Crimson Quill’s Appraisal #38
Number of Views: Multiple
Release Date: September 24, 1982
Sub-Genre: Supernatural/Haunted House
Country of Origin: United States, Mexico
Box Office: $11,328,000 (USA)
Running Time: 100 minutes
Director: Damiano Damiani
Producers: Dino De Laurentiis, Stephen R Greenwald, Ira N Smith
Screenplay: Hans Holzer, Tommy Lee Wallace, Dardano Sacchetti
Based on: Murder in Amityville by Hans Holzer
Special Effects: Glen Robinson
Cinematography: Franco Di Giacomo
Score: Lalo Schifrin
Editing: Sam O’Steen
Studio: Dino De Laurentiis Company, Media Transactions
Distributor: Orion Pictures (Embassy Home Entertainment)
Stars: James Olson, Jack Magner, Burt Young, Rutanya Alda, Diane Franklin, Andrew Prine, Moses Gunn, Erika Katz, Brent Katz, Ted Ross
Suggested Audio Candy:
Lalo Schifrin Possessed Again?
It is often said that moving home is one of the most traumatic endeavors in life you can undertake; especially when you have a whole family to consider. Aside from the laborious task of relocating boxes of sentimental junk the likes of which you doubtless won’t see again until the next time you pack up your belongings and other similarly mind-numbing labour, there’s also the whole getting to know you period to consider. It takes time to learn the sounds of a new residence. Each house has its own audio, breathing pattern and persona all of its own.
It’s a two-way deal as the structure itself needs to recalibrate to any new arrivals and sometimes the chemistry just isn’t present. Certain dwellings only reveal themselves to select individuals; possibly those more susceptible to their nuances. When the property you’ve procured is none other than the most reviled house in modern cinema, Amityville, these teething problems can be a helluva lot worse. Indeed, throw in an authoritarian father figure and the welcome mat is rolled up once and for all.
The tagline to this movie speaks volumes. After James Brolin and Margot Kidder barely escaped with their lives and last remaining slither of sanity in tact, the hell house in question vowed to make the lives of its next occupants far more bothersome. Actually, Damiano Damiani’s Amityville II: The Possession is a prequel of events but the sentiment still very much stands in retrospect. Determined to make amends for allowing the Lutz family to slip through its fixtures and fittings, Amityville is ready to go one better this time and, in disposable teen Sonny Montelli, it has the ideal vessel with which to channel its mischievous wrongdoings.
At first glance the Montellis appear to be a pretty typical Italian-American family and they taunt, tease and bicker between themselves like any other litter. On the whole, their sibling rivalry is hale and hearty and, by all accounts, they are just a regular suburban brood. Once you scratch a little deeper beneath the surface however, cracks begin to materialize. Pops Anthony (Burt Young) is an unapproachable bully and rules his roost with a leather belt, his long-suffering wife Dolores (Ruda Alda) is terrifed to fart in case it flares up her husband’s sinuses, and couple’s kids are only too aware what happens behind closed doors. No wonder the “dream home” in question feels it necessary to fight back.
Before we settle in any further, allow me to enlighten you on the glorious Diane Franklin. As the eighties wore on, this young lady quickly emerged through the ranks; earning plum roles in an assortment of teen comedies (most notably as French exchange student Monique Junot in Savage Steve Holland’s delightful coming-of-age comedy Better Off Dead). Franklin had a real girl next door quality about her; an all too rare vulnerability that made us want to shelter her from harm. For a handful of years she became an All-American advocate for the era, appearing in commercial campaigns for Coke, Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups, Trident and Jell-o as well as reciting the national anthem at the Dodgers Stadium to the pleasure of every red-blooded American male.
However, it all came to an abrupt end in 1991 after years feeling increasingly disillusioned by the number of roles she was offered that required her to shed her linen. Every time she received a script, there would be some form of nude scene to reenact and Franklin sought the labor so, to begin with, took these gigs as a means to an end. Eventually it all grew a little too much and she decided to take some time away to focus on other pursuits. Nowadays she is a little more fuzzy round the edges but still warm and salient and I still regularly fantasize about her return to the silver screen.
Here she plays sweet-natured teenager Patricia and, from the first time she flashes that winning smile, we just want to take her into our bosom. Patricia has two younger siblings but more conspicuous is the bond she shares with her older brother Sonny (Jack Magner). Without doubt, the relationship between Patricia and Sonny is the most potent explored here and likely the reason why Amityville II: The Possession courted controversy upon its release.
Naturally very close; one particular moment stands out as it explores the underlying sexual tension between the siblings. Patricia looks up to her big brother and considers him a role-model so, when he suggests that they engage in a little harmless role-play in her boudoir, she sees no harm or foul in granting him his one wish. However, once Sonny requests that she remove her nightdress “just for a second”, events start to take a decidedly uncomfortable turn.
Franklin perfectly portrays the susceptible and trusting young girl who, try as she may, cannot deny the twinge within her haunch. However Damiani, poised somewhat precariously on dangerous ground, elects to sidestep this union and allows their tryst to change integrity. While Patricia’s hymen remains in tact, their bond is perpetually altered in a split-second and their lust-driven liaison is never again touched upon. Her maidenhood may not have been taken but her innocence is most certainly compromised and Franklin conveys her defencelessness with shattering intensity.
Meanwhile, Sonny’s steady decline throughout the course of the movie is no less well documented. He looks kind of squalid, mincing around the house in his blue wife beater and well-hoisted denims, and looking increasingly unhinged as we edge ever closer to a remarkably savage conclusion. Once the house has taken full charge, there is precious little of Sonny remaining and the realization begins to set in that Italian-American brood really aren’t going to get lucky as the tagline implies. Even the intervention of respected clergyman Father Adamsky (James Olson) cannot halt the youngster’s slide into depravity as Sonny facilitates a jarring mass execution without so much as flinching.
Amityville II: The Possession is a grimy little picture that leaves you feeling discontented and ridden with angst. However, that is very much the point and we aren’t expected to be full of the joys of spring come its completion. Damiani chronicles the carnage unflinchingly and his film leaves its mark for sometime afterwards. Granted, the father figure in question is abusive, a bullying bastard who fully warrants his termination but the moment where we are forced to watch Patricia’s inanimate cadaver staring blankly back at us from within her bloodied body bag is desolate and disenchanting in the extreme, packing a significant kidney punch.
It hammers home the atrocities which have occurred, more so when you consider this is loosely based on the real-life events of 112 Ocean Avenue, Long Island where Ronald Defeo Jr dispatched his entire family claiming that influential voices within his head instructed him to do so. Not exactly light entertainment then and unlikely to be repeat-viewed habitually but Damiani’s piece is effectual and provocative and, in essence, the truest version of events within that frightful devil’s palace. It is accurate to say that a house witnesses everything that happens between its bricks and mortar but in Amityville we have a structure capable of exposing people’s mental frailties and influencing their actions. And it is sure as shit one house I would not wish to take up residence in.
Crimson Quill’s Judgement: 8/10
Grue Rating: 4/5
For the Grue-Guzzlers & Pelt-Nuzzlers: Glen Robinson’s FX work during Sonny’s ultimate transformation is well realized and gloriously schlocky and Amityville II: The Possession is far more brutal than any other entry in this long-running series, and a darned sight more thought-provoking to boot. The climax where Sonny unleashes his pure channeled rage is barbaric without quite crossing the line into unnecessary sadism although it treads a fine line, truth be known. Mercifully, Damiani thinks better of it and the massacre is no less horrific as a result of his restraint. Meanwhile, Franklin once again doesn’t make it through the duration with her clothes in tact although this time the lens remains respectful.
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Copyright: Crimson Quill: Savage Vault Enterprises 2013 (Revised Edition 2015)