Amityville Trilogy (Scream! Factory)

Directors - Stuart Rosenberg, Damiano Damiani, Richard Fleicher

Cast - James Brolin, Margot Kidder, Burt Young

Country of Origin - U.S.

Discs - 3

Distributor - Shout Factory

Reviewer - Bobby Morgan

Date - 10/05/13

The Film: 3/5

 

The Amityville series has been one of horror cinema's most persistent and questionably enduring franchises. It all began with the 1977 novel by Jay Anson that was supposedly based on a true story, though it has long been debunked. Nevertheless, the original Amityville Horror has spawned sequels, unofficial spin-offs, pale imitations, countless parodies, and the obligatory Michael Bay-produced remake. The series brought haunted house movies into the modern age with shameless panache and a willingness to use any and all means to scare the life out of its audience. For better or worse, Amityville left a huge impact on big screen fright flicks and its influence can be found to this day on the Paranormal Activity franchise and James Wan's Insidious and The Conjuring.

 

Shout! Factory's horror and sci-fi imprint Scream Factory continues to dominate in the field of releasing genre classics onto high-definition Blu-ray and DVD with the long-awaiting issuing of the original Amityville Horror and its first two sequels - one of which is technically a prequel, while the other comes to home video for the first time in 3-D in the U.S. - in a trilogy box set. Do these creepy classics still have the power to instill terror more than three decades after the first movie became a box office blockbuster?

 

THE AMITYVILLE HORROR

 

George (James Brolin) and Kathy Lutz (Margot Kidder) are a young married couple with three children - two boys and a girl - from Kathy's previous marriage who take the plunge and purchase a beautiful riverside Dutch Colonial house in Amityville, Long Island. Even though the price for the house is way out of their range and it had been the site of a brutal mass murder the previous year, the Lutzes immediately move in. Naturally things go well at first, but in the days that follow the family experiences a series of escalating phenomenon that can only be explained as supernatural. Swarms of flies appear and disappear at will in one room, the toilets fill with black bile whenever flushed, blood pours from every crack and crevice, and a mysterious disembodied voice demands that the family "GET OUT!" Their parish priest Father Delaney (Rod Steiger) attempted to bless the house and was rewarded with various debilitating sicknesses. George, the besieged patriarch, is slowly slipping into self-destructive madness and paranoia and becoming too handy with an ax. This house where evil dwells (on a burial ground no less) intends to subject the Lutzes to the same horrific fate as its previous occupants unless Kathy can pull her family together and escape the demonic clutches of this quaint-looking fixer upper.

 

I can usually get into a good fictional ghost story, but if you're going to attempt to get me to believe in the supernatural you are simply wasting your precious time. Ghosts, haunted houses, angry poltergeists shifting your furniture three inches to the right, it's all pure B.S. to me (now watch as I inherit an old house that is said to be haunted and come out a day after moving in as a possessed madman). In the past I've caught fleeting seconds from the original Amityville Horror on television and nothing I saw ever maintained a stranglehold on my attention long enough to get me to watch the film from beginning to end. Such has been my experience with most of the entries in a horror franchise that has long adhered to the Law of Diminishing Returns. Released just five months after I was born, 1979's The Amityville Horror took Jay Anson's critically-hailed bestselling book that purported to tell a factual tale of an American haunting and turned it into a cliché-engorged spook show thrill ride that all too often allows its lurid storytelling excess to push it over the edge into parody.

 

Chosen to direct the film adaptation was the late Stuart Rosenberg, a fine helmsman of television and cinematic dramas whose greatest career achievement remains the classic 1967 prison drama Cool Hand Luke, with its iconic star performance from Paul Newman. Rosenberg's background made him an unlikely candidate to direct a horror movie with little purpose other than to entertain and scare the daylights out of impressionable moviegoers. He did well when it came to stories rich with well-drawn characters, but when given a bald-faced piece of factually-challenged schlock the director seems adrift and helpless to act as anything other than a gun-for-hire on a project that would do just as well - maybe even better - without his presence. Amityville wasn't a class A Hollywood production aiming for the classic status of silver screen chillers like The Haunting and The Exorcist, though it certainly borrowed heavily from those genre masterpieces among many others. The film was bankrolled by American-International Pictures, the drive-in and grindhouse flick factory that concurrently served as the launching pad for the careers of filmmaking giant Roger Corman and many of the industry's most influential actors, writers, and directors. Amityville would not only be the biggest hit in the history of A.I.P., it would also be one of the last movies released by the company before its acquisition by Filmways shortly after.

 

Rosenberg wasn't a director known for his stylistic craftsmanship; at his best his work on a movie was competent and non-invasive, allowing the actors and script to do the bulk of the heavy lifting. No such approach would ever elevate an adaptation of The Amityville Horror to the classic status everybody involved in its making desired. Rosenberg directs each scene with a lack of energy and verve and allows his stars to often surrender to their worst acting impulses. The functional script by Sandor Stern  - a writer best known for his extensive work done for television, including directing a 1989 Amityville sequel titled The Evil Escapes - tosses into the mix every conceivable horror story cliche in existence: hysterical priests, endangered babysitters, possessed automobiles, blood pouring out of the walls, imaginary "friends" that are really pig demons with burning red eyes, strange noises coming from nowhere in particular, an Indian burial ground in the basement, etc. You name it, The Amityville Horror has plenty of it, as well as an anti-climatic finale that may mirror the supposed real life ending to the story but on films comes off as the type of shameless shaggy dog ending concocted by a writer fresh out of ideas. Most of us are aware that the true story behind the original Amityville is anything but, so what sense then does it make for a movie version that is little more than a slick, Hollywood-ized kitchen sink spook show rollercoaster ride that William Castle could create on his lunch breaks with greater success to end with the Lutzes getting away safely and with little incident?

 

The actors are hardly at their best but they soldier on through the questionable material, with the exception of Rod Steiger. Steiger was a fantastic actor in his prime, but since Rosenberg clearly had zero interest in reigning the typically volatile performer in the result is not so much a performance but a high camp bit of overdramatic playing to the cheap seats. Margot Kidder handles her thinly-written character with charm and professionalism and you can believe she has genuine love for her onscreen family, but in the end it's James Brolin who steals the show. He makes George Lutz's careful descent into murderous madness chillingly palpable by allowing us to see the human being beneath the acting tics and lousy dialogue. The most honest moment in The Amityville Horror is one that I remember Stephen King singling out for special mention in his classic non-fiction book about horror storytelling Danse Macabre. George's brother-in-law loses the $1000 in cash he needs to pay off the caterer at his wedding - one of the house's more creative machinations to mess with the Lutzes' minds no doubt - and George decides to write him a check to cover the losses. The resulting confrontation with the caterer who insists on a cash payment and George's frantic search through his living room to find the money is made all the more powerful and relatable by Brolin's convincing performance. The young actors playing the Lutz offspring are fine but forgettable, while brief turns from lauded character actors like Helen Shaver (The Color of Money), Michael Sacks (Slaugherhouse-Five), Amy Wright (The Deer Hunter), Don Stroud (Django Unchained), Elsa Raven (Back to the Future), Peter Maloney (The Thing), James Tolkan (Top Gun), Val Avery (Donnie Brasco), and Miller Lite spokesman Eddie Barth (Shaft) are admirable and achieve varying degrees of success. Third-billed Murray Hamilton (Jaws) has only one scene and it's not among his finest moments as an actor.

 

Contrary to popular urban legend the overly tense, raving mad music score composed by Lalo Schifrin is not his rejected contribution to The Exorcist (though if it was I could understand why William Friedkin would want to take the recording session tapes and hurl them into a dumpster). It doesn't do much to change our perception of the movie, but it compliments the action as well as possible. The cinematography by Fred J. Koenekamp (Beyond the Valley of the Dolls) is a strictly TV-movie level job that works. Robert Brown's (The Lost Boys) editing doesn't help the dragging pace and needless excess, but at least the evil Amityville house is brought to ominous life through the art direction of Kim Swaddos (The Deer Hunter) and Robert R. Benton's (Starman) set decoration.

 

AMITYVILLE II: THE POSSESSION

 

More of a prequel than a true sequel, Amityville II is a thinly-disguised dramatization of the events that transpired in the accursed house the year before the Lutz family moved in. The DeFeo family becomes the Montellis, the latest clan to take up residence at 112 Ocean Avenue. Father Anthony (Burt Young) rules the family through staunch corporal punishment, while his embittered wife Dolores (Rutanya Alda) does her best to keep them from falling apart. Once the Montellis move in things really begin to get strange. A hidden set of catacombs spewing out flies and noxious slime is discovered behind a wall in the basement. Dark red fluid - could it be blood? - flows forth from the kitchen sink faucet before quickly turning to water. The dining room table cloth flies off and hangs itself neatly on a nearby wall. But the real threat to each member of the Montelli family in this house is their own kin, especially oldest child Sonny (Jack Magner). The dark forces that dwell inside the walls of the house have taken control of the young man and are compelling him to act strangely towards his relatives, including his sister Patricia (Diane Franklin), and much worse. Sonny's besieged soul becomes the ultimate in a battle between good and evil, with the family priest Father Adamsky (James Olsen) finding his own faith put to the test as he confronts a diabolical entity far beyond his intellectual capacity.

 

Now we’re talkin’! After the yeoman directing job of Stuart Rosenberg on the original producer Dino De Laurentiis retained the services of his fellow Italian Damiano Damiani to helm the follow-up. Damiani had previously directed the classic spaghetti western A Bullet for the General and several notable crime dramas including How to Kill a Judge with Franco Nero and Confessions of a Police Captain with Nero and Martin Balsam. In short, the man knows when a movie is pure exploitation and how to direct the hell of it. Amityville II: The Possession not only surpasses the original, it blows it out straight out of the water. The script is also much better this time as the writing duties were handed off to Tommy Lee Wallace, a longtime friend and collaborator of John Carpenter who had worked on the director’s early films in different capacities before making his directorial debut with the vastly underrated Halloween III: Season of the Witch, which he also wrote and was released barely a month after Amityville II in the autumn of 1982. Wallace also directed the terrifying 1990 TV miniseries adaptation of Stephen King’s It. Uncredited work on the script was contributed by Dardano Sacchetti, the screenwriter of nearly every classic Lucio Fulci film as well as Dario Argento’s The Cat o’ Nine Tails, Mario Bava’s Bay of Blood, Lamberto Bava’s Demons 2 and Demons 2, and Michele Soavi’s The Church. Yeah, these guys know how to weave a damn effective horror story.

 

In the first “Treehouse of Horror” special from The Simpsons’ second season the Amityville series and every other popular haunted house flick were mercilessly spoofed in the segment “Bad Dream House”, from the bleeding walls and the voice screaming “Get out!” to the Simpsons becoming possessed and trying to murder each other at one point. I watched and loved that episode multiple times before I ever sat through a single Amityville movie, so you can imagine how difficult it is to separate the animated parody from the movie franchise of which it was making light. Sensing that the series wasn’t ready to take a leap forward into admitted fiction (as opposed to fiction masquerading as truth for promotional purposes), the makers of The Possession took a step backwards not just into the past events that took place before The Amityville Horror but also into the classic horror films of past decades prior to its inception. The first movie flirted with ripping off The Exorcist - instead settling for rivaling The Exorcist II: The Heretic in terms of unintentional campy humor - and many blatant clones of the 1973 classic of demonic control had been produced throughout the world in a matter of years. Not even the great Mario Bava was safe from the unintended creative consequences of The Exorcist’s global box office success as he saw his pet project Lisa & the Devil reedited and reshot until it became House of Exorcism, an entirely different movie than the one he had set out to make and no more successful than its initial incarnation. The beauty of Amityville II’s plotting is in how Wallace and Sacchetti gracefully plant the seeds of the third act exorcism through the first two-thirds of the story that focus on the gradual disintegration of the Montelli family - first in soul, then in body. Father Adamsky has more to do in the story than Rod Steiger’s nutty Father Delaney and has a real emotional stake in how it all plays out. The decisions he makes in the finale may have seemed too reminiscent of the ending to the first Exorcist, but at least the plot turn feels organic and integral to the story rather than coming across as a mercenary demand of De Laurentiis and his financial backers (though that is very likely what it was). 

 

In the original the Lutz family was already a solid family unit that threatened to unravel from the whole “living in a haunted house” business. As Amityville II begins the Montellis are not as stable; Anthony is a strict disciplinarian who demands total, unquestioning obedience from his family and makes the Great Santini look like Ward Cleaver. His wife thinks he’s repellent, his younger children live in fear of his brutality, and his oldest - aptly named Sonny - wishes he could give the old bastard a taste of his own medicine. Dysfunctional isn’t quite the word for this clan. The cursed house doesn’t have to do much work to get the Montellis to fall completely apart but its scare tactics for this go-around are greatly increased in the intensity department. The flies are back, as is the blood. The house even turns Father Adamsky’s holy water sprinkler into a blood-spewing Super Soaker, and in a nice little jab at the first movie blood begins to pour from the kitchen sink faucet before immediately transforming into water (“Blood is thicker than water”?). Since the blood of Jesus Christ is symbolized by wine in communion and Christ turned water into wine at a wedding feast in Galilee in the book of John this throwaway shock moment could be interpreted as a challenge from the dark spirits that inhabit the Amityville house to the men of God who would dare stand in its way of destroying every soul that ventures through its front door.

 

Burt Young channels his darkest moments as Paulie from the Rocky movies to play the irredeemable bastard Anthony with cigar-chomping aplomb. The gentle side he often displays in the presence of his family is well portrayed by Young as well and gives us a fleeting glance at the sympathetic human being that dwells beneath the character’s hard-assed exterior. Rutanya Alda makes a perfectly loving mother trying to keep her family together regardless of the circumstances. 80’s silver screen vixen Diane Franklin (The Last American Virgin) has her character’s sweetness and vitality down to a science and displays aching vulnerability in the later scenes she shares with her brother where their relationship enters some morally debatable territory which I won’t spoil here. Outside of a bit role in 1984’s Firestarter Jack Magner never again acted in a feature film following his screen debut in Amityville II, and that’s a real pity. Much like James Brolin in the original, Magner’s portrayal of a young man on the brink of adulthood battling to hold on to his sanity as the dark forces of the house attempt to possess his completely is one to remember. You can feel every emotion his character experiences and the performance never goes into screaming self-parody even in the finale. James Olsen (Ragtime) outdoes Steiger’s histrionic acting in the original with a greatly measured and empathetic turn as the conflicted Father Adamsky. Once more the cast is rounded out with smaller turns from great characters actors like Andrew Prine (The Town That Dreaded Sundown), Moses Gunn (The Ninth Configuration), Leonardo Cimino (The Monster Squad), and Ted Ross (The Wiz). Plus, viewers with extra sharp hearing might be able to spot the voice talents of Alice Playten from Heavy Metal and Ridley Scott’s Legend as one of the Amityville house’s demonic intonations.

 

Everything about Amityville II is superior to the original, from the inventive cinematography by Franco Di Giacomo (Four Flies on Grey Velvet), the art direction from Pier Luigi Basile (Conan the Destroyer) that gives the haunted Long Island abode menacing new dimensions, and precious editing from the great Sam O’Steen, whose past credits include Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?, Rosemary’s Baby, Catch-22, and freakin’ Chinatown! The blatantly horrifying and gruesome special effects makeup was created by John Caglione Jr., an Academy Award winner for Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight whose career in cinematic effects wizardry practically began with Friday the 13th Part II and continues to this day with the forthcoming Amazing Spider-Man 2. Veteran effects man Glen Robinson (Logan’s Run) supervised Caglione’s stellar contributions. Lalo Schifrin is the only holdover from the original Amityville’s creative team and even his work has improved this time around. Amityville II: The Possession is simply everything a great horror sequel can be, and everything that the other films in the franchise should have not skimped on.

 

AMITYVILLE 3-D

 

John Baxter (Tony Roberts) and his friend and colleague Melanie (Candy Clark) debunk paranormal con artists for Reveal magazine. After exposing an elderly couple running a phony medium business out of the Amityville house Baxter is inspired to purchase the house for himself. It doesn't bother him at all that the realtor who sold him the supposedly haunted dwelling was found dead within its walls before Baxter could even move in. He sees purchasing the house as a great way to spend some time with his daughter Susan (Lori Loughlin) since divorcing his wife Nancy (Tess Harper). Melanie conducts her own investigation of the house and discovers unsettling images hidden in photos she took, while Susan and her eagerly curious friend Lisa (Meg Ryan) use the house to conduct a foreshadowing séance with a pair of interested gentlemen suitors. The evil forces that have claimed many lives in this cursed domicile are extending their powers far beyond the confines of the house and wrecking havoc for Baxter, Melanie, and his family, and it is all emanating from a luminescent well beneath the house. This is a literal portal to Hell, and its denizens are preparing to unleash malevolence and death upon the world unless Baxter and a team of paranormal researchers can confront and defeat once and for all the true source of the Amityville Horror.

 

This time around religious hysteria takes a back seat to scientific analysis - perhaps taking a cue from the previous year's big horror hit Poltergeist, which beat the punk and plaster out of Amityville II at the box office - while Dino DeLaurentiis, who never met a bankable high concept he couldn't see executed with jaw-dropping results (and not the good kind), simultaneously decided to cash in on the resurgence in 3-D movies. Taking a cue from the wide audience appeal accrued by Poltergeist due to its boundary-pushing PG rating, Amityville 3-D ended up as the most restrained and outright hokey entry in the series at that time. The idea of a gimmicky ghost story must have seen like career cat nip to Richard Fleischer, the long-deceased journeyman director whose filmography includes classic sci-fi and fantasy (20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, Fantastic Voyage, Soylent Green), swaggering adventures (The Vikings), darkly realistic crime dramas (The Boston Strangler, The New Centurions), and a fistful of the cheesiest movies every made (Mandingo, Red Sonja, that Jazz Singer remake with Neil Diamond and Sir Laurence “I hef no sun!” Olivier). Fleischer’s direction of Amityville 3-D is the stateliest and most mannered of the initial trilogy. With less emphasis on lurid violence and controversial subject matter this time around, the second sequel is about as intense and frightening as It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown.

 

Thanks to the success of the third Friday the 13th movie and lower-budgeted indies like Comin’ at Ya and Treasure of the Four Crowns (my personal favorite of the three), movies filmed in the third dimensional were once again all the rage, so leave it to a master cinematic huckster like De Laurentiis to see 3-D as the salvation of the Amityville franchise’s sagging ticket sales. Prepare yourself for a non-stop assault of random objects like a camera, flashlight, and even a stuffed swordfish being launched at the viewing public. One character gets to spit in 3-D while another has to avoid a pipe going through the windshield....in 3-D obviously. In a nod to the third Jaws movie (released the summer before Amityville 3-D) the movie’s cluttered title card blasts forth with undeserved fanfare. Shout! Factory at least went to the trouble of including a 3-D Blu-ray version of the movie alongside the 2-D version, though the 2-D version carries the Amityville 3-D title rather than the alternate video and television name Amityville: The Demon. 

 

Screenwriter David Ambrose (The Final Countdown) must have seen his original concept for the movie undergo radical alterations as filming progressed because he’s credited under the pseudonym “William Wales” on the end product. Unlike the first two movies that focused on working class families unraveling psychologically and emotionally under the pressure of living in a possessed house, the family at the center of Amityville 3-D is already divided in more ways than one. At its core the film is about a man trying to rebuild his shattered relations while reconciling his beliefs regarding the supernatural with the terrors he faces within the Amityville house. This might have resulted in a challenging and unique entry in a franchise that is typically powered by cheap shocks, but it's hard to take Amityville 3-D seriously when a death scene is staged so ineptly so as to have the corpse's cold hand jut towards the camera lens. The movie is shot professionally by Fred Schuler (The King of Comedy) and the editing by Frank J. Urioste (RoboCop) cuts away most of the narrative fat and scenes play out much better as a result.

 

Tony Roberts makes for a competent, inoffensive leading man, but his disinterested acting indicates how he wished Woody Allen would give him a call so he could quit this picture and then spend a few weeks walking around New York debating Proust and the G spot. Candy Clark's not in this for the great performance opportunities either; her acting in Amityville 3-D has two speeds - muted skepticism and frothing panic. Tess Harper has less emotional range than Spock, and Lori Loughin unsurprisingly does little in this movie except look really cute. The only members of the cast who appear to be having any fun are future cinematic sweetheart Meg Ryan as Loughlin's best friend who finds the Amityville house strangely fascinating and Robert Joy (Land of the Dead) as his paranormal investigator friend. Joy's dialogue is a eye-crossing miasma of dispassionate scientific findings, but his intellectual curiosity stealthily conceals a quiet streak of madness that leads him to want to be face to face with the ultimate evil at the heart of the monstrous house on 112 Ocean Avenue. If the rest of the cast had invested as much in their characters as Ryan and Joy the movie might have seemed less silly.

 

I know these movies are patently absurd - especially when they’re in 3-D - but if the stars of the third and least of the original Amityville movies can’t be bothered to give a shit about the story then the audience will be less inclined to do so. That’s not horror, that’s just horrible. 

 

Audio/Video: 4/5

 

Each movie in this collection has been given a new 1080p high-definition transfer. The Amityville Horror is presented in 1.85:1 widescreen and the picture looks very clean and mostly free of grain. I spotted a few minor imperfections during the opening scenes, but they became less of a problem as the film went on. The brightness is kept at a perfect level so as to not to distort the mood of the atmospheric night photography. We have two audio options, a new English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track and the film's original mono track in DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0. The 2-channel option is the best course of action for viewing on standard television sets with its slightly louder audio mix and the bone-chilling reverberation you get when the cursed house starts to get angry at is unwanted new owners. The dialogue and the Schifrin music score come through sounding fantastic and one never overwhelms the other in the mix.

 

Amityville II is presented in an aspect ratio of 1.78:1 and the quality of the print is superb. I could spot no visible signs of permanent damage, and every frame looks virtually immaculate given the film's age. Colors are warm and vibrant in the day scenes and the night scenes impress with menacing shadows. The second movie is also gifted with dual audio options, English 5.1 and 2.0 DTS-HD Master Audio tracks. Tried though I did to spot clear differences between the two distinct channels. The 5.1 track might be more effective while watching on a home theater system. On both tracks the audio mix is solid and lacking in distortion.

 

Amityville 3-D’s 2:35:1 transfer is a complete mess. The grain is kept at an above-acceptable level throughout most of the movie, but the clarity of the picture often changes depending on the scene; some scenes are very clear and rich in visual detail, while others appear to be somewhat blurry and out of focus. At first I thought it was a problem only for the interior scenes because the early outdoor scenes looked wonderful and lush. That didn’t last too long. The movie was filmed in anamorphic widescreen with German-made ArriVision 3-D lenses, the same used for both Friday the 13th Part III and the third Jaws movie. Though the latter has never been released on Blu-ray the former has and it didn’t have the problems Amityville 3-D has in excess. I’m not sure if the transfer issues were a result of the photographic process or simply a bad job on the part of Shout! Factory, though I’m less inclined to believe the last option. In any case the movie looks fine, but compared to the vastly improved transfers for the first two Amityville movies this is utterly pathetic. The English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 and 2.0 soundtracks fare much better. The volume on the 2.0 track is slightly higher than that of the 5.1, but neither track suffers from audio distortion and the dialogue and music mixes sound excellent.

 

English subtitles have been provided for all films.

 

Extras: 3/5

 

The original Amityville Horror was previously the only title in this collection to be released with bonus features. In April 2005 the first three movies were released by MGM in a DVD box set timed to coincide with the release of the Platinum Dunes remake, with a bonus fourth disc devoted to History Channel documentaries that both exploited and dissected the true events behind the original feature. Although those television specials have not been ported over for the films' debut on Blu-ray, Shout! Factory has brought us just about everything else from that early DVD set, all the while producing some fantastic new extras of their very own.

 

On the first disc the bonuses kick off with an audio commentary from the 2005 MGM release with parapsychologist Dr. Hans Holzer, who devotes his time in the recording booth to discussing the real-life case that inspired The Amityville Horror and the supernatural phenomenon depicted in the story. It's worth a listen for fans of the paranormal, but as Holzer had nothing to do with the actual making of the movie his occasionally fascinating talk is broken up by awkward periods of dead air.

 

Also making a return appearance from the earlier DVD is the retrospective documentary "For God's Sake, Get Out!" (21 minutes), which features separately-filmed interviews with Brolin and Kidder as they recount their experiences making the original Amityville and share their thoughts on the film's theatrical success and cultural impact. New to this release is "Haunted Melodies with Lalo Schifrin" (10 minutes), an interview with the celebrated composer produced by Red Shirt Pictures that focuses primarily on his musical contributions to The Amityville Horror and its 1982 follow-up Amityville II: The Possession. Despite his heavily-accented English Schifrin has a few precious insights into the scoring process to share in the time he's given. Finally, the extras close out with a theatrical trailer (with voiceover by the late, great Percy Rodriguez), television spot, four minutes of vintage radio spots, and a stills gallery of production photographs and promotional materials.

 

Amityville II has never been available on any format with bonus features, but once again Scream Factory rises to the occasion and has supplemented the superior sequel with a plethora of goodies including six brand new retrospective interviews produced by Red Shirt Pictures.

 

Alexandra Holzer, daughter of "Murder in Amityville" author Hans Holzer (the original ghost hunter, as she claims) and a self-styled paranormal enthusiast in her own right, contributes an audio commentary where she mostly delves into the true events that inspired Amityville II including the DeFeo murders and the supposed haunted house. Since she has very little to say about the movie outside of separating the facts from the fiction many periods of dead air crop up throughout the track.

 

"The Possession of Damiani" (6 minutes) finds the director briefly discussing his involvement in the film, how he came aboard as a director-for-hire with the script and cast already in place, and the visual dynamics he utilized to heighten the tension in the story. "Adapting Amityville" (12 minutes) goes deeper into the development of the script with screenwriter Tommy Lee Wallace, who also talks about working with director Damiani throughout principal photography, doing his own research on the DeFeo family murders, and using the Holzer book as a handy source during the writing phase. "A Mother's Burden" (14 minutes) brings in Rutanya Alda to talk about playing Dolores Montelli and reveals that a scene where her character was raped by on-screen husband Burt Young was filmed but abandoned to the cutting room floor, as well as a significant portion of the incest subplot. Memories of making the film in Mexico City at the famed Churubusco Studios (where David Lynch's Dune and the original Total Recall were also filmed) are a common thread in the featurettes. Diane Franklin talks about the production and developing her character into someone who was sympathetically vulnerable in "Family Matters" (14 minutes). The controversial subject matter and how she took pains to work with it is also discussed. "Father Tom's Memories" (4 minutes) has Andrew Prine recalling the good time he had making Amityville II in New Jersey and Mexico and working with director Damiani and co-star Olsen. The longest of the new interviews is "Continuing the Hunt" (29 minutes), in which Alexandra Holzer talks about the work of her father Hans on the Amityville stories, his involvement with the films and the rewards he reaped in his writing career, and carrying on her late father's work as a professional ghost hunter to this day.

 

U.S. and French theatrical trailers, a still gallery, and a easy-to-spot Easter Egg on the second page of the Special Features menu that has visual effects artist Stephan Dupuis (Robocop, 300, and a personal favorite of filmmaker David Cronenberg) talking about his time working on Amityville II for about two minutes round out the supplements.

 

Amityville 3-D has one new extra - the interview featurette “A Chilly Reception” (10 minutes) with actress Candy Clark - a photo gallery, and a teaser trailer that shows no footage from the movie except repeated and reversed shots of the house exploding and the 3-D getting hyped out the wazoo.

 

Overall: 3/5

 

One lackluster original that wants to be better than it has any right to be, one vastly superior prequel, and one lame 3-Dull closer comprise this box set of supernatural fright. The second movie gets the best of everything from digital transfer to excellent new bonus features, but fans of the Amityville series will find this collection a definite purchase just in time for Halloween.