When the film The Amityville Horror was released in 1979 it was, at the time, the most successful independent film ever released so a sequel following the continuation of the horror plaguing the Lutz family would seem to be a given, but that was not to be, what we got instead was a prequel based on the book “Murder in Amityville” by Hans Holzer, which dealt with the DeFeo family murders that were committed during the original film’s opening prologue.
The odd thing about this prequel was that for some reason the producers decided to change the name of the family from DeFeo to that of the fictional “Montelli family” and I must ask “Was this change of names done to protect the innocent?” I’d say the most likely reason for this wasn’t because Ronald DeFeo Jr. was still proclaiming his innocence, with him being an actual psycho rotting in jail he was still a fair target, but this film also paints the rest of the family in a rather poor light so I could see some people getting upset about this particular cinematic depictions. In this movie, the Montelli family moves into their home, consisting of the abusive patriarch Anthony Montelli (Burt Young) his wife Dolores (Rutanya Alda) their two eldest, Sonny (Jack Magner), Patricia (Diane Franklin), the youngest Mark (Brent Katz) and Jan (Erika Katz), and almost from minute one, they are plagued by supernatural events as well as a truly toxic family situation.
Where the previous film can be described as a slow build to nothing happening, the biggest crime the original film committed, but here director Damiano Damiani and screenwriter Tommy Lee Wallace did their best to ensure that this would not be the case with their film, from the moment the secret room is discovered in the basement we get and an evil presence that is shown to be stalking the family, tossing objects around like a rambunctious poltergeist and painting Satanic graffiti on the kid’s bedroom wall, but more frightening than these paranormal events is the Dad’s violent reaction to them, which mostly consists of beating his wife and kids. This violent dysfunctional family is a far cry from the loving Freeling family found in Steven Spielberg’s Poltergeist, which came out the same years as this film, and one key element here deals with an incestuous relationship between Sonny and Patricia that takes the horror to a whole new level. Apparently, there was also a scene where Anthony anally raped Dolores, as well as a more graphic incestuous scene between Sonny and Patricia, but due to negative reactions at test screenings, these were wisely cut.
What I found surprising is the decision the filmmakers had in having the DeFeo family…sorry, I mean the Montelli family, being murdered at the halfway point and thus the rest of the film deals with Father Frank Adamsky (James Olsen), the family priest, who is really really bad at his job, trying to prove to the world that Sonny isn’t some cold-blooded murderer but simply a victim of demonic possession and when Catholic Church won’t back him up he turns to Detective Turner (Moses Gunn) to help break Sonny out of custody so that he can perform some sort of half-assed exorcism. It’s at this point that the film takes whatever credibility it had as being based on “True Events” and tosses it out the window in favour of ripping off William Friedkin’s The Exorcist, and I must admit, I kind of respect them for it. The entire “Amityville Horror” story is complete bullshit and the Lutz family making money from this elaborate hoax, something that was based on the pain and suffering of this tragic mass murder, is pretty godawful so making a film with pulsating demons and a valiant priest fighting the forces of Hell is almost admirable when compared to the bullshit that was being pedalled as true true in the previous film.
• If on the day you move into your new home, the kitchen faucet pours blood it’s time to call your real estate agent, a priest and then the movers.
• In reality, the DeFeo family had lived in the home for about nine years prior to the murders whereas in this film the events happen quickly after moving in, and for some reason, the film omits one of the sons. Wasn’t he cute enough to make the cut?
• Sonny has a poster of Rocky in his room and Burt Young appears in that film and its sequels as Paulie Pennino.
• This is a really messed up family, even looking past the abusive father the rest of the family is a bit off, at one point the little girl places a plastic bag over her brother’s head to pretend to smother him and I don’t think we’re supposed to believe evil forces were behind that.
• If the evil forces possessing Sonny are, apparently, the cause of his incestuous feelings towards his sister but if that were the case I wish someone would explain to me why, from almost the very first scene, she was flirting with her brother.
• They trot out the “built on an ancient Indian burial ground” cliché despite the Native Americans of the area stating this was not the case, but who needs facts when an easy trope can be used?
• Like in the previous film the church is very reluctant to step in and help this poor family so it’s up to a rogue priest to save the day…um, well the family is actually murdered so he’s not what you’d call a good rogue priest.
Despite the film being called Amityville II it’s not really a sequel to the 1974 film, or even a prequel for that matter, because events playout in this movie that completely contradict what we saw in the original, such as the murders not taking place as shown in the prologue of ’74 film and Jack Magner as Sonny doesn’t look at all like James Brolin, despite that being a major plot point in the original, and thus despite the film being called part two this is more a standalone film with no real connection to the previous entry, other than the basic subject matter. That this film tried to make this a case of demon possession is problematic at best, in fact, Ron DeFeo claims voices told him to kill but that he wasn’t actually possessed, and the film’s third act lifts so much stuff from The Exorcist that William Peter Blatty and William Friedkin should have gotten royalties, though to be fair, this demon doesn’t infer that Father Frank’s mother sews socks in Hell.
As a follow-up to the successful 1974 film Amityville II: The Possession works poorly as a sequel, and not so good as a prequel for that matter, but as I found the original film to be mostly boring I consider that a point in this movie’s favour, and that third act shift into a becoming a remake of The Exorcist definitely hurt the film as do some of the troublesome practical effects to depict Sonny’s possession – the bladders pumping under the skin never once looked convincing – but Lalo Schifrin returns to provide another excellent score and cinematographer Franco Di Giacomo was able to create something special with his camerawork and lighting. Overall, Amityville II: The Possession is an interesting entry in the franchise, the incest themes making it decidedly unforgettable in that respect, and the end product managed to bring a few scares to the table, even if most of the stemmed from Burt Young’s “Dad of the Year” going nuts on his family, which all goes towards making this one worth checking out.
Amityville II: The Possession (1982) – Review
Movie Rank - 6.5/10
It’s safe to say that there isn’t a really “great” entry in the entire Amityville franchise but Amityville II: The Possession does get bonus points for taking the series in a very different and dark direction, one that has made this a fan favourite.