Is It Worth It? The Amityville Curse (1990)

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.

The Amityville Curse (1990)

From IMDb: Five people spend the night in an abandoned house, the Amityville haunted house, and soon find themselves terrorized by assorted ghosts, venomous insects and ghostly apparitions.

This direct to video sequel came out only a year after the made for television film Amityville 4: The Evil Escapes The Haunted Lamp. This sequel sits at a 2.9 on IMDb, making it the lowest score of any film in the series.

Like three of the previous films, this one is based on a book titled The Amityville Curse by Hans Holzer (the same author who penned Murder in Amityville which was the basis for the second film). The book is a fictional thriller about a group of friends who disturb the spirits of the house.

I should probably note that some people believe the film is about a different haunted house in Amityville due to it 1) obviously being a completely different house and 2) the vastly different backstory of it previously being a rectory. I think based on the poster’s tagline and the creepy basement space I would consider it the same house that went through a massive remodel. I will even explain the rectory by assuming a priest lived there to try and guard against the evil coming back again.

Is there anything redeemable about this movie? Let’s find out.

Recap:

We start behind the gate of…a house this time. Sadly we are missing the windows that looked like eyes.

A priest is living in the house. His housekeeper Mrs. Moriarty comes in ready to restart the plague by displaying a dead rat in a trap like she is an expert big game hunter.

She is the best character in the film so buckle in folks!

She reminds the priest he needs to go do confessionals. Unfortunately, his first parishioner smokes in the booth before shooting the priest in the face. The dramatic opening quickly unveils an even bigger mystery…why are some of the characters’ names in quotes in the opening credits?

Are you or are you not playing Bill?

The film jumps to twelve years later, and we meet Marvin (who is the WORST) and his wife Debbie.

They are rushing to meet an agent in Amityville about some kind of vague deal Marvin wants to tend to. Marvin seems like he may be a real estate agent or developer in the first two scenes, and then his entire personality inexplicably changes. From then on he is a condescending psychologist for the rest of the film. I sincerely think the script was rewritten between scenes – that is how jarring the differences are.

Although they are supposed to be looking at a different place in Amityville, Debbie is inexplicably drawn to what is supposed to be the Amityville house. Marvin sees a “For Sale” sign and quickly decides this is an incredible opportunity. He continuously talks over Debbie about it being a fixer upper, and how they can ask their friends Bill and Abby to help them buy and flip it.

Next thing you know three other grown ass adults are inexplicably moving in with them. We have Bill, Abby, and Abby’s new husband Frank. And Debbie sees something terribly spooky…this regular looking guy and a dog!

That’s the scare.

After they explore the house a bit to assess the amount of work needed, Abby and Frank decide to try and christen the newly purchased house.

Not sure if they know how sex works.

Later that night, the friends hangout in the living room and eat dinner. Debbie excuses herself to use the bathroom and Marvin “helpfully” gives her an unlit candelabra because they haven’t gotten the power working yet.

Sometimes I take screenshots just so you know I’m not making stuff up

Debbie sees a cat and I was SO excited thinking it was the possessed cat from the end of the last movie before remembering that cat was in California.

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Still, I have to believe if the Amityville demon can drive a car, melt a priest’s hand with a phone, and make an elevator in an entirely different building malfunction it can probably summon its demon cat home all the way from California.

Debbie follows the cat into the basement but hears it hiss and runs back up, not telling anyone there might be a feral cat.

The friends decide to hangout by the fireplace and toast to their decision to buy the place and OH MY GOD HOW HARD DID YOU PEOPLE TOAST?

Later that night Debbie keeps hearing strange sounds and goes to investigate alone in the middle of the night.

Michael Scott Whispering Dont" by fireable | Redbubble

The house decides to engage in some good old Mad Libs: Haunted House Edition antics but on a shoestring budget this time. It starts by lighting a fire…in the fireplace. It then knocks a crucifix off the wall because as we know this house does not like crucifixes.

A tarantula crawls over to a hidden room in the basement that seems to be the same spooky room from previous films. Inside, Debbie finds the confessional booth the priest was murdered in (don’t ask why it wasn’t destroyed – there is no logic). She sees a human figure trying to push its way out of it.

They are going for a lot at the same time but not doing well with any of it.

A zombie-like figure grabs her but she suddenly wakes up. We are now in “it was only a dream…or was it?” territory.

We see Bill using Chekhov’s malfunctioning nail gun to repair the kitchen, and then Abby makes a dramatic declaration to her friends she has something to show them all. She unveils her new painting of Marvin. Debbie comments on how “life-like” it is which makes me think Debbie has a deep misunderstanding of life:

But enough of this pointless plot filler because the greatest character in this movie is back. Mrs. Moriarty shows UP and shows OUT. And by that I mean she literally just wanders into the house talking cryptic nonsense. She introduces herself and pulls out her fake eye just in case people were wondering about it. No one was wondering about it.

The explanation no one asked for, and the missed 3D opportunity we all deserve.

In the next scene, she is just walking around drinking a beer and holding the cat Debbie saw earlier.

Mrs. Moriarty is channeling my pandemic energy real hard in this scene.
Everyday since March 13th 2020 in my household

Bill tells Frank he needs to come inside and see the weirdness with Mrs. Moriarty. But Frank is strangely reluctant and instead chooses to stay outside and smoke in the first of many over the top hints that Frank is the priest killer from the beginning of the film.

We then get some scenes of Marvin belittling his friends while they are trying to be productive. These scenes are mainly meant to introduce Chekhov’s JVC camcorder.

Bill and Marvin discover the hidden room from Debbie’s dream, and after a long day of working on the house the group decides to go out to a local bar Mrs. Moriarty mentioned. But not before books fly at Debbie.

Butterfly in the sky, I can go twice as high…take a look, it’s in a book, Reading Rainbow!

Frank witnesses this happening, and has no reaction other than to menacingly look on while telling Debbie Marvin is looking for her.

Hmmm I wonder if the movie is hinting Frank is secretly evil?

True to her word, Mrs. Moriarty is getting lit at the local bar. She even pays for group’s first round.

Marvin decides to antagonize a pair of local men about their superstitious beliefs about the Amityville house. Abby is also dismissive of anything supernatural, but Debbie and Bill don’t seem as convinced. We also learn Bill’s restaurant is still doing well. Does any of this matter to the plot? No.

Frank stays home because of a migraine, and when they return Abby finds him passed out in cold water. He cries and claims the whispers are talking to him again, and cold water used to be the only thing to quiet them. It’s actually one of the only moments I really appreciate in the film since it shows a surprising amount of vulnerability from a male character.

A tantula nearly makes it into Bill’s mouth in the middle of the night. And Debbie has a vision of the young man she saw outside at the beginning hanging himself. She wakes up and furiously ghost writes about what she saw in her dream while Marvin looks annoyed.

Can you maybe try to help or comfort your wife?

The next day the ghost is being a stage five clinger with Debbie while trying to ensure she got the message.

WHAT ARE YOU WAITING FOR?! WHAT ARE YOU WAITING FOR?!?!

Mrs. Moriarity decides to surprise visit again, giving the group one final piece of Mrs. Moriarty realness when no one responds to her greeting.

I love this character and I will fight to protect her.

Unfortunately Mrs. Moriarty is very vulnerable to gentle pushes and dies while issuing one of the most bizarre screams I have ever heard in a film. The movie can only go downhill from here.

Okay I hope we all know this is Frank. Do the filmmakers honestly think this is a twist?

Meanwhile, Debbie is still doing her best Jennifer Love Hewitt/IKWYDLS impression nearly a decade before it was a thing. She is now screaming at a vision of the young man who hung himself.

I don’t think he’s going to answer you Debbie.

They call the authorities when they find Mrs. Moriarty’s body, and a detective mentions they arrested a neighborhood delinquent for the murder of the priest, but he hung himself before they could get a confession out of him. Debbie overhears this and has a breakdown. She also has a Dreamgirls moment of realizing Marvin is a dick and storms away from him when he calls her hysterical.

Abby dresses up like the spirit of Christmas and announces she is leaving because beyond the fact a woman DIED in the house, even Abby is convinced something supernatural is happening.

Abby is exasperated to discover the car has a flat tire, and states she is going to take Bill’s motorcycle to go get another tire and that they better be packed and ready to go when she returns. Marvin tries to talk back but if Debbie is at Beyonce Listen level, Abby is at Beyonce Irreplaceable level because she is like “you better shut up and go pack.” And he does. Abby is now my new favorite character.

We finally get the “reveal” that Frank indeed was the one who murdered the priest because the priest had an affair with Frank’s mother and abandoned them both. The flashback scenes are overlaid with audio of Debbie moaning in anguish as she sees what happened in her nightmares.

Meanwhile, Shitty Husband Extraordinaire Marvin goes down to the basement and finds a bunch of candles lit near the confessional booth before Frank shoves him into the booth and locks the door.

Thanks to Mrs. Moriarty accidently knocking over Chekhov’s JVC camcorder and inadvertently recording her own death the police realize they are dealing with a murder not an accident. Speaking of murder, Debbie goes downstairs and sees blood pooling at the bottom of the confessional booth. She then steps in it with her bare foot.

I’m begging you to stop Debbie.

She finds Marvin’s dead body. THANK GOODNESS! I know Debbie needs to look sad about this but come on – everyone is pumped Marvin is dead.

Frank steps out from around a corner with a gun. At first Debbie tries to reason with him, but then hits the keys on piano which causes Frank to recoil? Then she throws paint thinner on half his face which instantly disfigures him. At this point he seems fully possessed.

Debbie finds Bill and realizes he is dead…somehow. It sort of looks like Frank might have slit his throat but it is hard to tell and the movie doesn’t seem to care enough to tell us.

All Debbie has to do is run out the house. Yet she keeps choosing to run around in various rooms and attempt to hide and occasionally fight back. I get that this is supposed to be her final girl character arc, but it isn’t earned. Instead, it just feels needlessly dangerous.

At one point, she sneaks away from Frank as he is about to leave the room. Debbie decides this is a good time to try and hit him with a buzzsaw blade.

To her credit, she does manage to get him in the leg with a second buzzsaw blade, and then proceeds to hide in a closet instead of using the opportunity to run out of the house. Then she freaks out and gives her spot away for no reason.

But at last Debbie finally seems to kill him with Chekhov’s nail gun from earlier in the film.

Abby finally comes back just in time for Frank to reveal he is not dead, but before he can kill her Debbie stabs him and the confessional booth downstairs blows up in excitement.

Debbie and Abby are now the lone survivors of the ordeal. They are driven away in police custody, and the house’s attic lights seem to go on themselves while oddly happy instrumental music plays.

Random Observations:

  • The first Amityville film to not feature evil flies or be numbered in the series.
  • Another first is exploring some of the town itself a bit more by having the characters go to the local bar. There’s definitely a small town culture present in this one that wasn’t in the earlier ones.
  • It again explores the antagonistic relationship between the evil spirit in the house and Catholicism. Unlike the previous film that just sort of made the priest ineffectual, this one actually has the priest harboring a dark secret of having impregnated and abandoned a woman. It will be interesting to see if any further films go back to a more positive depiction of the priests like the heroic Father Adamsky in the second film.
  • There are so many frustrating horror films that depict a group of people who we are told are friends but seem to despise one another. At least in this movie, I can justify these people being friends. What I can’t understand is Debbie and Marvin’s relationship. Marvin is so terrible he gives Trevor from Candyman a run for his money.
  • Mrs. Moriarty is a delightful change of pace of a harbinger in this type of movie. One of the only good lines in this film is when she tells Debbie, “in life, he opened his house to the sinner. and in death, he still compels the sinner to come.”
  • Although I gave most my love to Mrs. Moriarty, I also really like Abby as a character. She seems to be the borderline equivalent of the “slutty” archetype despite being a newlywed bride, so I was happily surprised when she survived the film along with Debbie.
Abby would definitely be blasting “WAP” if this took place in 2020, and the crucifix would probably just cover itself

Verdict:

This film isn’t worth a watch, but it isn’t outright unwatchable. I was worried that there would be issues with the sound design or lighting with such an abysmal IMDb rating, but it is mainly just cheap and boring. I think the main culprit here is a script that inadvertently resists any attempts to help us identify with the characters, especially Debbie who is seems positioned to be the main character. Debbie comes across in a way that is almost childlike and it is very off putting as a result. The final confrontation feels like a cheap variation of the shocking murders in the second film, and it nearly borders on slapstick at times.

I’m not sure what this film is trying to be, but it doesn’t succeed at at.

As the saying goes, it is always the darkest hour before the dawn. Part of the reason I wanted to do this series in particular is because the sixth film is literally called Amityville: It’s About Time which is one of the silliest subtitles I have ever heard. Time for what? I’m guessing another mediocre direct-to-video film with lower production standards than the somewhat star-powered TV movie Amityville 4. Only one way to find out.

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