Damiano Damiani, 1982
Starring: James Olson, Jack Magner, Burt Young, Rutanya Alda
The six members of the Montelli family move into a house in Amityville: parents Anthony and Dolores, their teenage children Sonny and Patricia, and two younger children. Strange, seemingly supernatural events begin to occur, while it is revealed that Anthony is abusive towards his wife and children. Dolores, who is religious, has a local priest visit and bless the house, but things don’t go very well and Anthony has a violent outburst. Dolores forces him to go to church and apologize. Meanwhile, Sonny is left home alone and is attacked by a force in the house and becomes possessed.
Soon after, Sonny begins flirting with Patricia, his sister, and the two begin a sexual relationship. She soon comes to her senses and, horrified, tries to confess to Father Adamsky. She knows something is wrong with Sonny and suspects diabolical forces. Things take a turn for the worse on his birthday. He is moody and standoffish, and when Patricia tries to check on him, he curses her and sends her away crying. Their mother begins to suspect that something is going on between them, but a demon fully possesses Sonny before anyone can intervene. He waits for his family to go to bed and then kills them all with his father’s shotgun. He is arrested and claims to have no memory of the event. Father Adamsky can’t get the approval of the Church, but is determined to perform a rogue exorcism to save Sonny’s soul, regardless of the dangers.
Shot in Mexico, this U.S.-Italian co-production is low budget enough to unabashedly embrace the B-movie trappings that The Amityville Horror denied to its detriment. While Amityville II certainly has its cheesy moments, it’s a far more entertaining and effective film than its predecessor. This might have something to do with the fact that it was scripted by Tommy Lee Wallace, who worked on Halloween and wrote and directed Halloween III: Season of the Witch, with some input from the great Italian genre screenwriter Dardano Sachetti. Director Damiano Damiani (A Bullet for the General) did a utilitarian job here and put a big emphasis on P.O.V. shots that are supposed to represent the demonic force possessing Sonny. While this is pretty silly at times, the invisible rape/assault that occurs and results in Sonny’s possession is surprisingly effective.
Though this is supposed to be a prequel to The Amityville Horror, and thus take place sometime in the early ‘70s, it is clearly an ‘80s movie, including a number of anachronistic elements such as a Rocky poster and a Walkman. Based on Murder in Amityville by Hans Holzer, this is loosely based on the real murders that occurred in the house where the events of The Amityville Horror took place. This is sort of a prequel, but sets the standard that the rest of the sequels would follow: nothing really needs to make any sense as long as there are some crazy things happening in a big, old house.
Unlike The Amityville Horror, this moves at a breakneck pace, introducing supernatural elements almost immediately. The mother is touched by an invisible force in the basement, blood flows from a water tap, flies swarm, mirrors crack, dishes fly, and creepy paintings appear on the walls. Even Sonny’s Walkman begins issuing disturbing commands. On top of this, the father is abusive, regularly beating his children and his wife. It is later revealed that he is raping his wife, because she is no longer interested in sex. The two teenage children, Sonny and Patricia, engage in an incestuous relationship. I certainly didn't see that coming and it’s a perfect example of the level of insanity that Amityville II dives headlong into.
Overall the acting is pretty terrible, though Jack Magner is great as Sonny. The effects used to transform him into the demon are impressive and it’s clear that the bulk of the budget went towards them. James Olson (The Andromeda Strain) is very hammy as Father Adamsky and, like the priest in The Amityville Horror, spends a lot of time being stressed out on the phone. Diane Franklin (Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure) is memorable as the teenage Patricia. The parents are bizarrely played by Burt Young (Rocky) and Rutanya Alda (The Fury), who both feel very out of place here.
Surprisingly bleak and with numerous body horror elements, Amityville II may not be the most stylish or sophisticated film, but it’s very entertaining and is one of the best ‘80s possession movies. You can find it on Blu-ray as part of the new Amityville Horror trilogy. It is definitely better than The Amityville Horror and if you watch any of the films in that series, this should be it.