Tuesday, January 23, 2024

‘Amityville Uprising’ Wraps Up an Unofficial Trilogy with an Amityville Zombie Movie [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.”

With Amityville Uprising, Thomas J. Churchill joins illustrious company as the only director of three Amityville films (the other is Dustin Ferguson, who we’ll return to in a few months).

After kicking off his run with Amityville Harvest (2020) which focused on a film crew interviewing a vampire, Churchill’s second entry was 2001’s “werewolf in a women’s half-way house” title Amityville Moon. Now he’s back for his third film in the “series,” a self-referential zombie outing.

What makes the new film intriguing is less the details of the plot – which include a chemical explosion at a military base with unleashes red acid rain on Amityville and reanimates the dead – but how the film acts as the last part of an unofficial Amityville trilogy.

The same issues that plagued Churchill’s previous entries pop up here: too many characters, incomprehensible geography during action sequences, and a narrative that is simultaneously undercooked and overly complicated. But there’s something compulsively watchable in how Churchill (who writes and directs) uses the film to pay homage to horror greats while also embedding easter egg callbacks to his own Amityville films.

At its core, Amityville Uprising is a combination of Assault on Precinct 13, The Mist, and Dawn of the Dead.

The film opens with an aerial shot of a(n unconvincing) chemical explosion at Fort Johnson military base, which releases a deadly red mist into the air. As Amityville’s residents go about their day, the film zeroes in on the short-staffed employees of the local jail/morgue whose lives shift from mundane normalcy to zombie apocalypse.

The “business as usual” includes dealing with Mrs. Chen (Jocelyn Hew), an irate woman seeking to pay a traffic ticket, Sgt. Thomas Dash (Scott C. Roe)’s teen son Jimmy (Kole Benfield) arriving unexpectedly, and the transfer of alleged serial killer Joe Gallo (Micah Fitzgerald) whose presence invites the attention of reporter Gerri Tarver (Alysha Young).

As the day proceeds (complete with Assault on Precinct 13-style time cards), the drama at the jail is frequently interrupted by news and weather updates (evoking Dawn of the Dead). The dangers of the outside world are revealed via establishing shots of the town under a deluge of red rain, as well as a few sequences when characters get caught outside and melt horribly (shout-out to Lisa Lex for the gooey make-up).

Naturally everything goes to hell when the power is cut, bodies begin reanimating and survivors become infected. This is, unfortunately, also when Amityville Uprising is at its most generic. While one character – Sam Cooper (Michael Cervantes)’s initial attack and subsequent crawling along the darkened corridors of the station is mildly suspenseful, the film’s entire last act is a litany of overly familiar zombie tropes.

Despite earlier efforts to establish the layout of the building, the production unsuccessfully shoots and lights the same stretch of corridor for the film’s last act, which makes it hard to figure out where individuals are meant to be, or  suspend disbelief that the characters are actually been separated.

Despite the tired and underwhelming zombie elements, Churchill’s willingness to close the loop on his two previous Amityville films is very fun and understated.

This principally involves the presence of Cervantes, whose character is there to file a missing person’s report for his sound editor brother Scratch (aka Cervantes’ character from Amityville Harvest). At one point Officer Malloy (Troy Formin) puts up missing person posters for Christina and Nancy Weingarten, Jennifer Barrett, and Lana Hill – the murdered members of Harvest’s documentary crew. Finally, there’s a brief mention of a “troubled women’s center”, which is, of course, the setting of Amityville Moon (Cervantes notably played Father Michael in that film).

None of these references are introduced with a heavy handed wink or a nudge; they’re simply present for those who are aware of Churchill’s tenure in the Amityville world. Considering how obvious his use of Dawn and Assault is, I was appreciative of how the homages to his efforts are underplayed.

3 skulls out of 5

The Amityville IP Awards go to…

  • Acting! The range of performances is pretty wild. Cooper, Roe, and Tank Jones as Lt. Howie Stevenson fare best, in part because their roles are relatively down to earth. On the opposite end of the spectrum is stuntman Mike Ferguson whose Detective Lance McQueen is wooden and uncooperative, as well as Fitzgerald as the serial killer, who offers nothing interesting or nuanced in his performance.
  • The Worst: Lew legitimately is given nothing to work with. Mrs. Chen is grating from her first scene to her death, but not even in a “this character is a foil” kind of way. Every time she speaks or appears on screen, the film immediately becomes insufferable.
  • Dialogue! Case in point: when Mrs. Chen is repeatedly delayed from paying her ticket, she begins yelling at various officers. This includes such gems as “Serve and protect! So serve!” and “Talking to you is like talking to the wall!” It would be laughable if it didn’t stop the film dead in its tracks each and every time.
  • Premium Dialogue! With that said, my (unironic) favorite exchange is as follows: Mrs. Chen (to Lt. Stevenson): “I hope you get diabetes. It’s right around the corner from (pause) high blood pressure.” To which Stevenson retorts: “Yeah, I know. It’s right around the corner from ‘you’re being rude’ lane and ‘take a seat’ boulevard.” It’s the equivalent of a sick burn for an insufferable character.
  • Nihilism! Bonus points to Churchill for ending his trilogy on an extremely nihilistic end. It’s darker than both of the films it is referencing, that’s for sure.

Next Time: We’re headed back to the cornfield to talk about Amityville Scarecrow 2 (2022) director Adam Cowie’s sequel to Amityville Scarecrow. Who’s excited for more random British accents?!

The post ‘Amityville Uprising’ Wraps Up an Unofficial Trilogy with an Amityville Zombie Movie [The Amityville IP] appeared first on Bloody Disgusting!.


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