This is part of my Horrorathon for Mothers/Men Against Senseless Killings (aka MASK). Is It Worth It? is where I talk about sequels a lot of people skip, and determine if they are worth a visit or better left in the bargain bin. Fair warning, there will be spoilers in my recap, so if you just want the verdict skip to the bottom.
From IMDb: A family moves into their new home, which proves to be satanic [sic], resulting in the demonic possession of the teenage son. Only the local priest can save him.
Bizarrely, even though I have seen Amityville 3-D, I had never watched or really heard anything about the first sequel to the original. Hoo boy did this movie surprise me. And not entirely in a bad way.
This sequel is actually a prequel that tells a wildly embellished version of the actual DeFeo murders that took place in the Amityville house. And the embellishment is demonic possession. I don’t feel great about the fact this movie is sensationalizing a specific personal tragedy only 8 years after the murders took place, but the Horrorathon must go on.
We of course start with some establishing exterior shots of the infamous house with windows that looks like eyes (again this is a real detail that cannot be copyrighted!). We see a “For Sale” sign with “Sold” slapped over it, and soon a car pulls up and a family moves in.
The Montelli family consists of patriarch Anthony, his wife Dolores, and their four children Sonny, Patricia, Mark, and Jan. Sonny and Patricia are older teenagers while Mark and Jan are young children.
There is immediately a sense of Anthony being a jackass. This is confirmed when Sonny pulls up with his new car, and his father reminds him he isn’t too old for a whipping for not obeying his instructions to follow his mom’s car to the new house.
While unpacking, Sonny and Patricia playfully flirt like they are in A Very Brady Sequel. More on that later. Unfortunately, a lot more.
This house wastes no time doing what it does best: presenting the unsuspecting family with a bizarre mixture of paranormal phenomenon. It feels like the screenplay was a haunted house Mad Libs puzzle.
First, they notice an odd detail. It seems the previous owner had nailed the windows shut from the inside. As soon as the mom goes into the kitchen, the sink faucet initially runs blood.
While putting Chekhov-approved GUNS down in the basement, one of the movers notices there is an “extra room” behind a crawl space. The room is full of dripping water, flies, and a smell. This is presumably meant to be the red room of occult word salad from the first film.
Also within the first day:
- The mom feels somebody touch her when she is alone in the basement
- While saying grace, a mirror falls down and cracks
- Knocking sounds all around the house
- Spooky mirrors that look back out at people
- In one of the better moments, a tablecloth floats off the dinner table and covers a crucifix because as we know from the first film, the evil spirit is very passive aggressive in its dislike of crucifixes:
Unfortunately, the film takes a very dark turn at this point. In Mark and Jan’s room, paint brushes begin drawing the trademark Amityville giant evil pig on the wall. Anthony is enraged, and goes to beat the kids with a belt. The mom, seemingly possessed with rage, tries to stop him by clawing at his face and he turns on her with the belt instead. Finally Sonny, also seemingly possessed with rage, points a rifle at his father and Anthony relents. The evil spirit seems to have found itself the right family member to possess, and tells Sonny through his Walkman headphones later on that he should have just killed his father.
Delores goes to church with children the next day, and asks Father Adamsky to come over and bless the house. And you will never believe this, but Anthony decides to be huge asshole. So much so that Father Adamsky leaves before even doing the blessing. Also Jan decides to put a bag over Mark’s head AS A JOKE:
Delores threatens to leave Anthony if he doesn’t go apologize to Father Adamsky in front of the children, and he reluctantly agrees. Everyone leaves the house but Sonny, setting up a really unique and effective demonic possession scene with some massive Evil Dead vibes. Sonny keeps hearing noises, and eventually runs downstairs to grab a rife, thinking someone has broken into the house. Rather than try to describe this scene, I’d strongly encourage you to watch a portion of it below:
The complete sequence lasts about ten minutes, and it is definitely a highlight of the entire movie. It devolves into camp by the end, but the buildup to Sonny’s possession shows some artful camera work by director Damiano Damiani, and some great music scoring by Lalo Schifrin. Schifrin also composed the music for the first film, and I’d suspect he took some inspiration from the music used in The Shining for this sequel. I also like that the scene keeps breaking the fourth wall and putting us in the perspective of the evil spirit, including having Sonny shoot at the camera.
But then it gets worse. So remember how Sonny and Patricia were weirdly flirty at the beginning? Get ready to cringe for a a few minutes straight.
We are now in Sonny’s first person POV, indicating he has been taken over by the evil spirit. He tells Patricia she is beautiful, and she decides this is a perfectly normal thing to say in a completely casual tone to her brother:
I think Mommy doesn’t want to make love to Daddy anymore. I think he tries to force her. I heard her crying.
Sonny convinces Patricia to get naked in front of him to prove she is beautiful, and…yeah. They have sex. The scene immediately cuts to Patricia confessing to Father Adamsky that she went “all the way with a friend.”
Father Adamsky returns to the house and completes the blessing, but he witnesses his holy water shaker bleed and tries to convince the church that they need to perform an exorcism, and he gets brushed off just like Father Delaney in the first film.
Next, we see the family celebrating Sonny’s birthday. His mom clocks that something inappropriate is happening with Sonny and Patricia, but before she can investigate further, literally all the random party guests arrive at the same time. Sonny quietly sneaks back up to his room, seemingly able to fend the evil spirit off long enough to be remorseful for sleeping with Patricia. She comes up to his room, and he yells at her till she leaves. Distraught, Patricia calls Father Adamsky but he is just about to leave on a trip with his
boyfriend “colleague” Father Tom. While literally walking out the door Adamsky hesitates and says, “I don’t want to answer that”, and Father Tom takes the phone off the hook and they leave. Delores then yells at Patricia for what she’s done with her brother, completely putting blame on Patricia, because this movie is gross.
That evening, Sonny finally gives in to his evil Walkman’s commands and murders his entire family in a scene that is extremely disturbing and shocking to watch. It is so visceral and unexpected that I thought it was surely a nightmare Patricia was having. Meanwhile, Father Adamsky wakes up with a terrible feeling and leaves the cabin with Father Tom in tow to head toward the Montelli house. But he is too late as he witnesses the bodies being carried off, and makes eye contact with Sonny who just keeps stating “I don’t remember anything” as he is hauled away.
This movie was already so intense and so focused on the family that I just assumed it was over. But the Montelli murders are actually at the 66 minute mark of a movie that is 102 minutes long. This is basically two movies. So now we get an Exorcist knockoff following the guilt-ridden Adamsky as he pleads with law enforcement to let him perform an exorcism on Sonny. Adamsky somehow convinces the defense lawyer to plead “demonic possession” and the judge is like “you are an idiot. Come back in three weeks and you better say something less dumb.” Things are looking bad, but we know how this is going to end.
A police officer finally relents and purposely lets Adamsky kidnap Sonny in order to perform an exorcism. Adamsky and Sonny end up back at the Amityville house, and Adamsky faces off with the demon once and for all. Things are bad in the house. Adamsky contends with what I guess what are supposed to be the spirits of the buried Native Americans there? I say guess because this is the clearest shot we get of them:
After Adamsky manages to “pray the spirits away”, the house doubles down on its blood trick with a river of blood:
We see Father Tom pull up to the house not too long after Adamsky and Sonny go there, but it somehow takes him approximately nine hours to get from the car to the upstairs attic bedroom so this is basically between Adamsky and the demon. There are some excellently disgusting practical gore effects that are also completely unnecessary but appreciated. At one point, the demon takes on the persona of a vamped up Patricia, who tells Adamsky she knows he wanted to sleep with her. Adamsky keeps shouting for the demon to take him instead, and in this case wishes do come true because the demon takes him instead. Father Tom manages to get Sonny out of the house where he will still inevitably spend the rest of his life in prison. All things considered it probably would have been better not to save him? In the end, it looks like the demon will possess Adamsky.
- If Flowers in the Attic and The Exorcist had a baby, it would be this movie. Or more precisely, these two movies.
- Sonny is possessed when he initiates sex with Patricia, but Patricia is never shown to be possessed. So she is just…into it? Icky.
- Also – they aren’t isolated like Flowers in the Attic! They are shown to have tons of friends (who somehow all show up at once) at Sonny’s birthday…so why!? I feel like “so why…” is going to be a common response to this franchise.
- In an earlier scene the family wonders why the windows are nailed shut from the inside when they move in. When Sonny comes home with his mission so to speak, the windows are nailed shut again which help prevents Patricia from escaping. It is a neat and subtle callback, and it is unnerving to think that he did that ahead of time.
- I wish the movie had nixed the Frankenstein’s monster makeup on Sonny in random parts. The strength of Jack Magner’s performance was enough.
- I definitely get a very strong gay vibe from Father Adamsky and Father Tom. They are closer than colleagues typically would be when physically interacting with each other, and spend part of the movie on a cabin trip alone together. I can’t tell if this is intentional or not, but this is one of the only cases of queer subtext when I would find it hard to believe they were really not a couple.
- At one point, Adamsky has a conversation with one of the town’s record keepers, who says a woman witch (not the man witch the first film describes) built the house on Indian burial ground, and that people who had no business on that land continued to desecrate it. Not a bad summary of U.S. history.
- The demon voice was really distinct in this one. There are three women listed on IMDb for voicing the demon, so they are distorting the voices to make them sound masculine.
- The composer for this film, Lalo Schifrin, also scored the original movie. His score for the original was nominated for an Oscar. Having him stay on for this one ties the two movies together musically, but the much darker tone of this one and obvious desire to rip off The Exorcist makes it feel pretty different from the original aside from the namesake.
- It fascinates me this film focused on such a damaged, broken family. Delores seems to want to contain Anthony’s rage, but the story shows how his tyrannical, abusive behavior poisons the whole family as much as Delores tries to prevent it. It also really amplifies the sense of the evil spirit feeding off negative energy. And more practically, it is perhaps meant to make it easier to watch their inevitable demise (but other than Anthony it is hard to feel that anyone deserves what happens).
I would wholeheartedly recommend this as a hidden gem to fellow horror film fans, and would definitely rate it as superior to the original. Even if you read the recap, there are plenty of effective, creepy moments I didn’t mention. I would probably not suggest this to people who are not fans of the genre, and I will warn everyone the scenes of physical abuse were pretty hard to watch. If it wasn’t so hard to stomach (an ironic criticism of a horror film I know), this would easily be a much bigger horror hit than the original.
Interestingly, although this film sits at lower ratings than the original on both IMDb and Rotten Tomatoes, Roger Ebert out of all people gave this film two stars and said it was better than the original.
Unfortunately, this seems to be a highlight for the series so it might truly be downhill from here till I get to the 2005 remake of the original. Next week, I revisit the only Amityville sequel I saw prior to this: Amityville 3-D. I recently added Amityville 3-D to a list of bad horror films with one very good scene. Will this revisit change my mind?