10/24/11

The Halloween Top 13: The Devil Made Me Do It #8: The Amityville II: The Possession (1982)

Even in a depressed economy, there are some properties that a realtor would have a hard time selling at any price. The Bates Motel would probably be a hard sell (especially since they built that highway a few years back  that sends everyone around.) I'm having a hard time wrapping my mind around moving into 1428 Elm Street, and even though the Munsters aren't scary, I'm still not moving into 1313 Mockingbird Lane. The hardest home of all to move has to be the one at 112 Ocean Avenue, Amityville, New York. Though the outside has been renovated and the address changed, I'm not going to be fooled into moving into the Amityville Horror house. I will however include the sequel to the film that made the little New York village infamous. Coming in at #8 on The Halloween Top 13: The Devil Made Me Do It, it's that problem property itself, The Amityville II: The Possession. 


Though the roman numerals for '2' are tacked on after the title, Amityville II might have been better off just using The Possession as its lone subtitle. The events in the film detail what happened in the Amityville house  before the Lutz family moves into the home. The house was owned by the DeFeo family who lived there until their mass murder at the hands of their teenage son, which was alluded to in the first film. Based on the sensational book Murder in  Amityville by parapsychologist Hans Holzer, Amityville II: The Possession attempts to explain why Butch DeFeo killed his whole family. In keeping with the supernatural miasma that made the first installment of the book and movie successful, the author speculates (under the guise of psychic knowledge) that Butch DeFeo was demonically possessed by the entity that lives in the basement of the home. The Lutz family wanted nothing to do with this sequel. George Lutz wanted it to be based on the book The Amityville Horror Part II by John G. Jones and sued successfully to have posters posted in theaters bearing the inscription, "This film has no association with George or Kathy Lutz."

Amityville II barely needs a plot synopsis, but I'll run over it really quick anyhow. The Montelli family move into their new home in Amityville, NY. Dad (Burt Young) is an abusive asshole. Mom (Rutanya Alda) does her best to protect her four kids, attempting to bear the brunt of the abuse herself. Instead it gets directed to the oldest son, Sonny (Jack Magner). Already full of rage and hate, Sonny becomes an easy vessel for the house demon to latch onto and latch he does. Sonny's attitude goes from bad to worse, and the next thing you know he's having sex with his sister and shooting his family en masse. (Though unlike the original film they are not all shot in bed.) Father Adamsky (James Olsen) suspected there was an evil presence in the home, and after having a vision of the murders while they happen, he knows Satan must be the culprit. Expending every ounce of himself, Adamsky intends to perform and exorcism to save Sonny's soul no matter if it kills them both. 

The real Butch DeFeo has never claimed to have been possessed. The most recent account I can find from DeFeo states that he and his sister Dawn intended to kill their parents and leave. When Dawn killed the younger kids to prevent them from being witnesses, Butch killed her. No mention has ever been made on an incestuous relationship with his sister, and it seemed shoehorned into the story for a bit of sleaze and cheap titillation. No matter the exact details, the real events were horrific enough without getting demons involved in it. The screenplay by Tommy Lee Wallace was, of course, not based out of reality in the first place but rather Hans Holzer's book. (Years later William Weber, DeFeo's defense attorney, was quoted as saying that the whole thing was made up over some drinks in a bar to cash in on Amityville.) Wallace did a fine job with the script, his first, though I would prefer him later in his career as a director (Halloween III, Fright Night 2) to a writer (It, Vampires: Los Muertos). 

Director Damiano Damiani is no stranger to fans of Italian Politzia films having directed both How to Kill a Judge and Confessions of a Police Captain with Franco Nero. Unlike other Italian directors who dabbled in all the genres, Damiani mostly kept to drama, Westerns, and action films. I can only assume his connections with producer Dino De Lauentis secured the position for him. Though not an avid horror hound, the director manages to create an eerie mood to the proceedings, and several scenes made me think that he has studied the greater works of Umberto Lenzi and Lucio Fulci. The greatest scene in the picture is the jailhouse confrontation between the priest (James Olsen) and Sonny Demon (Jack Magner). Perfectly shot and paced, this tete-a-tete is second only in the category of demonic jailhouse scenes to a similar scene in Exorcist III, a movie that would appear on this list had it not appeared on The Halloween Top 13: The Sequels. Olsen and Magner are the two performances to watch throughout the entire film, but keep a special eye on Burt Young as Sonny's abusive dad. Known for playing Rocky's fun loving buddy Paulie, Young does against type and makes you really, really hate him.

One of the real questions about Amityville II: The Possession has to be "does it stack up to the original", and the answer to that is no. (Hence, why it didn't appear on aforementioned Sequels list.) The original has '70's movie making & James Brolin's beard going for it. What Amityville II does have is gory makeup effects, a compelling story-line, and Jack Magner using his boyish good looks to demonic ends. Plus the original film is all about spirits and flies in the window where the sequel/prequel brings a demon out to play in the world. So there you have it, I have used the power of Christ to compel this review to come out, and it has possessed you all for six paragraphs now. If that's not scary, I don't know what is.  

That wraps it up for The Halloween Top 13: The Devil Made Me Do It for today. Join me back here tomorrow for #7 on the countdown, but before you go, scroll down under the trailer for the first reader submitted list. Oh and before it gets mentioned, the house in the film is actually 18 Brooks Drive in Toms River, New Jersey as it was in the first. Just in case, I wouldn't move in there either. 

Bugg Rating


Halloween Top 13: The Devil Made Me Do It- READER LIST

Today, my good pal Morgan Rankin of The Kid in the Hall blog and The Bloodsprayer has submitted her list. If you're not checking her stuff out on her sites, then you're really missing out. Morgan is one of the greatest young writers doing this dang thing right now, and that's a fact. Without further ado, here's her 13. 


1. Demons 




2. The Evil Dead 






3. The Exorcist 


4. Night of the Demons (1988) 


5. Evil Dead 2 


6. The Omen (1976) 


7. Army of Darkness 



8. Burnt Offerings  

9. The Amityville Horror (1979) 

10. Demons 2 


11. 976 - EVIL 


12. Don't Panic 


13. Black Roses  

3 comments:

  1. I'm torn on this film. I actually prefer the first hour of the dysfunctional film, then kind of hated the cash-in exorcism plot of the last 45 minutes. Too disjointed for my taste, but not completely without merit. The massacre scene is actually quite horrific.

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  2. I did a review of this last year, and was pleased with it, much more than I expected. I find the first film unbearably dull (Brolin aside, he's awesome), and the entire "true story" hokum feels insulting to the DeFeo family who died—and not for demonic reasons. But this film really makes an effort to entertain, even if it does go off the rails at the end with its Exorcist rip-off material. I like a lot of Damiani's films, especially A Bullet for the General, so I'm willing to go along with him here.

    Also, amazing how the house seems to be self-repairing, even after the whole ground floor explodes. I would love to live in a self-repairing house!

    I highly recommend the nonfiction book about the DeFeo killings, High Hopes: The Amityville Murders by Gerald Sullivan and Harvey Aronson if you can find a used copy. It deals with the actual murder case and dispenses with the hoax that came after. You don't need demons needling you to make you kill your family, and that is much more disturbing to me.

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  3. @Emily, I agree. The massacre was the most horrific moment. I was surprised to see it happen so early in the film. There's something about this one that apeals to me. It must be that my atheist ass loves to see God and the Devil spar.

    @Ryan first off, amazing review. My hat is off to you. Seeing as people are all the way down here I can say that you should have just read his. I believe High Hopes was partial inspiration for a documentary I saw a few years back called Shattered Hopes.I'd love to track down a copy of that book sometime. Definitely be keeping my eye out.

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