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Tuesday, November 22, 2022

The Amityville IP: 1981’s ‘Amityville II: The Possession’ Takes The Franchise in a Wild Direction

Twice a month Joe Lipsett will dissect a new Amityville Horror film to explore how the “franchise” has evolved in increasingly ludicrous directions.

While it’s easy to appreciate the grounded, almost stoic nature of the original, it’s hard not to enjoy the outright campiness of Amityville 2: The Possession. The sequel, which never explicitly mentions the Lutzs due to real life legal issues, is an absolutely wild ride.

Written by Fright Night Part 2 and Halloween 3: Season of the Witch’s Tommy Lee Wallace, the second film in the Amityville franchise crams in over the top performances, incest and more than a few nods to horror trends, including both the infamous POV shots from slasher films like Halloween and Black Christmas, and a narrative riff on The Exorcist.

The film tells the story of the Montelli family, an Italian American family that moves into the now iconic house. While the Montellis are fictional, they’re clearly based on the DeFeos, the real life family who were killed in the house and served as the source material for Hans Holzer’s book, Murder in Amityville, on which this film is based.

Amityville II horror

In Amityville II, the Montelli family consists of abusive patriarch Anthony (Burt Young, hamming it up), religious wife Delores (Rutanya Alda), oldest son Sonny (Jack Magner), eldest daughter Patricia (Diane Franklin) and their siblings Jan and Mark (real life siblings Erika and Brent Katz). Almost immediately after moving into their new home, the family is haunted by poltergeist-like activity, spectral touching, and substantial behavioral mood swings. The last quality applies primarily to Sonny, whose already “familiar” relationship with his sister eventually leads into full-on incest, and – eventually – murder.

The last act of the film plays like a loose interpretation of The Exorcist as queer-coded Father Adamsky (James Olson) works to free Sonny – both criminally and spiritually – after the boy murders his entire family with a shotgun. This requires a not-entirely successful change in both tone and narrative: the first two-thirds of the film focused primarily on Sonny and Patricia while the finale focuses on Adamsky. It’s unfortunately because when the film becomes a religious/legal drama, it loses a fair amount of momentum. Eventually The Possession rediscovers its footing before ramping back up to a spectacular, practical effects heavy climax, but there is a noticeable lull as the film resets following the murders.

While there’s nothing inherently wrong with the way Wallace structures the narrative, there’s something of a sad realization when it becomes clear that the narrative is headed for something far more mundane and traditional following the “first” climax when Sonny shoots his family. While the “second” climax between Sonny and Father Adamsky does offers a spectacular finish, the film never quite recovers from the time when Sonny is imprisoned and the attention shifts to Adamsky’s crisis of conscience.

One element that immediately distinguishes the sequel from its predecessor is Damiano Damiani’s direction. Thanks to the cinematography by Franco Di Giacomo, The Possession has a great deal more energy and visual panache because the camera is much more active. This is particularly obvious in the point of view shots from the perspective of the malevolent entity, such as the attack on Delores in the basement, and the stand-out sequence when Sonny is chased from basement to bedroom before his possession (which features prosthetic work that seemingly anticipates NoES 2: Freddy’s Revenge).

While The Possession lacks the dread that permeated The Amityville Horror, its hypersexual, campy tone helps it stand apart from the original film. It’s lurid in a Flowers in the Attic kind of way, but it’s also compulsively watchable and rarely boring.

Considering how easy it would have been to simply recreate the same sequences from the first film, the gonzo energy of Amityville 2: The Possession is laudable. The sequel is unexpectedly wild, fun and bizarre, with strong performances from Magner and Franklin (Your mileage may vary on Young; I found him to be over the top and out of place, particularly in the first act when his abusive behavior makes him more of a caricature than a real villain). Sadly, audiences did not agree as the film’s $12.5 million gross is a significant step down from the original’s $86 million take.

Despite the economic drop, overall, Amityville II: The Possession is a pleasant surprise. Fingers crossed that the series continues in this unorthodox direction.


The Amityville IP Awards:

  • Most Memorable Moment: Sonny’s extended haunting (hunting?) sequence
  • Best Effect: The practical effect of Sonny’s head cracking open in the attic
  • Best Scare: Patricia hearing the shots as her younger siblings are killed offscreen
  • Wildest WTF Moment: A possessed Sonny handing his sister her underwear before going “all the way” with her

Next time: we’re headed into prime 80s territory with the high concept of Amityville 3D (1983).

Amityville II possession

The post The Amityville IP: 1981’s ‘Amityville II: The Possession’ Takes The Franchise in a Wild Direction appeared first on Bloody Disgusting!.


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Got any friends who might like this scary horror stuff? GO AHEAD AND SHARE, SHARE!

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