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Tuesday, June 20, 2023

Amityville Clownhouse Needs More Bozo Action [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.”

It was with a mix of trepidation and intrigue that I hit play on Dustin Ferguson’s Amityville Clownhouse (2020). The film, first released in 2017 under the title Amityville: Evil Never Dies, is a direct sequel to Amityville Toybox (aka Amityville Terror), the very low budget film about a father who kills his entire family after being gifted a toy monkey for his fiftieth birthday.

Toybox was emphatically not a good film, but it did feature a 10 minute coda that was a) the best part of the film, and b) teased a promising new narrative about a team of paranormal investigators.

Disappointingly this storytelling avenue goes unexplored in Clownhouse, though the sequel does feature a strong opening. First Senator Ty Pangborn (Dan Mauro) dresses in what is later described as “full bozo regalia” before killing his wife and two adult children. Then a trio of thieves, Sarah, Drake, and Guy (Sarah Reed, Evan Clinton, and Anthony Gaudette), break into the crime scene to hunt for a clown portrait they can sell on the Dark Web. They, too, are immediately murdered (seemingly by the ghost of Pangborn?) While the quality of acting is broad, there’s an energy in these two opening sequences that kicks off Clownhouse will a sense of campy ridiculousness.

Alas it’s all downhill from there as the action shifts to Ben (Ben Gothier) and Michelle (Michelle Muir-Lewis), a married couple who stumble on the haunted Jolly Chimp in Jesse’s Junk Drawer. They pay Mark Patton’s Antique Owner a hefty $50 and immediately invite the usual Amityville nonsense into their lives, which includes a few nightmares before Ben becomes an abusive rapist – both of Michelle, as well as a sex worker (Helene Udy) – and tries to sacrifice his wife to Beelzebub.

It’s a bland and forgettable plot, with virtually no rising action, climax or resolution, though the unformed narrative is hardly the film’s biggest issue.

Amityville Clownhouse mark patton

The biggest sin here is that Amityville Clownhouse is barely a feature. Much like Toybox, which only scrapes by the one-hour mark thanks to its ten minute sequel tease, Ferguson’s new film simply doesn’t have enough content. Not only does Clownhouse recycle nearly 10 minutes (!) of footage from Toybox, there is a full four minute Skinamarink-esque grainy home video segment detailing the toy chimp, as well as a nearly seven minute sequence in which Michelle walks through a park and draws a picture of the infamous Amityville window.

Not only does this mean very little happens in the film, but the pacing is nearly glacial. Combined with bad acting and technical issues, there’s not much in Amityville Clownhouse to recommend, which is a shame because it starts off promisingly. In that respect, it’s kind of the inverse of Ferguson’s first Amityville film.

He’ll pop up once more with 2022’s <gulp> Amityville in the Hood, so perhaps the third time will be the charm.

Amityville Clownhouse movie

The Amityville IP Awards go to…

  • Senator Opening: The acting of Pangborn’s family, including his wife (Sheri Lee), son James (Daniel Martens) and daughter Kelly (Casey Wright) is pretty bad, but it does include a lot of mean-spirited, hilarious dialogue? The kids hate their mom and call her a “moron” and Mrs. Pangborn reciprocates when she reminds James he was a “fat baby”.
  • Thieves Opening: This segment features the “best” acting in the film (which isn’t saying much); it works because at least they’re having fun. At one point cinematographer Guy White lingers on Drake’s ass and, after squeezing it, Sarah explains “When I see an ass that shapely, I just have to grab a handful.” It’s dumb and it’s fun, something that the film could have used more of.
  • Rats in the Attic: Throughout the film, Michelle regularly hears a loud recurring thumping which she blames on the chimp. When she brings it up to Ben, he bizarrely explains it’s “Probably rats. That time of year.” What…does that even mean?
  • Sound Issues: The only copy available to screen in Canada was a YouTube video, so it’s possible it was an upload issue, but the film’s audio is wildly disproportionate. So much so, that at times the dialogue is barely audible over stock sounds like the neighbour’s dog barking or the Muzak in the shop.
  • Most Bizarre Scene:  Michelle watches a heated cable news exchange that ends with a priest (Tony Clarke) yelling at a retired Detective (Matthew Hickinbottom) that the Jansen family murders from Toybox  wasn’t drug-related. “It winds me up so much!” he says, stomping off the set. (None of this has any bearing on the plot).
  • Worst Plot Development: The film’s use of sexual assault as a shorthand for Ben’s possession is frustrating not just because the toybox causes him to forget his actions and also because it happens twice. It’s a gross, lazy plot contrivance and Ferguson handles it badly.
  • Toybox Connection: Speaking of Ferguson’s prior outing, Julia Farrell returns as that film’s lone survivor. It’s basically a glorified Dr. Loomis gig: she spouts lines like “evil never dies” and “the toybox must be destroyed”. This would be more excusable if the character’s return weren’t just an excuse to introduce Toybox’s ten minute clip package which comprises 1/7th of the film’s runtime.
  • Franchise Ties: Despite its many flaws, there is something fun about Clownhouse‘s willingness to acknowledge the other cursed DeFeo family “Estate Auction” objects, including the lamp, the mirror, and the clock.

Next Time: We’re checking out Amityville Exorcism, which marks the return of Amityville Death House director Mark Polonia.

The post ‘Amityville Clownhouse’ Needs More Bozo Action [The Amityville IP] appeared first on Bloody Disgusting!.


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