long, John, in yet another bargain priced bid picks up the cursed home not believing any of the history. This of course ends badly. We do get in 3-D now on Blu-ray and this alone makes it worth a watch. Look for Meg Ryan playing a very rare “bad girl”.

The supplements are very nice on this set as we get commentaries for both The Amityville Horror and Amityville II: The Possession and some stellar featurettes. The Demon doesn't have a commentary but it has an entertaining piece with the delightful Candy Clark. The extras for Amityville II: The Possession is where you'll find the bulk of the bonus goodies that an interview with Damiani (before his passing) produced by Severin Films. Wallace, Diane Franklin and Rutanya Alda are also interviewed for some pieces recently produced by Scream Factory. 

These films aren't perfect by any means, but each has something to draw your interest if you’re into haunted house films. Amityville II: The Possession is the best part of the set in all categories and that alone deserves watch because it is some seriously sleazy fun. Recommended

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