Amityville II: the Possession (1982)
For reasons no one will ever fully understand, the Amityville Horror made money. (My money’s on Margot Kidder’s boobs, though the smart bet would be a production company willing to cash in on the Exorcist’s considerable (and, in comparison, well-deserved) success.) Now holding onto a hot property, a sequel was in order. Having a hot property centered around a haunting, a predicable story was in order. So predictable, in fact, they flat out tell you what’s going to happen in the title: Amityville II: the Possession.
So another possession is in order, in case you couldn’t get enough of James Brolin’s rousing performance in the prior film. Luckily there’s less man panties. I guess the producers sprung for boxers for the cast.
Supposedly this film is the prequel to Amityville, though there’s no indication of that in the beginning. Instead we’re just shown the Amityville residence in general disrepair, with a “For Sale” sign posted out front. All giving off absolutely no clues that this is allegedly a precursor. Seriously, I watched this film twice, and neither time did I notice that the events within were supposed to occur before the Amityville Horror.
Though, in all fairness, I might’ve just been excited that the hauntings that take place here read as true hauntings. Large pieces of furniture rattling around for no apparent reason, demon graffiti, stuff like that.
20 minutes into the film, and the mom has already been cold-clocked across the face by the father. Who then gets a 12-gauge to his cheek courtesy of his son. Clearly the Amityville Horror moved so slow because the demon used all its Satanic energy spooking this family!
And what a family the Montelli’s are! While the father, Anthony (Burt Young), doesn’t reach James Brolin’s level of uncomfortable undress, he is shown constantly taking his belt on. When he was going to hit the kids with it, it made sense. But when Father Adamsky (James Olson) comes to bless the house, Anthony answers the door putting his belt on. Which equals a lot of time fully dressed without a belt. That’s a problem.
Which brings us to Amityville II’s best portion: its opening as a whodunit. (Or, in this case: a whosgonnadoit?) From the start, you don’t know if it’s Anthony the abusive father who’s either possessed, or is going to be possessed, or Sonny (Jack Magner), the [GROAN!] son who’s a little too close to his younger sister.
The skeeves you’re supposed to get from his exceedingly close relationship to his sister, Patricia (Diane Franklin), never do come to fruition. Partly because Jack Magner looks so much like a young Mark Hamill. Only better, because he acts like a robotic Mark Hamill! So it’s a bit like watching the android Luke Skywalker hit on Princess Leia after he knows they’re related. Only in this case you don’t care because you want to believe he still doesn’t know.
You also won’t care because the lighting’s so bad everything looks like the Mexican set it actually was. Which is a shame, as Franco Di Giacomo’s camera work is a lot better than this prequel deserves. Giving us bizarro shots where the camera swings from between Sonny’s legs to above his head. Granted, points are lost when Sonny spends the entire film staring straight at the camera chasing him, but we’ll pretend this was done on purpose.
As with the first film, there’s a lot, story-wise, going for this tale, most of which is tragically misused. The confusion in the beginning about who’s possessed, the father or the son, is never exploited enough. Again the filmmakers hide behind the safety of empirical wisdom.
We know Sonny’s possessed, we’ve witnessed every step of his transformation. We also know Sonny murdered his family, as, well, he’s possessed and the murders he commits are picture perfect reproductions of the ones that open the first movie. So why would the filmmakers decide it would be a good idea to place Sonny on trial for his family’s murder?
As amusing as it is to watch Sonny’s defense attorney try to plead “possession,” it’s ultimately a cheap laugh that rings hollow next to the utter serious-ness that pervades the film. Leaving us with Father Adamsky going rogue in his attempt to give Sonny a DIY exorcism. Resulting in:
Sonny’s freed from the demonic possession, but is re-arrested as soon as he leaves the surprisingly intact house. Sonny being redelivered to jail with a look of complete defeat on his face. Father Adamsky effectively damning the boy through salvation, as Sonny will have to live out his remaining years not only knowing that he killed off his own family, but also knowing that he is not, and never was, the hardened criminal that is now locked up in a maximum security prison
See? Yet another possible angle the franchise could’ve taken, had it had enough imagination to drop the whole “let’s watch someone eliminate their immediate family again.”
—More Amityville Madness—