The Amityville Horror Trilogy: Amityville II: The Possession Blu-ray Review
Written by ZigZag
Blu-ray released by Scream Factory
Directed by Damiano Damiani
Written by Tommy Lee Wallace
1982, Region A, 104minutes, Rated R
Blu-ray released on October 1st, 2013
James Olson as Father Adamsky
Burt Young as Anthony Montelli
Rutanya Alda as Dolores Montelli
Jack Magner as Sonny
Diane Franklin as Patricia
Andrew Prine as Father Tom
Moses Gunn as Detective Turner
In 1974, Ronald DeFeo murdered his parents and four siblings at their house in New York. He called 911 and reported the crime, but when police arrived he claimed no knowledge of the killings. DeFeo was arrested and charged with the murders, and at his trial he stated he was instructed by voices to kill his family. Nevertheless, he was convicted and remains incarcerated to this day. The following year, George and Kathy Lutz purchased the house but fled within a month, claiming the place was haunted. The Amityville Horror (1979) was based on Jay Anson's best-selling novel, but downplayed the "based on a true story" angle. That film's success awoke the greed of producers who wanted a sequel, but nothing significant has happened at the house in the years since the Lutzes' occupancy. Perhaps the house hated only the Lutz family. A second film was going to happen one way or another and screenwriter Tommy Lee Wallace (Halloween III) approached the material as a prequel that chronicled the DeFeo murders, but changed the name to the Montelli family.
Our story begins as Anthony and Dolores arrive with their four children at their new house in Amityville. The two older siblings Sonny and Patricia are happy teenagers despite their father's frequent verbal and physical abuse. Anthony will not be undermined under his own roof and if he has to occasionally beat his wife and kids, so be it. Dolores notices something unnatural about the house and seeks help from the church. Father Adamsky arrives to bless the unhappy home but is swiftly evicted by the family patriarch. Sonny begins hearing voices that urge him to kill and he tries his best to resist. Given that the events that inspired the picture are well-documented, it is not much of a spoiler to reveal that things end badly for his parents and siblings. The film switches gears radically and becomes an Exorcist knock-off with Adamsky seeking church permission to perform an exorcism on the boy.
Amityville II: The Possession is a lot more effective than the original Amityville Horror. as the majority of the running time is grounded in reality. The focus is on domestic violence, incest and murder as opposed to evil flies, invisible friends and mutant demon pigs. Sure the film shits the bed when it comes to a spectacular belly flop of a final act filled with screaming demons and lots of silly religious hocus pocus, but the first hour is surprisingly tense. Director Damiano Damiani (Massacre Play) scores points right off the bat with increasingly stylized camera work that adds an additional level of unease to the proceedings. The story plays as both a prequel and a somewhat sequel in that the content is familiar, but the time period is off and the ending leaves a lot more questions than necessary. It is mildly surprising the filmmakers dropped the dynamic of the physical similarities between DeFeo and Lutz by making Sonny a clean-cut kid as opposed to the shaggy George.
The cast this time around is mostly solid with only a few duds in the mix. Jack Magner is in a bit over his head as Sonny, but is effectively creepy when it counts. Burt Young (Rocky) excels in his role as the detestable Anthony Montelli, a misguided man with a quick temper who never learns from his mistakes. Rutanya Alda (Christmas Evil) does best when her character Dolores is upset and luckily there are enough grabby ghosts and family meltdowns to keep her in a constant panic. The standout actress, however, is the wonderful Diane Franklin (TerrorVision) as Patricia, the unfortunate recipient of the brunt of the terrors. She gives an emotionally charged performance, highlighted in both an awkward birthday party scene and then the confessional booth afterward. James Olson (Commando) is moderately successful as Father Adamsky, better suited to the earlier scenes before the character goes rogue and takes matters into his own hands. Legendary actors Moses Gunn (Firestarter) and Andrew Prine (The Town That Dreaded Sundown) turn up in brief supporting roles and own every minute of screen time they have.
Amityville II: The Possession is the rare sequel that is superior to the film that preceded it, but could have been even stronger had the filmmakers followed the murders with a trial and ended with the house being placed back on the market. There is enough solid content in the first hour to easily recommend this creepy picture.
Video and Audio:
Amityville II is presented in the original 1.85:1 aspect ratio and has never looked better. The print is in respectable shape with minor damage, but features strong colors and natural looking flesh tones. Contrast and black levels are greatly improved over the earlier murky VHS transfers that made certain sequences difficult to follow.
The default DTS-HD MA 5.1 track makes good use of the surrounds when they're needed, particularly in the sequences involving the voices Sonny hears. There are some nice directional sound effects around the house and the music cues are equally effective. Dialogue remains clear and free of distortion. The original mono mix is nicely preserved in this DTS-HD MA 2.0 track. English subtitles are provided.
Parapsychologist Dr. Hanz Holzer wrote the book Murders in Amityville that inspired this film. His daughter Alexandra Holzer, has continued to pursue her father's work in paranormal research and offers a commentary track for this release. Had the gang at Scream Factory included a moderator (possibly screenwriter Tommy Lee Wallace) to keep things moving, this could have resulted in a nice discussion. Unfortunately, the solo track from Holzer is the most boring (and disappointing) missed opportunity offered in years. There is more awkward silence than content and the track is pretty worthless unless it is being used as occasional descriptive services to the visually impaired.
Recently deceased director Damiano Damiani shares his memories of the film in The Possession of Damiani (6 minutes), a featurette in Italian with English subtitles. The man is sharp and his stories of working as a gun-for-hire are entertaining, he will be missed.
Tommy Lee Wallace steps into the chair for Adapting Amityville (12 minutes), an excellent interview in which the screenwriter discusses his approach to the material as a prequel and his enthusiasm in working with legendary producer Dino de Laurentiis.
Family Matters (14 minutes) offers the reflections of actress Diane Franklin who speaks candidly about the more salacious aspects of the script. She is instantly likeable and her tales from the set are quite entertaining.
In the next featurette, A Mother's Burden (14 minutes), Rutanya Alda remembers her awkward audition and working with members of the cast and crew. Like Franklin before her, she immediately appears charming and sincere in her memories.
The legendary Andrew Prine stops in briefly for the short segment Father Tom's Memories (4 minutes) and if there is a flaw in this segment, it is simply that it isn't four times longer. To be fair however, his screen time is limited and it is awesome that Scream Factory included his thoughts on the subject.
Alexandra Holzer returns for the extended featurette Continuing the Hunt (28 minutes) in which she discusses her late father's work and his insight into the origins of the Amityville crimes.
The original trailer and TV spots are paired with a nice selection of promotional stills.