Amityville II: The Possession (1982)

The Amityville Horror was one of the most successful horror films, as well as one of the most successful independent films ever made.  It's hard to understand that now, years after the book has unfortunately been largely forgotten and the the claims made by George and Kathleen Lutz have been disproven.  It made for a lot of hype, as well as a popular haunted house story, but over the years became quite the joke.  Buried under the weight of its sequels and spinoffs it seems like anything that could be milked from it has.

Still, with all the money the first made, it was inevitable that a second would show up at some point.  Problem was, no one after the Lutzes had any troubles with the house, despite the fact that Ronald Defeo, Jr. murdered his entire family there.  Of course there was one direction to go as no one had made a movie about the Defeo murders themselves.  Unfortunately, although Defeo claimed he heard voices as one of a number of attempts he made throughout the years to try to escape prison time for the killings, there was nothing outright supernatural about what happened.  Defeo already had a criminal record, the family had rumored mob ties and the father was known to be verbally and physically abusive.  Violence of some sort was bound to happen with the Defeos. 

Cue Hans Holzer, and his book Murder in Amityville.  Written in 1979, undoubtedly to cash in on the popularity of the first film that year, it got around the whole lack of supernatural activity by making stuff up.  In Holzer's book Ronald Defeo Jr. was possessed and murdered them against his will.  Thus, the legends about the house were perpetuated, and the book was adapted - quite loosely - for Amityville II: The Possession.

The Montelli family - father Anthony (Burt Young), mother Delores (Rutanya Alda), older siblings Sonny (Jack Magner) and Patricia (Diane Franklin) and twins Jan and Mark (Erika and Brent Katz) - move into the home at 112 Ocean Ave.  Before they have even unpacked blood is flowing from the faucet, paint brushes are floating around and writing on the walls and a mud-and-feces filled gate to the netherworld is found under the house.  Anthony, who is already physically abusive toward his wife and children, becomes even more agitated, while an entity starts taking over Sonny and making him turn against his family.

Father Adamsky (James Olson), the Montelli's new priest, becomes concerned about what is happening in the house after Patricia makes confession and after observing Sonny's behavior.  He tries to convince his superiors that Sonny may be possessed, but they refuse to authorize an exorcism.  As a result, Sonny murders his family, but the demon doesn't leave.  Instead it remains behind to taunt Father Adamsky, who soon begins his own crusade to save the boy from the evil spirit.

At the beginning it seems like Amityville II has everything the first movie lacked.  Everything starts happening at once, and though this was based on the Defeo murders and Holzer's book the movie doesn't even try to pretend any of it is real or make any connection with the first movie other than it being the same house.  The Defeo murders occurred in 1974, while everything here happens specifically in 1982; no attempt was made to make a period piece.  And, as Dino De Laurentiis was the one producing, it is pure exploitation.  

Though written by Tommy Lee Wallace director Damiano Damiani made many changes, including adding in the infamous incest plot between Sonny and Patricia.  By all accounts it was originally a lot nastier than what it turned out to be, but what did make it past test screenings is everything one would expect from an Italian horror film.  An entire scene of the entity pursuing Sonny looks right out of a giallo, while things often just happen without any attempt to explain why or how it makes sense to the plot.  Surprisingly, unlike a lot of Italian films, Amityville II manages to stay pretty much focused between both plotlines in the movie.

I say both because, while this movie is definitely the best Amityville movie made, it still manages to let audiences down.  The first part is full of explosive family drama, possession, ghosts and sexual tension, while after the murders happen - way too early in the film - the remainder becomes a cheap knockoff of The Exorcist until it reaches the finale, which includes some decent makeup and effects work even if it doesn't exactly fit with what came before it.  Unfortunately, the last 10 minutes could have been integrated into the first part without a lot of the latter portion of the movie existing and, though it would have probably come in under 90 minutes, the movie would be a nasty, but satisfying, piece of work.  It would still have had Siskel and Ebert clutching their pearls, but it would be viewed as one of the better horror films of the time.

Instead, there is nearly 35 to 40 minutes of a story tacked on that doesn't need to be there.  Despite this the movie is still viewed favorably by a number of horror fans.  While The Amityville Horror has its place in film history any love for it quickly faded once many people realized that it wasn't very good.  Amityville II, on the other hand, had the workings of becoming a cult favorite, and also had pretty decent performances in it as well.  It's just too bad it didn't know at what point it was time to bow out gracefully - something that could be said for this series of movies in general. 

Amityville II: The Possession (1982)
Time: 104 minutes
Starring: Jack Magner, Diane Franklin, James Olson, Burt Young, Rutanya Alda
Director: Damiano Damiani



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