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Wednesday, May 29, 2024

‘Ghosts of Amityville’ Unleashes the ‘Amityville Clown’ [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’s time to finally cross the last Amityville title of 2022 off the list and what better title to close out the year than Jt KrisGhosts of Amityville aka Amityville Clown (2022)?

This one is a bizarre little oddity. Not only is it the first Amityville film made in Spain, but it bears an uncanny visual aesthetic to the Hell House LLC films.

Yes, principally because the main antagonist is a vaguely threatening clown credited as The Thing (Juan Ramos), but also because the characters seem to be trapped in time and place by surreal dream logic. Not unlike the Abaddon Hotel, the characters of Ghosts of Amityville are stuck in a kind of supernatural Purgatory.

The film opens with a montage of clowns overlaid with first carousel music, and then creepy piano. There’s some vague/generic text about a curse and blood being shed, followed by still images and sound effects that suggest a deadly car accident. It’s surprisingly effective cost-efficient opening for a low-budget horror film.

Olivia (Julie Liv Thomasson) stands in the woods, holding an axe.

Alas things go off the rail pretty quickly after that. With minimal exposition, the film follows pre-teen girl Olivia (Julie Liv Thomasson) and her widower Father (Jonny Chris), who are still recovering from the death of the family matriarch (Jessica May) two months earlier. As the film opens, the pair are travelling by car to visit Isla (Lina K Marshall), a friend of the family.

At least that’s who I think Isla is? Aside from father and daughter, many of the film’s relationships range from vague to completely unclear, including Man on the Phone (Kevin Marshall), who orders Father to leave Olivia by herself at a secluded lakeside cottage and come into town several hours away.

Olivia (Julie Liv Thomasson) sits screaming in the lap of her Father (Jonny Chris) in the car

That’s the film’s inciting incident and it is followed by approximately 65 minutes of young Olivia being stalked by The Thing. That’s more or less the entire film. Olivia sees the clown – standing in the lake’s shallow water; watching her through a window or a vent; lurking in the trees of the nearby woods – and she a) screams, b) runs, and occasionally c) stabs it in the head.

This sequence replays again and again and again in a new location (a cottage, a canoe, an abandoned stone turret in the woods, etc.). Sometimes Olivia runs somewhere new. Other times she wakes up back in bed. Still other times she’s back in the car with her Father en route to the cottage. Occasionally she finds herself in a non-descript hotel hallway.

But she’s always haunted by The Thing, who inevitably turns up to casually pursue her, lift her up, or stroke her hair. Without much dialogue (apart from the screaming and the occasional inane conversation with a disbelieving adult), the vast majority of Ghosts of Amityville plays like a silent film with a soundtrack made up alternately of either carousel or piano score.

The Thing (Juan Ramos) lurks behind Olivia (Julie Liv Thomasson) in an attic

The illogical nature of the narrative, as well as Olivia’s repeated claims that “It’s just a dream” or “I want to wake up!” suggest that the girl is caught in a sleeping fugue state following her Mother’s death. At one point Olivia envisions herself on a rocky beach with her mother, who is then chased and threatened by The Thing.

When Olivia wakes up in the car with her Father, seemingly back at the start of the journey, she becomes convinced that the clown is responsible for her Mother’s death, despite repeated assurances that the car accident is to blame.

In this way, Ghosts of Amityville is an extremely simple “the monster is the metaphor” film wherein a little girl invents a monster because she lacks the capacity to process her Mother’s untimely passing. Olivia’s inattentive Father triggers her abandonment issues, and she gets caught in a cyclical dream loop where she is threatened and disbelieved by adults.

This makes Ghosts of Amityville sound far deeper and more meaningful than it is. The reality is that it’s 70 minutes of Liv Thomasson running through the woods. And while writer/director Kris attempts to vary the mise-en-scene, including overhead drone footage of the gorgeous woods, the film’s other elements – the narrative, the soundtrack, and the minimalist dialogue – become boring and repetitive.

Like so many of these later entries, this is a name-only Amityville film that would have been more effective as a short. A 10-15 minute version of this would have been a 3.5/5.

As a 70 minute feature, it’s…1.5 out of 5 skulls

A clown hand strokes the hair of pre-teen Olivia (Julie Liv Thomasson), who holds an axe.

The Amityville IP Awards go to…

  • Isla or Grandma? Isla is seen exclusively on Facetime when Olivia and her Father are driving, but it’s clear that they’re on their way to see her. But she’s not at the Cottage and, late in the film, Olivia wakes up at her Grandmother (Agneta Elisabeth)’s house. Obviously the benefits of basing an entire film on dream logic is that any inconsistencies can be hand-waved away, but the decision to feature two actresses in narratively similar roles is odd.
    • Ditto the Old Lady (Anne Marie Piwell) who appears in the final scene to pick Olivia up in her car. It’s yet another kindly, but ineffectual older female character who can’t save Olivia from The Thing.
  • Creepy Clown: Despite critiquing the script for its paper-thin narrative, the clown is genuinely creepy, especially when it is standing in the water or hanging out in trees. The costume isn’t particularly elaborate, but the half-zip mouth is reminiscent of Decker’s Nightbreed mask and its garbled speech is unnerving.
  • Soundtrack Woes: While the music is often very effective, the transitions are incredibly jarring. A single scene tends to feature several distinct pieces of music, but there’s no fade in or out in between. One score will simply cut off and a completely different new one will begin playing a beat later. The film clearly needed a proper sound mixer.
  • Viva Espanol! My favourite thing about the film is that the LEGO ad I got (What? Why?) when I checked IMDb to confirm the cast was randomly in Spanish. So that’s something!

Next time: we’ve finally arrived at 2023 with the first of ten (!) potential Amityville titles, starting with writer/director Jack Hunter’s Amityville Ride-Share.

The post ‘Ghosts of Amityville’ Unleashes the ‘Amityville Clown’ [The Amityville IP] appeared first on Bloody Disgusting!.


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