Director Damiano Damiani enters the house of horrors at Amityville and brings us the prequel to 1979’s smash hit ‘The Amityville Horror’. Available separately or in the ‘Amityville Horror Collection’ box set.
The Montelli family move into their new home only to find, shortly thereafter, that things do in fact go bump in the night. Mother, Delores Montelli, is the first to notice that something strange is going on as she feels a ‘presence’ in the basement and asks the local priest to bless the house. But it seems that something could be wrong with her eldest son, Sonny, who becomes reclusive and distant. After teenage sister Patricia is raped by her older brother, she tries to seek help from priest Father Adamsky, believing that it is a supernatural power that is controlling her brother. However, it’s too late, because during the night Sonny takes one of his father’s shot guns and kills his entire family, including Patricia. Father Adamsky, blaming himself, tries to help Sonny, telling the police that he is possessed, but of course this doesn’t go down too well in the courtroom and the priest is forced to go to extreme lengths to break Sonny out of jail, get him to church and free his soul of this evil spirit.
Amityville II: The Possession is a convoluted, misguided but enjoyable mess that brings together a lot of unoriginality and pieces it together to make an unusual looking narrative jigsaw that leaves you just as perplexed as entertained. Director Damiano Damiani seems content to style his scares out of point-of-view shots and special-effects, taking the fear of the house that was the obvious driving force behind the first film, and manifesting it in a malevolent spirit. But the film is more effective in the second half when the story departs from the house and concentrates on Sonny who has become possessed by an evil spirit. The Exorcist comparisons are evident, but it’s just rather grating how the film is seemingly a story of two parts where the audience can’t be sure who the plot is trying to follow.
Writer Tommy Lee Wallace, whose Curriculum Vitae shows that he has worked on so many iconic horror films (he worked in the art department for John Carpenter’s Dark Star and Assault On Precinct 13, he did production design and edited Carpenter’s The Fog and Halloween, and wrote and directed the enjoyable Fright Night Part II and Stephen King’s IT), knows how to get the horror off the screen and into the audience, and one particular scene when Father Adamsky talks to Sonny in the jail is especially good. It reminded me of the scene in The Exorcist where Father Karras talks to Regan for the first time and the bedside table drawer opens by itself – an example of a very simple special-effect, coupled with strong character interaction, that works terrifically well. However, Wallace is just as to blame as director Damiani for the film’s unfocused narrative, and this is largely due to the attempt by the filmmakers to blur the distinction between what was seen as ‘real’ and what was seen as ‘make believe’. In trying to make a frightening horror film, they’ve taken too many liberties and the style far outweighs the substance.
The picture is presented in its original theatrical aspect ratio of 1.85:1 and anamorphic enhanced. The image is generally very good with the numerous darkly lit scenes and pale greens and browns of the Amityville house appearing clear and detailed. Skins tones appear natural and black level is excellent, but if anything the image lacks a little sharpness at times as some of the exterior shots are hazy. However, the print used in is very good condition displaying an odd speck of dirt and mark every now and again, but this doesn’t distract.
NOTE: There is also a pan and scan 4:3 version of the film on the reverse side of the disc.
The original mono soundtrack is presented on the disc and it is perfectly adequate for the film. Dialogue is crisp and clear, and the film’s score doesn’t intrude.
Theatrical Trailer – Only a theatrical trailer is added to this disk.
Amityville II: The Possession isn’t a particularly good film but it’s enjoyable nonetheless. Its downbeat nature will deter some and the its penchant for style over substance leaves it feeling very hollow, but as a haunted house film it is perfectly adequate at providing the odd scare with some timely special-effects and great production design. The disc is presented as a single, two-sided DVD sold separately, or in the box set with the other Amityville films in the Amityville Horror Collection.
It’s the end, but the moment has been prepared for…
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