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.
I suggested in a previous post that Amityville 3-D is a terrible film with one great scene – will this revisit change my mind? Let’s find out. Fair warning, there will be spoilers in my recap, so if you just want the verdict skip to the bottom.
From IMDb: A reporter moves into the ominous Long Island house to debunk the recent supernatural events, and finds himself besieged by the evil manifestations which are connected to a hell-spawn demon lurking in the basement.
Some interesting background on this film. The main character (John Baxter) is based on a real psychic investigator, Stephen Kaplan, who accused the Lutzes of defrauding the public, and even wrote a book about it titled The Amityville Horror Conspiracy.
Meanwhile, the Lutzes were pissed that the movie sequels did not continue to follow their story (the original book actually has two sequels about the evil spirit allegedly continuing to haunt the Lutzes).
This lead to this movie purposely not referencing the Lutzes directly. The movie only references the DeFeo murders and vaguely adds things like “all that has happened in this house.”
Once again, we begin with an establishing exterior shot of the infamous house with windows that looked like eyes (again this is a real detail that cannot be copyrighted!). But now, we also get a tree branch literally making a jingling noise in the forefront of the shot in order to remind you that it is in 3D! There is also a new “For Sale” sign which will not be shocking to anyone who has watched the previous films.
Inside the house, a young married couple is about to conduct a séance with some trained experts in order to communicate with their dead son Ricky. Ricky even appears and says “Mommy I’m here” as green blob that of course floats up to the camera. But surprise! The séance is fake! Mr. & Mrs. Baxter are actually John and Melanie – colleagues from Reveal magazine who set out to expose the Casewells as frauds. The medium is so upset she spits on Melanie in 3D! I guess game does not recognize game when it comes to being manipulated.
We are introduced to Dr. Elliot West from the Institute of Psychic Research, who wants to take some pictures around the house, starting with the basement.
Before they can visit the “Well to Hell” (TM pending), the power suddenly goes out. They leave, but we soon hear the signature flies a stirring.
Melanie and John return the next day to investigate the “gateway to hell” as they call the Well to Hell (probably because of my pending trademark). The property owner stops by to apologize for the fraudulent mediums, and John decides to buy the house from him, realizing with its sordid history it will be a bargain deal. But little does he know the flies are watching him from the windows that look like eyes!
We also find out John needs a new place to live because he is going through a divorce, and he wants to make sure there is room for his teenage daughter Susan. We meet Susan and her friend Lisa, who is played by a young Meg Ryan.
Melanie notices the property owner’s face is blurred and distorted in all the pictures she took of him:
The property owner visits the house to meet up with John and ends up in the attic alone…
And basically he gets locked in the attic and killed by flies that fly all over him?
Melanie comes over to meet with John and work, and although the evil spirit lets her in none of the doors will let her out! Starting to panic, Melanie opens the door to a room, and John’s maid Dolores is standing there with a GIANT flashlight ready to whack what she assumes is a intruder or demon. Melanie starts hysterically, nervously laughing after shrieking. Dolores is still like “WHO THE FUCK ARE YOU?” Finally Melanie explains herself.
Meanwhile, John gets trapped in a malfunctioning elevator that is auditioning to be a giant drop ride thanks to a spooky lil Amityville housefly. The experience looks terrifying as the elevator rapidly ascends to the top floor and then drops, but the evil spirit isn’t doing much convincing with this approach. Why would this lead John to realize the house is haunted? The housefly in this scene is probably going to get fired by the head demon later for not thinking this elevator scare idea all the way through.
Dolores warns Melanie that the power keeps going out and gifts her the GIANT flashlight before basically running out of the house at the end of her shift. While Melanie is alone the house blows a bunch of wind on her. So when John comes home this grown ass woman is supposedly so upset she is curled up in a corner, crying and screaming, and then hysterically runs out of the house.
John’s daughter Susan and her friend Lisa visit the house. Lisa informs Susan that people can have sex with ghosts, and that those people say ghost sex is fantastic. Way to see the bright side Lisa! Lisa also seems to be a bit of a true crime/paranormal stories fanatic, and details the DeFeo murders to Susan. Interestingly, she describes the true story, breaking continuity with the second film which is a fictionalized version of the events.
Lisa also asserts that the house is allegedly an ancient Indian burial ground with tortured spirits waiting to rise up and reclaim their land. Bad news about a lot of the land in the U.S. if you are concerned about this prospect Lisa!
Meanwhile, Susan’s mom Nancy is freaked out about Melanie’s freakout, and bans Susan from going over to the infamous house.
While John is home alone, the evil spirit runs a faucet really hot upstairs, and John has a tough time turning it off. It’s like the demon isn’t even trying to convince John it exists!
Meanwhile, poor Melanie is seeing DEMON faces in her pictures:
The evil houseflies manage to distract Melanie while she is driving, and she crashes into a truck filled with metal poles, one of which nearly impales her. The head demon, still undoubtedly pissed with the incompetent houseflies, just sets Melanie’s car on fire from the inside out. Trapped inside, Melanie burns to death. A passerby sees her crashed car filled with smoke, and opens the driver side door to see Melanie’s skeleton. And if there is one rule of skeletons in horror movies, it is that they must unexpectedly move at some point:
But this still isn’t dramatic enough, so the demon also opts to set the car on fire AGAIN for the passerby.
John is weirdly unmoved by Melanie’s death, and Nancy reminds him she doesn’t want Susan over there at the Amityville house. But little does she know Susan, Lisa, and their boy pals have decided to do a séance there. They ask their homemade Ouija board if anyone in the room is in danger, and it spells out Susan.
At this point if I was Susan, I would be pretty upset with my friends even if they had jokingly made the board say that!
Next is the scene I previously said is the only one worth watching in this movie.
Nancy realizes Susan probably went to the house, but Susan and her friends have decided to go boating.
Nancy arrives and finds the front door unlocked. After a bit, Nancy sees Susan come in. She is wet, and instead of greeting or responding to her mom she just smiles and walks past her upstairs. Nancy follows her as she slowly walks away, asking questions. Meanwhile John arrives home, and sees Susan’s friends dragging a body out of the water.
Nancy continues to follow what appears to be Susan, but Susan slams the door on her and locks it as John starts to run towards the body, realizing it is Susan and she has drowned.
Nancy comes outside to see an ambulance pulling up, and insists that the body that is obviously Susan is not her daughter because her daughter is in the house. Nancy runs around the house, hysterically looking around for the daughter that we know is dead.
John has a nightmare of Susan’s deformed body jumping out at him from the Well to Hell. Nancy is in total denial, ironing Susan’s favorite blouse and talking about getting her a cashmere sweater for her birthday.
Dr. Elliot West (aka that guy from the beginning of the film) convinces John to let him do a real paranormal investigation in the house in order to hopefully figure out once and for all if it is haunted, and hopefully to provide closure for Nancy.
During the investigation, Nancy waits in Susan’s room and sees a glowing purple blob. She follows it to the basement, where it hangs over the now bubbling well. Dr. Elliot peers into the Well to Hell, and…you know how people say it is more effective to not show the unseen monster? This is probably why:
Elliot manages to scream “Save yourself Susan!” at the purple blob while being dragged into the Well to Hell.
Then the house freaks out and blows itself up. How on earth will the franchise survive? But alas, we get our answer that the REAL evil of Amityville lives on:
It’s the fly. That’s the real evil.
- This film has a new composer, Howard Blake. The soundtrack sounds more like a 50s Vincent Price vehicle with its sweeping chords and violins. In general this movie feels like an older horror film. Perhaps the studio thought the 3D aspect would intrigue audiences who were drawn to 3D crazes in earlier decades.
- There is an interesting level of self awareness and meta commentary in this film. Although the DeFeo murders are a part of the original film, it really doesn’t get referenced much beyond establishing bad vibes. In contrast, this film mentions the house’s sordid history a few times.
- It is interesting to see what details get baked into the essential mythology of a horror franchise over time based on iconic scenes. Obviously for Amityville, that fly scene in the original won out as a key element.
- The subplot with Susan and her friends is reminiscent of a teen occult/ghost movie setup, which is an interesting flavor for an Amityville movie. I wonder if any of the later sequels will play around with teen horror tropes.
Despite amusing 3D gimmicks and an intriguing premise this movie IS SO BORING! It really drags, and I had to force myself to pay attention even during the climax. Once again, I would have to say just skip this one like moviegoers did. On a $6 million budget, it only earned $6.3 million. It just managed to get above a 0% on Rotten Tomatoes in 2019 thanks to ONE review:
This flopped so hard the next film was a made for TV movie, and the rest of the franchise went straight to video until 2005’s remake of the original. Will Amityville 4: The Evil Escapes rise above its predecessor? We will find out next time.