Amityville: The Evil Escapes Review
It could hardly be classed a masterpiece in any sense of the word – though you could argue a certain cultural cachet – but The Amityville Horror has still been blighted by diminishing returns. Following its initial attack on James Brolin and Margot Kidder, the possessed household moved onto terrorising Burt Young and assorted Italian-Americans in Amityville II : The Possession and Meg Ryan in three dimensions for Amityville 3D, neither to any great effect. Perhaps sensing that it could go no further cinematically, the fourth instalment, Amityville : The Evil Escapes (though the opening title has it as Amityville Horror : The Evil Escapes), was made for television.
Of course, such a situation, much like the later Amityville Dollhouse’s straight-to-video status, should turn the viewer off straight away. TV movie remakes are bad enough – witness the attempts to revive Casablanca, Dark Victory or Pretty Poison, though the list goes on and on – but surely TV movie sequels are even worse. The difference here is that Sandor Stern, who had first reconfigured Jay Anson’s bestseller into the original movie, returns not only as writer, but also director. Then again, should we have in someone who first invited the horrors (and not in that sense of the world) of The Amityville Horror upon a wide audience? The answer – and you don’t have to think too long about it – is a simple no.
For whilst Stern finally allows the franchise to move away from the house, he also conspires to do so in the most ridiculous of manners. Following a brief run-through of familiar satanic tics – levitating furniture, slamming doors and, of course, a helluva lot a flies – the Devil himself decides to leave his home and take up residence in a lamp! At which point most people will simply stop watching the film – and indeed they’d be right to. From hereon in the lamp simply moves to another location and terrorises Patty Duke’s family for an interminable length of time.
Yet the horror film has always had at least one foot in the absurd and as such The Evil Escapes’ problems shouldn’t be apportioned solely to the concept. Indeed, such a ridiculous idea could be salvaged in the correct hands, so we perhaps blame Stern the director as much as we do Stern the writer. Yet even this doesn’t feel quite right as it is the TV movie dimensions which prove most problematic. Much of the film is centred around the kind of melodramatics you’d find in a disease-of-the-week picture (Duke’s a single mother struggling with three kids). The pacing is al askew as it tries to accommodate, and build its suspense around, the ad breaks. And there’s a lessening of the horror which makes the housemaid and various anonymous workmen fair game, but shies away from harming the family and therefore preventing the film from doing anything remotely nasty. (The BBFC rating of an 18 does seem more than a little over the top.) Rather all we’re left with is an over-insistent manner (signposted plot developments, excessive scoring, etc. etc.) that has nothing to insist and an ultimately empty experience.
Made for television, Amityville : The Evil Escapes doesn’t exactly impress in the presentation department. The image is consistently soft, lacking in detail, suffers from artefacting and ghosting, and is generally very poor. Admittedly, we do get the film in its original 1.33:1 ratio as per television screenings, but then this is surely to be expected. As for the soundtrack, the film comes with an English DD2.0 mix which is acceptable if rarely impressive. Certainly, it has little to deal with save for the over the top score and in this respect does okay. With regards to special features, it should come as no surprise to discover that Fremantle’s disc is completely lacking.