Tuesday, 12 June 2012


Director Damiano Damiani directed thirty-nine films during a career spanning five decades and yet probably isn't as famous as the guy who merely wrote one of his movies - Tommy Lee Wallace. Renowned for scribbling horror sequels but also adapting the Stephen King novel It for television in 1990 (he also directed), Wallace's first contribution to film was the screenplay for Amityville 2: The Possession, a prequel to the passable franchise opener three years earlier. Father Merrin will be turning in his grave.

The Montelli family has just moved into their new home, the house of their dreams, 112 Ocean Avenue, and is looking forward to a fresh start. Unfortunately, the evil presence lurking within hasn't brought them a housewarming present.

Inner and outer demons terrorize the family and it isn't long before their relationships fall apart. The mother, Dolores (Alda), tries to get the local priest, Father Frank Adamsky (Olson), to bless the house, but he's quickly driven away by her abusive and sacrilegious husband, Anthony (Young), before he can help.

The Montelli's eldest son, Sonny (Magner), a virtual recluse after being bullied by his father all these years, is easy pray and soon falls victim to demonic possession. Can Father Adamsky save him, and does he even want to?

A commercial success, ranking number one at the box office, this unnecessary prequel wasn’t afraid to stick its neck out and justify its horror tag. One scene in particular, although ridiculous, is fairly shocking even in this day and age. The incestuous relationship between Sonny Montelli and his teenaged sister, a fresh-faced Diane Franklin (Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure), adds intrigue to a plot that up to that point had only offered a bloody tap, brushes painting by themselves and a sheet flying feebly through the air.

The scene itself, which sees Sonny, now possessed, getting his sister Patricia to play a game where he is a famous photographer and she is his model, persuading her to take off her nightgown that ultimately leads to them having sex, is ludicrous, laughable and probably the best moment in the entire film. While the movie is based loosely on Ronald Joseph DeFeo, Jr. - an American mass murderer tried and convicted for the 1974 killings of his father, mother, two brothers and two sisters - it’s unproven whether or not he did have a sexual relationship with his sister Dawn. Regardless, director Damiani needed something to make his flick stand out from the crowd, and Franklin, twenty at the time of its release, was willing to lend her modest talent (already revealed in The Last American Virgin that very year).

Other commendable achievements (they’re few and far between) include a chilling opening score that pops up every now and again to send shivers down the spine (the rest of the soundtrack is over the top and scratchily suffocating), a violent performance from Academy Award nominee Burt Young who was finding fame in Rocky (1976) at the time, some decent make-up work from Joe Cuervo (Bad Lieutenant), and a fantastic moment (for all the wrong reasons) when it looks like the cameraman is about to attack Sonny on the staircase.

To be fair, the drama during the opening two acts is tolerable, including a couple of shock-scare moments helped by the booming orchestral arrangements, while Franklin is worth rooting for and Magner convinces as the unfortunate victim whose body is now occupied by the demon. Why Wallace decides to rip up the final third of the script and replace it with William Peter Blatty’s unwanted leftovers is therefore more of a mystery than Damiani’s decision at one point to turn the camera upside down in order to disorientate us.

Inconsistencies include the appearance of eighties technology like the Walkman – used by the demon to communicate with Sonny – despite the film supposedly set one year before the first Amityville Horror film, while cars and televisions from that decade, although not as noticeable, hardly help matters. The repetitive screaming will eventually grate, some of the dialogue is laughable (Father Adamsky: I will, cast you out. Sonny Montelli: Oh. How? Father Adamsky: With, an exorcism. Sonny Montelli: You can't do that, you're not authorized.  Father Adamsky: How do you know? Sonny Montelli: We know everything), but the entire final act is a poor imitation of Friedkin’s masterpiece.

Astonishingly, Sonny’s appearance is not too dissimilar to Regan MacNeil, even if his potty mouth is somewhat more excusable (“You thought about making love to me” the best retort he can muster). So much so, the auteur thankfully resisted the urge to make James Olson leap to his death through one of the windows during the slagging match climax. But then, he managed to keep Rutanya Alda (When a Stranger Calls, The Deer Hunter) alive longer than her truly terrible performance warranted.

She would go on to be nominated as Worst Supporting Actress at the 1982 Golden Raspberry Awards, again. Finally, it’s worth mentioning that writer Wallace would pen and direct the third Halloween movie, Season of the Witch, best known for being nothing like its franchise. You can’t help but think somebody swapped his VHS cassettes around when he wasn’t looking.

As far as sequels go, this wouldn’t be too bad if it was John Boorman’s follow-up to Friedkin’s classic chiller. As it stands, Amityville 2: The Possession is watchable at best, but with incest its only redeeming feature, you’ll be hard pressed to find many chills or enjoyment from it. DW

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