Tuesday, March 28, 2023

‘The Amityville Asylum’ Has a Cult, Accents, and Poor Indigenous Representation [The Amityville IP]

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

After the misfire that was The Amityville Haunting, I was worried that the so-called unofficial sequels in “the franchise” would all be absolute dreck. Obviously we’re grading on a scale when it comes to low budget DTV films, but there’s still plenty of room for ingenuity and surprises regardless of funding.

Thankfully The Amityville Asylum, a 2013 UK production, represents something of a rebound. Writer/director Andrew Jones had abandoned found footage in favour of a more traditional approach to tell the story of Lisa Templeton (Sophia Del Pizzo), a young woman who interviews for a job as a night cleaner at the relatively new psychiatric institute, High Hopes.

Obviously since this is an Amityville film, there’s a tangential connection to 112 Ocean Avenue as the film begins with imagery of the DeFeo shooting spree over the opening credits. Much like the rest of the film where what happens is more implied than explicit, Jones and cinematographer Victoria Rodway shoot the violence in close-ups, so it’s mostly the gun going off with brief glimpses of gore.

The film proper begins as Lisa interviews with creepy Doctor Elliot Mixter (Jared Morgan) and, despite hilariously sneezing on the man, she’s still offered the job. She arrives at High Hopes for an awkward orientation by maintenance man Delaney (Lee Bane) who, despite the fake overbearing accent, is not actually a villain.

The induction to High Hopes is rocky in part because there’s a lot of superfluous information provided about cleaning materials (which feels like an attempt to pad the already brief 88 minute runtime), as well as Delaney’s overreaction when Lisa asks about his hand tattoos. Neither of these elements factor into the film’s narrative; they’re simply odd beats that Jones elected to keep in the finished film.

Eventually it is clarified that High Hopes was built a few years earlier where the Amityville house stood and something dodgy is going on in the basement, aka Ward X, aka Blood Row, where the criminally insane patients are kept. At least one patient, Sadie Krenwinkel (Eileen Daly), is rumoured to be a witch and has ties to a cult. This is partially confirmed when Lisa cleans outside her cell and the woman speaks to her about her dead mother (knowledge that she couldn’t possibly know).

The lore about the cult and its ties to the fictional Satchem Indigenous tribe are simultaneously intriguing and frustrating. Lisa and her friend Nancy (Ina Marie Smith) find evidence that the Satchem were run out of Salem by Christians for their human sacrifice rituals. The cult planned to sacrifice six people in order to usher in a new world order via the Dark Master, which becomes a plot point as the film progresses and mysterious supernatural events accumulate around High Hopes.

Naturally Lisa is caught in the middle, and the film spends the majority of its back half unpacking which High Hopes staff, including rapey orderly Pemberton (Kenton Hall) and blasé head of security Hardcastle (Paul Kelleher), are involved.

What’s grating is the tired and stereotypical reliance on Indigenous villains. Initially it plays as though Jones will tie the Satchem into the events of the remake, which involved Reverend Jeremiah Ketcham’s torture of Indigenous people in the basement of the house.

Instead Jones concocts a long, ludicrous (and entirely fictional) backstory involving human-sacrificing Indigenous people who were executed en mass but whose beliefs were passed on to white people in order to summon a dark entity. It’s a bizarre and disappointing narrative backstory that feels better suited to the 80s, when horror films such as Pet Sematary used Indian Burial grounds as cheap narrative explanations for supernatural events. What’s most frustrating is that the reference to Indigenous characters could have easily been removed with absolutely no change to the finished film (Satanic cult = check. Move on!).

It’s disappointing because the rest of the film is totally fine. Lisa’s investigation unfurls at a reasonable clip and the dimly lit asylum halls are oppressive enough to generate decent atmosphere. And while certain aspects of the production, such as a consistent uniform for High Hopes’ employees, would have sold the hospital setting more realistically, the mise-en-scene is mostly believable.

There are some wobbly acting moments here and there, including Del Pizzo’s ability to forcefully deliver emotional lines and Delaney’s odd, villain-coded behaviour. Still, the brisk runtime, moody setting, and general air of impending doom makes this a decent watch, particularly in the aftermath of The Amityville Haunting.

The Amityville IP Awards go to…

  • Best FX: The film is pretty light on make-up and FX, but one of the patients is seen slicing off their own face in the climax and it looks really solid!
  • Missed Opportunity: There’s a whole subplot involving the other residents of Ward X, Jerry Kimble (Alan Humphreys) and Dennis Palmer (Matthew Batte). Mid-way through the film, Palmer escapes and murders Pemberton and eats Kimble before he’s tortured by Hardcastle. It’s a weird, random turn of events…which doesn’t really figure into the cult and Lisa’s investigation. It’s wild.

Next Time: We’re jumping ahead two years to check out the Eric Roberts (!) starring Amityville Death House (2015), which features a spider woman in the artwork (!!).

The post ‘The Amityville Asylum’ Has a Cult, Accents, and Poor Indigenous Representation [The Amityville IP] appeared first on Bloody Disgusting!.


No comments:

Post a Comment

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


Some of Scary Horror Stuff's Freakiest Short Horror Film Features!

The latest on the horror genre, everything you need to know, from Freddy Krueger to Edgar Allan Poe.

How Plausible Is It to Have the "Hocus Pocus" Kids Back for Some More Halloween Hijinks?

Potentially very good. See below. It turns out that the announcement is official according to the Carrie Bradshaw of the Sanderson bunch (Sarah Jessica Parker): there will be a "Hocus Pocus" sequel, premiering on Disney+.