Wednesday, October 25, 2023

Overstuffed ‘The Amityville Harvest’ Is Four Movies In One [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.”

The single biggest recurring question that has arisen over the course of this editorial series is “what constitutes an Amityville film?” It’s the basic impetus to go through all of these films chronologically, regardless of quality or connective tissue to the original film or the books (if you need a refresher, please revisit the very first entry).

It’s also why complaints in the comments that everything past a certain point (ie: either A New Generation or the remake* apparently) no longer qualifies are immaterial and frankly kinda boring. It’s always been more interesting to consider how and why filmmakers are using “Amityville” in their films – for better or worse.

* If the remake counts, then surely The Amityville Murders also counts, no?

The reality is that, particularly with the last few entries in the “franchise,” the word Amityville in the title has barely any meaning. At this point in the “franchise,” at best we’re seeing the iconic windows, a mention of the DeFeos and/or maybe a haunted object. More likely, however, there’s a throwaway mention of Long Island or the word “Amityville” is uttered somewhere in the film.

I raise the point because the last film began branching out into completely different genre territory. Witches of Amityville Academy introduced witches; this latest film, The Amityville Harvest (2020), features a vampire.

More bizarre than that, however, is how writer and director Thomas J. Churchill uses an incredibly tenuous connection to Amityville as a closing stinger. The last image before a smash cut to black is the Amityville town sign, which is WILD because the film treats this as a revelation or a twist, as though audiences don’t know the title of the film they’re watching.

It’s a perplexing decision by Churchill. Was the film originally unrelated to the Amityville brand and the final image was thrown in at the last minute? Was The Amityville Harvest planned as a Trojan horse – a secret Amityville film – until someone insisted the name had to be in the title in order to guarantee an audience? Or was the disconnect between narrative and title always the (misguided) plan?

This unusual situation is an effective encapsulation of the film as a whole, which is wildly overstuffed with ideas and characters, to the film’s detriment. The story follows documentary filmmaker Christina Weingarten (Sadie Katz) who travels to Long Island to interview rich eccentric Vincent Miller (Kyle Lowder) about his family’s connection to the Lincoln assassination for a segment called (wait for it) “My Civil War.” Miller is a Confederate apologist and a vampire, though no one on Christina’s crew flags his nocturnal schedule, his pallid complexion or his ability to communicate telepathically.

Vincent’s giant colonial home is next door to his funeral parlour, which is the subject of several missing person reports. This is where the film’s extended opening set piece occurs as Lana (Keavy Bradley) is locked inside and attacked by her dead boyfriend Robbie (Paul Logan).

The return of Robbie, as well future victims, kinky goth-lite couple Frankie (Nick Waters) and Ditta (future Amityville Thanksgiving co-writer/director Julie Anne Prescott), is emblematic of The Amityville Harvest’s tendency to lean into a “more is more” principle. That these aren’t characters is less of an issue than the fact that the movie wants to feature both vampires and ghouls/zombies.

Add to this all of the members of Christina’s team, as well as Civil War ghosts, a Dr. Vannacutt/House of Haunted Hill 1999-esque mortician named Randolph (Patrick Mulderrig), plus lighting guy Cosmo (Brandon Alan Smith)’s secret quest to find Lana and it’s a lot.

Basically The Amityville Harvest contains 3-4 movies worth of storylines and characters, which means nothing fully sticks. Instead Churchill compensates by giving every character their own distinguishing quirk or trait. As a result we have Christina and her younger sister Nancy (Alexa Pellerin), who lost their parents three years ago and want to go to Maine for a whale watching vacation. Is that significant? Who knows!

There’s also audio engineer Scratch (Michael Cervantes), who – when he’s not swearing in front of clients – is desperate to hook up with hearing-impaired make-up artist Janet (Johanna Rae), which results in several soft-core porn nightmare segments.

There’s also photographer Lexy (Eva Ceja), who has a thick New Jersey accent and is low-key working with Cosmos. And don’t forget new crew member Ottis (George W. Scott) loudly and proudly declares he has diarrhea in his first line of dialogue.

It’s simultaneously too much and too little, which renders the film a confusing mess of unconnected situations. By the time that the characters have been winnowed down to the sisters for a basement chase sequence straight out of a Wrong Turn movie (4 to be exact), it’s exciting but kind of exhausting.

Easily the most disappointing thing about The Amityville Harvest is how stuffed it is. The idea of a vampire luring a camera crew into his home is interesting. A creepy mortician hacking up victims in the basement is interesting. Even Vincent’s teased (and never paid off) family fire/Prohibition booze smuggling backstory sounds intriguing. Churchill just needed to edit his ideas because any of these would have made for a solid film.

All of them at once, though? It’s just a mess.

1.5 out of 5 skulls

The Amityville IP Awards go to…

  • Best Dialogue 1: Ottis literally enters the Miller residence by asking housekeeper Mrs. O’Brian (Eileen Dietz) “Ma’am, where’s your shitter?”
  • Best Dialogue 2: After realizing that none of Vincent’s audio or video was captured, Christina repeatedly bemoans that she sat there and listened to him for “three fucking hours!”
  • Confusing Plot: It’s unclear why Vincent kills Mrs. O’Brian when she seemingly has worked for him for years. With that said, however, when she returns as a ghoul to call Cosmos from the basement in a singsong voice, it’s easily one of the creepiest moments of the film.
  • Practical Gore: While the lighting in the film can be garish (poor Dietz looks red in all of her living scenes), the make-up on the aforementioned zombies and the practical FX of the murders is very much appreciated.
  • Meh CGI: While the gore is practical, one of the visual indicators that Vincent is using telepathy is captured by cheap-looking digital tendrils that creep along the wall. It certainly doesn’t help to distinguish Harvest from Dark Castle’s House on Haunted Hill.
  • Confederate Pride: There’s a lengthy section wherein Vincent recounts (with pride!) his great-grandfather’s efforts to fight for the South, as well as his uncredited role in masterminding the assassination of Lincoln. It’s kind of wild that Christina just sits there, looking interested, as this man advocates for murdering the man who helped outlaw slavery. Okay, movie!
  • Churchill Rises: Considering how confused this entry is, I’m wary of the fact that Churchill has two future entries in this “franchise.” We’ll see how he fares with The Amityville Moon (2021) and Amityville Uprising (2022) in a little bit!

Next Time: Before we return to Churchill, we need to bring back the spirits with Calvin Morie McCarthy’s An Amityville Poltergeist (2021).

The post Overstuffed ‘The Amityville Harvest’ Is Four Movies In One [The Amityville IP] appeared first on Bloody Disgusting!.


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