Directed by Stuart Rosenberg, Damiano Damiani, Richard Fleischer
Distributed by The Scream Factory
With the exception of the Bates Motel & Mansion, this writer can’t think of any other horror franchise abode which is as recognizable as the home that stands at 112 Ocean Avenue, Long Island, New York. The large Dutch Colonial, with its two trademark eye-windows, is an image synonymous with haunted houses due to the tragic events and purported supernatural shenanigans which occurred there throughout the 1970s. A book written about the home and the strange occurrences associated with it spawned a successful feature film, eight sequels, and a remake (while numerous other books and a recent documentary have taken their own looks at the case). Now, over thirty years after its theatrical release, the original Amityville Horror and its first two sequels have gotten a typically loving, extras-laden release to Blu-ray from genre heroes Scream Factory, all packaged together in a nifty box set as The Amityville Horror Trilogy.
The original film opens with a shocking sequence of grisly murder, with a young man stalking from one room of his home to the next, unloading his rifle into each of his family members. Cut to a year later, and we’re introduced to George and Kathy Lutz (Brolin and Kidder), a young couple who buy the Amityville home and move their family into it. It isn’t long before strange events begin occurring, leading George down a path to madness even as the apparent haunting becomes more and more threatening to the Lutz family.
Long before it was de riguer for DTV titles to release prequels with sequentially numbered titles, 1982’s Amityville II: The Possession focused on the original murders in the Amityville home, dramatizing the final days of the home’s previous owners leading up to the gruesome scene from the original film’s opening (though the continuity between the two flicks is a mess). All manner of creepiness abounds here, with spousal/child abuse and incest upstaging the haunting and demonic possession we expect from the film.
Finally, 1983’s Amityville 3-D seems to stand apart from the continuity of the previous two films, giving us a story of a newly-divorced reporter (Roberts) who buys the Amityville home to move himself and his daughter (Loughlin) into. Cheap scares and cheaper effects take precedence in this, the slowest-paced and weakest of the Amityville “trilogy”. Also, crazy-young Meg Ryan shows up and plays with a makeshift Ouija board. So there’s that.
The Amityville Horror still holds up as a flawed but interesting little chiller, full of mostly good performances and nice photography, along with some truly creepy sequences. Its biggest sin is its lagging pace in the second act, and for its misuse of a perfectly good Rod Steiger performance (the subplot involving his Father Delaney character goes maddeningly unresolved). The second Amityville stands as a superior film, directed with style and infused with tension and creepiness throughout. Though it goes all kinds of batshit in the final third of the movie, it’s still a damned fine spooky flick with gorgeous photography and some neat practical makeup effects (lots of bladder work to be found here). And, as mentioned, Amityville 3-D is easily the weakest of the lot. The quality had fallen considerably with every facet of this sequel – the writing, the cinematography, even the score (Howard Blake’s hokey tunes in no way live up to Lalo Schifrin’s icy and elegant work from the first two films). Worst of all, the movie is simply boring. I can live with campy, I can live with cheap, and can even live with downright silly – so long as I’m entertained. But the one thing I should not be doing during an Amityville flick is yawning. And folks, I gotta say – it was a struggle keeping my eyes open during this franchise’s third entry.
Still, it’s nice to have all three of these films together in one set. As is usual, Scream Factory has given this set some pretty great packaging (a niftily designed box, with each of the Blus sporting the original theatrical artwork for each film) and loads of bonus features to sift through. The transfers on the first two films are pretty fantastic, each sharp and boasting beautiful colors (some minor damage and speckling can be seen in each, but not to any distracting degree). The third film doesn’t fare so well, however. The image for Amityville 3-D (also available in Blu-ray 3-D) is soft to the point of being blurry at times, and occasionally has some rather ugly jitter in it. The audio is impressive for all three films though, nicely detailed and quite immersive at times (though, and I nitpick, some of the sound effects in the first film are shrill to the point of distortion).
The first film gets a nice selection of bonus features, including: an audio commentary with Doctor Hanz Holzer, who was familiar with the case and wrote a few books about it (including Murder in Amityville, which concerned the DeFeo murders and inspired the second film); “For God’s Sake, Get Out!”, an older documentary featuring Brolin and Kidder looking back on the film’s making and its legacy (and, to some degree, their rocky working relationship); Haunted Melodies with Lalo Schifrin, a Red Shirt produced featurette with the talented composer discussing his work on the first two films; the original trailer and TV spot; a collection of seven radio spots; and a still gallery.
Amityville II’s special features are no less impressive. There is – an audio commentary with Alexandra Holzer, daughter of Hanz Holzer and a ghost hunter and author in her own right; The Possession of Damiani, a six-minute subtitled piece with the director discussing the film’s production; Adapting Amityville, a great and candid talk with screenwriter Tommy Lee Wallace, who talks over his thoughts on the original film, his work on the sequel, and his opinion of Damiani’s work on the film; A Mother’s Burden, an interview with Rutanya Alda, who played the family matriarch in the film; Family Matters, a talk with the energetic and still quite pretty Diane Franklin, who spends her time discussing the production and her approach to the quite icky incest subplot; Father Tom’s Memories, a brief chat with the always fun Andrew Prine; Continuing the Hunt, a thirty-minute talk with Holzer concerning her father’s work, and how she’s taken up his mantle and reopened a number of his old case files; two theatrical trailers; a still gallery; and a cool easter egg featuring Academy Award winning effects artist Stephan Dupuis recalling the Amityville II shoot.
Finally, the set of extras for Amityville 3-D continues that film’s trend of disappointment. Featured here are a ten minute interview with actress Candy Clark, a photo gallery, and a trailer. That’s it. And really, that’s just fine. We don’t need to know any more about the film’s making, honest.
Ultimately folks, while this collection might be uneven, it’s still an essential set for fans of the franchise and of good haunted house/demon possession flicks in general. The two best films here look as good as they likely ever will, and are supported by a treasure trove of extra material. As always, hats off to Scream Factory for their hard work, love of the genre, and for just being friggin’ cool.
Still lookin’ for them to announce Psycho IV, though. Any day now…
THE AMITYVILLE HORROR TRILOGY DELUXE COLLECTOR’S EDITION Three-Disc Blu-ray™ Pack Bonus Features:
The Amityville Horror Special Features
Amityville II: The Possession Special Features
Amityville 3-D Special Features
3 out of 5
4 out of 5