The horror genre has readily embraced sequels since the hey-day of Universal's monsters, but now it appears, ghoul moguls are resorting to cryogenics to keep the money train chugging. Word is malcontent Jason Voorhees gets deep-frozen and somehow blasted into outer space for the TENTH installment of the Friday the 13th dynasty, which is both a testament to machete boy's fan base and the screenwriter's "Star Trek" mania. But how does one explain the prolific franchise based on The Amityville Horror (1979, 119 minutes)? It's a sometimes silly cinematic version of Jay Anson's allegedly true, but undeniably chilling and best-selling novel about a New York family's fearsome run-ins with the supernatural. Still, the flick has spawned SEVEN sequels! At least that's the count as of presstime. Before dealing with Numero One-o, let's indulge in an Amityville round up. There's the prequel Amityville 2: The Possession (1982) that explains in gory detail how the previous residents' boy gets filled with the devil, diddles his own SISTER, and winds up murdering his whole family in their sleep. Then the time-tested 3D installment aptly titled Amityville 3-D (1983, aka. Amityville 3: The Demon), which without the funny glasses isn't much to get excited about, unless Meg Ryan jazzes you, because she's a teen itching to get physical with a ghost. NBC bankrolled Amityville 4: The Evil Escapes (1989), which has "the evil" hitching a ride in an ugly lamp and somehow barbecuing a parrot in a toaster oven. The fifth feature is a name-only entry, The Amityville Curse (1990), and honestly doesn't have much at all to do with the series. In Amityville 1992: It's About Time (1992) this clock once owned by a fella who snacked on the corpses of young boys, starts sending out some voodoo vibes and turning its new owner's daughter into a nympho. Amityville: A New Generation (1993) reaches back to Numero Two-o, with the sister-diddler's son who inherits his daddy's mirror that turns out to be, wouldn't you know it, E-V-I-L! And, finally (maybe), Amityville Dollhouse (1996) were a miniature, and very evil, version of the famed house makes not-so-nice things happen to some well-meaning Californians.
The movie: George and Kathy Lutz sink all they have, and some they don't, into their Long Island dream home. Recently married, Kathy's (Margot Kidder) three nose miners are still getting used to George (James Brolin), but soon they're the least of his worries. Turns out the reason the house was so cheap was because everyone who lived in it before was murdered in their sleep at 3:15 a.m. by a member of their own family, who claimed to have heard voices. Anyway, at Kathy's request, a priest (Rod Steiger) comes to bless the house and a mess of flies make him flail around the room making faces, while a disembodied voice is rather inhospitable to him. And the next thing you know, there's a weird draft coming from the basement, and every morning at 3:15, George has to wander around the house so he can see something strange. Enough cats jump out at him, and windows open by themselves, to make him overly interested in chopping firewood, rather than tending to his surveying business. The creepiest stuff involves their little girl and her invisible friend Jody, who likes rocking chairs, moving dolls around and locking babysitters in closets. George gets more and more weird, and you're pretty sure he's gonna hack his family to bits, but he goes boozing instead. His buddy's psychic-girlfriend says she knows what's up with the house -- it's got the DEVIL in it, or the horned one is at least sub-letting the basement. So they all wander down there and before you know it the walls are bleeding and the flick staggers to an awkward, unsatisfying conclusion. Not unlike George and Kathy's failed mid-flick diddling. CineSchlockers will remember Mr. Brolin had much better luck with B-queen Shannon Tweed in Indecent Behavior II, also featuring the cantastic Nikki Fritz (Trina of late-night cable's "Nightcap.")
Notables: No breasts. Six corpses. 325 gallons black goo. One demonic pig beast. Gruesome shotgun murders. Serious fly swarm. Puking nun. Pie-zest rocking chair. Maniacal chopping. Toilet bubbling. Puking priest. Three yard monsters. Sexual disfunction. Whiney brace face. Ax pitching. Whispering librarians. Crummy phone service. Book stealing. Ax sharpening. Dog attack.
Quotables: Classic foreshadowing, from Lutz, "Houses don't have memories." But apparently they can scare the wits out of a priest, "GET O-U-T!!!" George has just about had it, "These kids of yours need some goddamn discipline!" A line Mulder could use on Scully, "Don't be such a hardcore rationalist. Everything in life cannot be explained with a slide rule."
Time codes: First hint of weirdness (10:23). Kathy does some ballet in her panties (22:45). Pie-zest sedan (42:35). Spooky little girl sings 'Jesus Loves Me' (1:18:30). Knock, knock, knock (1:24:45). James Brolin emotes (1:36:45).
Audio/Video: Somewhat muddied fullframe and widescreen (1.85:1) prints. Dolby Digital mono tracks (English and Spanish).
Extras: Theatrical trailer. Slightly animated menus with buzzing fly sound effect.
Final thought: Read the book. Watch the History Channel documentary. This telling never eeks above average, and too often induces giggles instead of chills. Recommended.
G. Noel Gross is a Dallas graphic designer and avowed Drive-In Mutant who specializes in scribbling B-movie reviews. Noel is inspired by Joe Bob Briggs and his gospel of blood, breasts and beasts.