Amityville 3-D (Collector's Edition) Review

If Amityville II: The Possession was considerably more enjoyable than might have reasonably been expected, then Amityville 3-D is exactly what you might expect it to be. An uninspired third chapter in the Amityville house saga which is buoyed up somewhat by a certain competency and some enjoyable 3-D effects.

Unlike the previous two films, no attempt is made here to pretend that the events portrayed are anything but the purest fiction. Starting from the premise that the Amityville house is haunted, it combines Poltergeist with The Legend of Hell House, adds a touch of The Stone Tape for good luck and remembers to include lots of meaningless psychobabble in order to appear scientific. The dependable Tony Roberts plays John Baxter, a psychic investigator who along with his partner Melanie (Clark) makes a living debunking fake exponents of the occult. Never one to shirk a challenge, John decides to buy the Amityville house and, very soon, he and - along his daughter Susan (Loughlin ) and her friend Lisa (Ryan) – are experiencing a series of strange supernatural events which seem to centre around an old well in the cellar. Interestingly, however, the occult occurrences are now able to extend beyond the grounds of the Amityville house and plague the characters in their workplaces, in a car and even in a boat.

There’s very little continuity here with the previous two instalments but this does, at least, mean that the film isn’t burdened with the pseudo-realism which plagues its forerunners. Having said that, it doesn’t replace it with anything very interesting. The science is mostly nonsense – although certain parapsychology aspects such as the lowering of the temperature are reasonably realistic – and the need to provide 3-D interest results in some exceptionally daft would-be shock moments. The problem is that once you begin to expect these, they aren’t very shocking any more and in one case – a rubber demon – far too much opportunity is given to examine the defects of the monster in question.

Richard Fleischer’s direction is efficient enough but not especially inspired. Whereas there was some logic in his being chosen to direct Conan The Destroyer given his helming of the classic The Vikings, he’s far less experienced with horror and his plodding pacing demonstrates a lack of feeling for the genre. Presumably, he was considered a good choice because he had made a previous 3-D film – 1953’s Arena - and he certainly doesn’t shirk from the basic task of thrusting things into the audience’s face at every opportunity. Some of these moments are more effective than others – the death of a key character in a car crash being the best use of the medium, along with a completely gratuitous frisbee scene. But the general impression is of a workmanlike director who doesn’t have much interest in the project with which he’s been landed.

A certain amount of interest is raised by the slightly unusual casting. Quite apart from featuring a twenty year old Meg Ryan – who is already demonstrating an ability to dominate any scene in which she appears – the film offers us Tony Roberts as a pleasantly unconventional hero. Familiar from his appearances with Woody Allen, Roberts uses his sense of timing to keep his character reasonably involving. Equally effective is Candy Clark, a quirky actress who never quite fulfilled the promise she showed in American Graffitti and, particularly, in The Man Who Fell To Earth. Her early exit is a great disappointment. It’s also very nice to see veteran John Beal who appeared in the original 1931 Frankenstein. However, the casting of Tess Harper as Robert’s wife is disastrous. A dismally limited actress, Harper bores the audience rigid and every time she appears the film slows to a crawl. As has been suggested, it would have been a good idea for her and Candy Clark to swap roles.

There’s nothing in Amityville 3-D to make it particularly worth watching apart from the interesting casting and the 3-D effects. The creepy house returns and is sometimes well used but once the action moves to the cellar this asset is underused. The screenplay is workmanlike at best and steals from loads of other films without finding the suspense that made those other films work. Fred Schuler’s lighting is occasionally effective but the film offers little more than a bare competence. It’s certainly no match for the pulp energy of Damiano Damiani’s Amityville II: The Possession.

The Disc

Sanctuary have released Amityville 3-D, previously available on a DVD with an appalling transfer, in a new special edition which contains both the 3-D and the ‘flat’ versions of the film.

It’s quite hard to gauge the picture quality of the 3-D version because how effective it is will almost certainly depend on how well your television copes with the exaggerated colours necessary to make the effect work. I found that the effectiveness varied from scene to scene. Occasionally, there really is a feeling of depth and, occasionally, the effects are very nicely evoked – especially a scene where a group of flies attack an estate agent. However, I found it very hard to get the tint right so that the red didn’t completely overpower all other colours on screen. I think I would have to congratulate Sanctuary for effort rather than achievement although, in their defence, they claim it works better on a computer monitor than on TV. The ‘flat’ version contained on the first disc is adequate at best. It seems a little blurred in places and often rather murky. The colour balance is reasonable however and I found it easier to watch than its 3-D counterpart.

Two soundtracks are included. The original Dolby 2.0 mix is a reasonably good stereo track which contains clear dialogue and some nice sound effect moments. The Dolby Digital 5.1 remix is, for once, an improvement with some excellent surround effects and often genuinely alarming music cues.

Although there are cast and crew biographies present, along with a small photo gallery, the main extra is the commentary on the first disc. As with the previous film, this is provided by Kim Newman and Stephen Jones. Although it’s a bit more repetitive than the earlier track, the two men are intelligent and knowledgeable and their comments are usually amusing and informative. Amusingly, Jones is clearly a lot more enthusiastic about the film than Newman. This commentary is not present on the 3-D version.

There are 16 chapter stops. No subtitles are included which is a distinct black mark.

Amityville 3-D is a novelty because of the inclusion of the original 3-D version on the disc. However, my own experience and those of two friends suggest that the 3-D is highly variable in quality. The commentary track is good however and Amityville fans will certainly want to pick this disc up.

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Last updated: 19/04/2018 11:40:05

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