The Amityville Horror Trilogy: Amityville 3-D Blu-ray Review
Written by ZigZag
Blu-ray released by Scream Factory
Directed by Richard Fleischer
Written by William Wales
1983, Region A, 93 minutes, Rated PG
Blu-ray released on October 1st, 2013
Tony Roberts as John Baxter
Tess Harper as Nancy Baxter
Candy Clark as Melanie
Robert Joy as Elliot West
Lori Loughlin as Susan
Meg Ryan as Lisa
John Beal as Harold Caswell
Leora Dana as Emma Caswell
John Baxter is a gotcha journalist with a specialty in exposing hoaxes in the field of paranormal activity. His latest conquest is the Amityville murder house that, with the help of his trusted photographer Melanie, he has managed to expose as a scam involving reaching out to deceased relatives. Upset by the imminent bad publicity, the realtor offers to sell John the house for such a low cost that the deal is closed within twenty-four hours. Having recently separated from his wife Nancy, John decides to use this new location as a place to write his long-delayed novel. He offers his daughter Susan a room upstairs and she agrees over her mother's objections. Susan's friends are curious about the house and want to goof around with a Ouija board and she reluctantly humors them. Soon, the Amityville spirits are up to their old tricks and trouble quickly follows.
John remains ridiculously clueless despite the increasing number of accidents and deaths closing in around his inner circle of friends and family. Everybody else is either frightened or killed when they visit, but he is virtually ignored by the evil spirits of the house. It is only when Nancy begins freaking out about seeing a ghost that John agrees to invite a team of paranormal scientists inside to investigate. Their tests reveal a presence in the basement and science will finally face the supernatural in this dynamic conclusion of the original Amityville trilogy.
There was a brief resurgence in 3-D technology in the early 1980s and Hollywood unleashed such classic fare as Friday the 13th Part III - 3D, Jaws 3-D, Parasite and Metalstorm, to name a few. The Amityville franchise seemed like a perfect fit for the thrills of a haunted house paired with ghoulish images reaching for viewers. While contemporary 3-D cinema aims for depth of field, these titles featured in-your-face shenanigans like tossing a Frisbee at the camera. Unfortunately, more attention was paid to the effects than the script and what followed was something that merely disappointed audiences.
Amityville 3-D plays like a PG-rated variation on the original film, in which our protagonist remains unaffected by the spirits. The red room portal to hell was replaced in the sequel by a doggy door that opened a tunnel to hell and in this third incarnation there is a giant open well in the basement of the house. The flies are back in the attic and busier than ever, but this sequel avoids any direct religious imagery. There are some nods to The Omen regarding photographic evidence of the supernatural, but the house is more content with revealing itself through extreme drops in temperature. The script, written by David E. Ambrose (under the pseudonym William Wales), contains a few ideas that should have been further explored, but does include at least one genuinely unsettling moment involving an apparition on the staircase.
Director Richard Fleischer (Fantastic Voyage) is really out of his element here and while accustomed to working with visual effects, is surprisingly ineffective working with humans. Tony Roberts (Annie Hall) is both wooden and silly as John Baxter, with a particular low point during the sequence featuring a malfunctioning elevator. Tess Harper (Tender Mercies) sleepwalks through the majority of the picture until Nancy's third act meltdown. The always-welcome Candy Clark (Q: The Winged Serpent) is immediately likeable as Melanie, the under-appreciated photographer, a testament to the actress whose character spends a lot of time trying to figure out how to open doors in an empty house. Robert Joy (Land of the Dead) is wasted for the majority of the feature but manages some awesome moves in the final moments. Also walking through the paces are Lori Loughlin (The New Kids) and Meg Ryan (Joe vs. the Volcano) as Susan and her friend Lisa respectively, neither leaving a lasting impression. The entire cast is above the material, but none will be remembered for their work in this movie.
While Amityville 3-D marked the end of theatrical releases for the franchise for twelve years, the time leading up to the 2005 remake was filled with five more sequels and countless documentaries. When released on home video the title was changed to Amityville: The Demon, as it was no longer in 3-D. This installment is easily the weakest of the original trilogy, but deserves a repeat viewing, especially now that the visual gags are once again allowed to play as originally intended.
Video and Audio:
Amityville 3-D is presented in the original 2.35:1 aspect ratio but is a bit wonky. The print is in respectable shape with minor damage, but whether viewed in 2-D or 3-D, the photography leaves several sequences slightly blurry while certain hard edges (of windows or trees) are trimmed with either red or blue. Viewing the film in 3-D is not entirely successful in that the image is never completely clean. Titles feature ghosting on the lettering and there is a slight overlap on some of the protruding effects. The earlier DVD transfer is actually cleaner and features a different main title design.
The default DTS-HD MA 5.1 track is not as impressive here as in the earlier installments of the series. There are only occasional directional sound effects but the music cues make nice use of all channels. Dialogue remains clear and free of distortion. The original mono mix is preserved in a DTS-HD MA 2.0 track. English subtitles are provided.
The best supplement fans could ask for is the inclusion of the film in its original 3-D presentation on a proper Blu-ray 3-D and Scream Factory scores big with the inclusion here. Despite some shortcomings listed in the video section above, it is still a fantastic addition to this release. Thank you, Scream Factory!
Actress Candy Clark shares numerous memories from the film in the featurette A Chilly Reception (10 minutes). Her stories include filming in Mexico City, working with the director and special effects, among others. She is always likeable and her time here is well spent.
The original trailer is paired with a promotional photo gallery.
Scream Factory presents these three films together in one box set, marking the format debut of the two sequels. The titles are not available individually at this time, but the collection is an awesome addition to homes whether they are haunted or not!