Back in the late ’70s, The Amityville Horror was all the rage on the school bus to junior high. The kids who had an attention span passed around the paperback to get the full story of the family that bought a house with a doorway to hell. The kids with less attention would borrow the copy with the exciting parts underlined. Those who didn’t have the patience would merely beg for details before reaching their stop. When the movie came out, the theaters were packed with people eager to hear how the Lutz family escaped from the house they so badly wanted to call home. The movie was a massive hit for indie studio American International Pictures. How big? If you adjust the $86 million box office for inflation and ticket prices, The Amityville Horror made about $300 million in today’s box office bucks. There would have to be sequels. The Amityville Horror Trilogy contains the three movies that give the present, past and future of the real estate priced to move.
The Amityville Horror (1979 – 117 minutes) took the haunted house movies into modern times. No longer would it merely a dark and creaky night. No longer would people stay in the haunted house in order to fulfill a distant uncle’s will requirements. This movie represented the American nightmare of pursuing the American dream. George (James Brolin) and Kathy Lutz (Margot Kidder) want a nice house for their large family. They think they found a dream house that’s right on the water at an amazingly low prize. It doesn’t seem to have termites so naturally they buy the place. Sure there’s fact that the previous owners were slaughtered by a family member. But that wasn’t the house’s fault. The Lutzs quickly learn that the house might have been an issue. Father Delaney (Rod Steiger) arrives to bless the house except it isn’t the usual sprinkle a little Holy Water and get back to the rectory for afternoon confession. There’s evil lurking in an innocent collection of flies on a window attack the priest. This is not the only attempt to chase the family out of the house. Things keep getting worse for the family. Is the house going to devour their souls? This is what happens when you don’t fully examine the property during the due diligence period. George swears in the basement is a doorway to Hell. This is actually better than a foundation crack. The film is rather slow paced when compared to last summer’s The Conjuring. But there’s still a fearsome architecture to the house that makes it compelling viewing.
Amityville II: The Possession (1982 – 104 minutes) twists the usual sequel by delivering a prequel. The Montelli family move into the house without fearing that they’re going to be corpses at the start of the first film. It’s hard to believe evil spirits wouldn’t have been scared off by this completely bonkers family. The dad Anthony (Rocky‘s Burt Young) is always on the verge of a rampage. His wife (Rutanya Alda) lives in fear of him flying off the handle again. It doesn’t take much provoking for one of the siblings to go nuts and kill off the family. But somehow demons must be involved. Italian director Damiano Damiani smartly brought over Dario Argento’s director of photography Franco DiGiacomo. This allows them to turn the camera into a moving menace as it floats around the family members. If you’re showing the trilogy to friends, you might want to start with the sequel before the original in order to not spoil the ending of the Montelli family.
Amityville 3-D (1983 – 105 minutes) is where you have to take a horror series on the third outing. How can people not want to see the evil spirits coming at them in 3-D? John Baxter (Annie Hall‘s Tony Roberts) is a writer looking for a big story. Amazingly enough the Amityville house is still unoccupied. People are so picky. Roberts moves into the house cause it’s a bargain. But the price quickly goes up when a family member has an accident. Was it the house? He brings in his photographer pal (Man Who Fell To Earth‘s Candy Clark) to investigate. A young Meg Ryan wants to meet the demons. The film dares to explain the doorway to Hell so you also get to go below the screen.The audience gets to see a lot since everything comes straight out of the screen. The best news is that you can watch the film in 3-D to duck the objects flying out. There’s also a 2-D version on the Blu-ray for those that don’t have the 3-D HDTV experience at home. You don’t really miss out on much in 2-D since it’s obvious what’s supposed to poke your eyes out. Director Richard Fleischer (20,000 Leagues Under the Sea and Mandingo) has a bit of fun amongst the scary scenes.
As a teenager, The Amityville Horror was a scary concept. Although as an adult, you learn that all houses are possessed by demons. What’s more scary than a doorway to Hell? How about a “simple” bathroom remodeling? Or a minor issue with the crawlspace? At least the evil demons didn’t manifest themselves as termites or lead paint. These people were lucky since exorcising priests are cheaper by the hour than a plumber. The Amityville Horror Trilogy remains a bit scary to a grown up. They do a fine job of making the bumps in the night sound like the last thing the characters will ever hear. The trilogy should be required viewing to anyone about to sign off on a mortgage.
The video is 1.85:1 anamorphic for the first two films. Amityville 3-D is 2.35:1 anamorphic. All three films look good in 1080p. You can get the full effect of the fierce eye windows in the attic of the house. The audio for all three films is DTS-HD 5.1 Master Audio track. These new mixes try their best to make things go bump around you house in surround sound. The first two films also have the original mono mixes on a DTS-HD 2.0 Master Audio track with the third being presented in 2.0 stereo. All three films are subtitled for those who need to turn down the audio to not be scared in the dark of their new house.
The Amityville Horror bonus features:
Haunted Melodies (9:56) allows Composer Lalo Schifrin to discuss what he did to make that house feel haunted with simple tones. His score was Oscar nominated.
“For God’s Sake, Get Out!”(21:35) is a behind the scenes featurette with actors James Brolin and Margot Kidder discussing the filmming. They weren’t haunted on the set since they didn’t shoot at the actual Horror House. This was made for a previous DVD release of the film so it’s full frame.
Audio Commentary by Dr. Hans Holzer, PH.D. in Parapsychology and author of Murder in Amityville. He speaks a lot about the actual case.
Original Theatrical Trailer and TV Spot (3:29) reminds us that this is a house made from a bygone time when things moved a little bit slower.
Radio Spots (3:39) is how they scared people into coming when they were driving home in the dark. There’s 7 spots.
Stills (8:22) are the production and promotional pics.
Amityville II: The Possession bonus features:
The Posession of Damiani (6:08) interviews Director Damiano Damiani. The Italian filmmaker took the job so he could stay in America longer. He speaks of his approach to script and film. He explains the flip view camera shot. His seat was not haunted. He would go on to make The Pizza Connection.
Adapting Amityville (12:27) is a fresh interview with Screenwriter Tommy Lee Wallace. Wallace discusses getting to write the haunted house flick. He was the one who pitched the producers the idea of a prequel. Wallace directed Halloween III: Season of the Witch.
Family Matters (14:09) brings a new Interview with Actress Diane Franklin. She appreciates Damiani’s approach to the horror that terrorized her movie family.
A Mother’s Burden (13:39) speaks with Actress Rutanya Alda. She didn’t think the film would be such a lasting hit.
Father Tom’s Memories (3:43) is a short chat with Actor Andrew Prine. He liked the fact that the director couldn’t speak English. They got along well. The movie’s exteriors were shot in New Jersey and the interiors in Mexico City so there was a lot of traveling. He had fun in Mexico City.
Continuing the Hunt (28:46) is a new interview with ghost hunter/author Alexandra Holzer (Growing Up Haunted: A Ghostly Memoir). Her father was the ghost hunter who investigated the Amityville Horror House.
Audio Commentary with ghost hunter/author Alexandra Holzer lets her talk about her father’s research on the Amityville Horror. He ended up writing Murder in Amityville. He found out that the house was also on an Indian grave.
Original Theatrical Trailer (3:13) reminds us that the Lutz family was able to escape. Their former owners weren’t so lucky. They were “caught by the original evil.
Still Gallery (3:37) has plenty of Burt Young action pictures.
Amityville 3-D bonus features:
3-D presentation throws the evil into your face.
A Chilly Reception (9:46) is a new Interview with Actress Candy Clark. The star of American Graffiti and Man Who Fell to Earth remembers her time in the haunted house in Mexico City. They had built the entire house inside a soundstage. The stunt with her frosting over was rather messy with what they dripped on her body. Mexican customs stole her clothes.
Original Theatrical Trailer (0:39) promises to “draw you into the unknown” with a “new dimension in the technology of terror!”
Photo Gallery (1:32) features the lobby cards and press release photos.
The Amityville Horror Trilogy is the perfect reminder of why some houses aren’t a bargain at any price. Sure you think you can save a few bucks by putting up with a tortured soul or two. But eventually they will want to do more than spook you with a few flies. The Amityville Horror was able to spawn two sequels that weren’t the same movie remade twice. Each has their own set of scares and charms. This is must see viewing for anyone in the due diligence period of a home sale.
Scream Factory presents The Amityville Horror Trilogy. Directed by: Stuart Rosenberg, Damiano Damiani & Richard Fleischer. Starring: James Brolin, Margot Kidder, Burt Young, Tony Roberts and Candy Clark. Boxset Contents: 3 films on 3 Blu-ray Discs. Rating: R, R & PG. Released: October 1, 2013.
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