Horrorville Revisited

Amityville II: The Possession Directed by Damiano Damiani At the Sack Cheri

WHEN CHIEF VILLAIN Darth Vadar managed to escape Luke Skywalker's Force-Ful onslaught in the closing minutes of Star Wars, you just knew that George Lucas was keeping the door open for a sequel. When Rocky ended with hero Sly Stallone losing a close one to the champ, you knew he'd come back itching for a rematch. But when George and Kathy Lutz scrambled from their collapsing haunted home before the credits rolled up for The Amityville Horror, you thought the chances for an Amityville Horror II crumbled right along with that dreadful over-spooked mansion.

The people at Orion Pictures, however--caught up in the growing Hollywood mania for serials--had other ideas. Remember the flashbacks in the original? You know, where the previous inhabitants were slaughtered by their son? You got it. Amityville Horror II: The Possession tells their story. The sequel is actually a prequel.

That, unfortunately, is the only innovation in this fifth. Amity II is just Amity I warmed over: enthusiastic young family moves into nice house, house spirits attack family and make suburban life miserable. The only real difference, it seems, is that this time, nobody gets outta there alive.

Like its predecessor, Amity II is based on the cheapest horror film sensationalism. Uncomplicated by plot development, the film relies heavily on lush cello vibrato and unexpected bumps in the night to raise the requisite goose pimples. And even these crashing windows and eerie breezes are overdone. Like a skin flick with too much skin, the effects of Amity II's repetitive "shocks" soon wear off. Halfway through the flick you're more unnerved by being practically alone in the large, dark theater than by the events on the screen.

But this second go at the Long Island nightmare does offer some improvements over its predecessor. We are spared until the end the embarrassingly hokey bleeding walls and talking rooms. And buried somewhere in the rubble is something approaching a theme.


FROM THE MOMENT the Montellis cruise up the driveway to enter their new home, we see that while big--mom, dad and four kids--this is not a very happy family. The short, hot-tempered dad (Burt "Get Outta Here Instamatically" Young) reveals his tendency to rule with a firm hand and a fast belt. He commands respect but not love.

This climate leaves the clan vulnerable to the tragedy which follows. When the Montellis sit down for their first dinner, the spirits get right down to mischievous business, knocking a mirror off the wall. Dad's first instinct is to smash the eldest son Sonny (Jack Manger) for doing a sloppy job at hanging it up.

When the ghosts take a whirling tour through the house, they include a pit stop in the children's suite to paint on the wall a picture of a pig and the slogan "Dishonor Thy Father." Papa Montelli of course refuses to believe the innocent cries that "brushes" did it and he start to belt the kids. Mom breaks in so he starts to break her. That fracas finally ends, ominously enough, with Sonny holding a loaded rifle to his father's head.

The scene concludes without bloodshed, but its importance becomes clear that night when Sonny in listening to his walkman in bed. The tape stops in the middle, and a satanic voice breaks in: "Why didn't you pull that trigger? Why didn't you shoot that pig?"

A close-knit family would probably resist such taunts, forming a united front in the battle against the geists. But when the latest hatred is there, the outside influences play on it. When Sonny, on the suggestion of his incorporeal advisors, shoots his parents and siblings, the moviegoer's rather ghastly reaction is that it was well deserved. Point made. End of film.

Not yet. Hoping to squeeze out a few more screams (and mercilessly to drag the production out to full feature length) the story then goes on to an exorcism, when the mostly irrelevant Father Tom (Andrew Prine) risks his career, and his life, to wage war with the devil. Sonny's body serving as the battlefield.

The storms finally calm, the fires die and the screams stop, and in the end, it is a calm, clear day. The white house stands quietly, gloriously beneath the blue sky, a "For Sale" sign hanging in front. But we know that the follow-up to that has already been chronicled.

Suddenly, however, when leaving the theater, the memory of an earlier scene jars. Father Tom, while poking around the grounds, meets an elderly woman record-keeper. She explains that, well, that plot of land has been haunted since the late seventeenth century, when an escaped Salem witch moved in, and...

Recommended Articles