Thursday, October 27, 2011

Amityville II: The Possession (1982)

Title: Amityville II: The Possession (1982)

Director: Damiano Damiani

Cast: Burt Young, Rutanya Alda, Jack Magner, James Olson, Diane Franklin


The murders that occurred on 112 Ocean Avenue in Amityville, New York shocked the world back in 1974. 23 year old Ronald De Feo Jr. got up around 3 a.m., took a rifle and shot his mother, his father, his four brothers and his two sisters. Then, he took a shower,  got rid of all the evidence, then went to a local bar and told the people there “somebody help me! My family has been shot!” After that, the police took him into custody. He gave various versions of the story, amongst them that a gangster had killed his family as some sort of vendetta. He later confessed to having done it himself. He said “Once I started, I couldn’t stop. It went by so fast”. Or so goes one of the stories, you see, after Ronald committed the murders he has continually given different accounts of what really happened that night. Not one single story has been the same! Did I mention that Ronald De Feo Jr. also used LSD and Heroin? For all we know, what really happened was that he got really high and was trippin’ when he shot his whole family. That actually sounds like a more likely story than demons telling him to kill his family. Actually, that story would make a whole other movie. But, you know Hollywood, they love exploiting the fantastical angle to anything, and so we get a movie like Amityville II: The Possession which isn’t an accurate account of what really happened, but it just so happens to be an excellent haunted house film anyways.

Then there is the whole Indian burial ground angle brought up by Hans Holzer, a parapsychologist (a person who studies paranormal phenomena) who visited the Amityville home and wrote the book ‘Murder in Amityville’. This is the book that Amityville II: The Possession is based on. In the book, Holzer goes on about how Ronald De Feo Jr. was possessed by the ghost of an old Indian Chief, because the house was built on a sacred Indian Burial ground. This claim was always rejected by historians because there’s no way of corroborating if it’s true or not. Truth is, everyone wanted to make a quick buck off of this story. Even the Lutz family, the ones who bought the house after the whole DeFeo thing happened, they came up with a supernatural ghost story about seeing red eyes in the basement of the house and about green slime dripping down the walls of the home. They even said there was a portal into hell in the basement of the home for crying out loud! Truth is, the whole story worked for them. They got a book and a movie deal out of it. And the story captured the imagination of a whole nation. People did (and still do actually) visit the house in awe. The movie was a success; it successfully imbedded itself into the consciousness of America.  But the true story, the story about Ronald DeFeo Jr. shooting his family, now there’s the real horror my friends! There is the real life horror!

The real Ronald DeFeo Jr. being escorted away to his court hearing

 I saw some pictures on the net of every family member, dead on top of their bloody beds…god those were grizzly pictures. Damn, that was a real tragedy. Who knows what really went on behind closed doors of the DeFeo family? Chances are that they were every bit as dysfunctional as they appear to be in the film. On the film the father is an abusive cold man who beats his wife and kids, doesn’t go to church and is your basic a-hole father and husband. Sonny hates his abusive father and has an incestuous relationship with his sister. I mean, these guys are a real example of a dysfunctional family. And that’s really how the film functions best: as an exploration of the modern dysfunctional family. Usually at the core of any haunted house story is a family that loves and cares for each other, but at the center of this haunted house film is a family that despises each other. The hatred is only intensified by the supernatural elements.

The director of this film (an Italian named Damiano Damiani) was obviously a huge fan of Sam Raimi’s the Evil Dead (1981) because many shots and camera moves were stolen directly from Raimi’s film. For example, there is a scene in which the demon or entity is chasing Sonny around the house; it feels exactly like those scenes in Evil Dead in which the invisible demon is chasing Ash around. In these scenes, we see everything through the spirits point of view. I loved this sequence because it makes you feel as if you are the evil force looking down upon Sonny, following him around. Even though this was similar to Evil Dead, I thought the scene was quite effective; actually this whole sequence was my favorite in the whole film. The film was also influenced heavily by The Exorcist (1973), especially when it comes to the exorcism sequence and the make up effects of the possessed Sonny. Speaking of the make up effects, they were pretty cool. I liked the make up effects work in the film, except for the cheesy demon thing that makes a quick appearance in the ending peeling away its flesh, that I wasn’t a big fan off. By the way, again, the demise of the demon is reminiscent of the demise of the final demon in Evil Dead, rotting and peeling away.

But all in all this is a highly effective horror movie. In fact, I’m officially nominating this one the perfect film to watch on Halloween 2011. Every year I’m going to choose one, and this is the one I chose this year. It has some truly eerie supernatural moments where the evil spirit first makes its presence known that were very spooky. In these Amityville movies, everything starts out happy and fine, the family is the happiest freaking family on the planet, shinny and radiant, yet slowly and surely, events start to happen that destroy this happiness. The feeling of unease creeps into the film until bam! We’re right smack in the middle of  dysfunctional family territory. And speaking of dysfunctional families, those scenes involving incest are so awkward to watch! In this film, incest is shown as the ultimate evil in this film. It’s portrayed as the ultimate way to “hurt god”. The ending is a full blown exorcism, and these are the scenes where the film goes balls out with its supernatural elements! Or is that full blown cheese? You be the judge! Me? I love films like this one, with demons saying nasty things at priests and priests cowering in fear yet facing the evil non the less. The exorcism scenes are well executed, and Jack Magner did an amazing job as the possessed Sonny. This exorcism scene is a memorable one in my book. Well, I’ve gone on long enough about this one my friends, this is a great film to watch on Halloween, it has loads of atmosphere, it's based in a real life story that is downright horrifying and it has a cool as hell exorcism sequence that's actually quite extended. So don’t hesitate to pop this spooky flick in your dvd player come All Hollows Eve. And don’t forget to crank up the volume so you can enjoy that spooky Lalo Schifrin musical score, it’s creepy as hell and a huge part of what makes this film so watchable. Enjoy!

Rating: 4 out of 5


Wings1295 said...

I am not sure if I have ever seen this film. I have heard of it, but never got around to it. I think mainly because, like you said, the true horror was the real murders. And this seemed to me to be too close to truth. Maybe it's not, and maybe it is worth a watch. Great review!

Franco Macabro said...

CJ: This one is definetly worth the watch, I failed to mention this on my review but many consider this one to be superior to the first one. I personally love the original one, the two are a bit different in tone.

The first one feels more believable in certain parts, because we never put a face to the evil, on this one, some have accused it of going over board with the make up effects and in this sense taking away from the creepiness of an invisible evil.

I like both movies for different reasons, but I enjoyed seeing the backstory of what happened before the first film.

Highly recommend it for Halloween!

Mr. Fiendish said...

This is the only Amityville movie I like


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