Amityville 3-D (1983)
I think the most unbelievable facet of the Amityville case is that there was enough support, either critical and/or financial, to support ten sequels. TEN sequels! All based on the legend of one exceedingly generic New England haunting. Luckily for my sanity, as well as your attention spans, I will only be watching the first three installments this year. And I can’t imagine the need to ever re-visit the series after today,
Which is a shame, as out of the three films, Amityville III: the Demon, filmed naturally in 3-D, probably has the most relatable characters. John Baxter (Tony Roberts) is an investigative reporter who reveals hoaxes dressed up as hauntings. So it’s no surprise he’s drawn to the Amityville house; even if it’s hardly ever referred to that by name.
(The real Amityville family, the Lutzes, apparently disagreed with the film’s plot, which centers around a real reporter, Stephen Kaplan, who wrote a book exposing their hoax. So this film is technically not a sequel to either the Amityville Horror (the “story” behind the Lutz’s haunting) or Amityville II: the Possession (the story behind the DeFeo murders that allegedly caused the hauntings).)
John buys the house so he can comfortably write the Next Great American Novel. (Another touch of reality, since Kaplan also spent time living at the Amityville residence to research the “hauntings.”) Predictably the hauntings come quick, and, since this is the second sequel, very cheaply. First, the sleazy landlord is killed by flies. Then the ghosts follow John to work, and mess around with the elevator while he’s in it. This as John’s assistant Melanie (Candy Clark) waits for him at home, where the remaining spirits play with the thermostat and blow gusts of wind at her.
I’m really not understanding why the Lutzes had a problem with this film. Sure, John doesn’t believe in the ghosts, but 90% of the rest of the film is haunting footage. Which you’d think would help their case.
Meg Ryan is eighth billed here; back when she was starting her journey to become “America’s Sweetheart.” So if you’re a huge Meg Ryan fan, and/or a fan of horrible ghost stories, this series is for you. Literally! Seriously, private message me and I’ll send you my Amityville collection once October is over. Could you imagine bringing a girl over to find this?:
[Scanning DVD collection]
Girl: “Amityville III: the Demon, a/k/a Amityville 3-D? The one with that bizzaro, plastic surgery disaster’ed Meg Ryan? That’s the type of girl you’re into, sicko? This is why you’re attracted to me?”
[Exits, slamming door]
Meg Ryan plays Lisa, best friend to John’s daughter, Susan (Lori Loughlin), who is a spout of Amityville and ghost facts. “Did you know you can have sex with a ghost? Maybe that’s why your father bought this place!” Lisa then runs off, re-enacts the DeFeo murders (actually called the DeFeo murders here, instead of Amityville II’s “Montelli,” and explains how the house was built over an ancient Indian burial ground. Which is more backstory in a short, three minute sequence then we’ve received in the past two films combined!
Meanwhile Melanie continues to be the worst lead actress ever; acting so bad I’m tempted to forget about Ryan’s horrid haircut. She develops some photos taken at the home, which come out distorted. She then locates photographic proof of the Amityville ghost in one of the photos, though no one notices that it would play more convincingly as a photo run in the Weekly World News.
Thankfully she dies 30 seconds later, going to whichever level of hell overactors get sentenced to.
Amityville’s boat house gets its first confirmed kill when Susan goes on a boating excursion. She falls into the water, sadly missing the propeller, and drowns. That’s right, she does not actually hit the propeller. Suffering instead a death that’s as lackluster as the rest of this film. Wouldn’t a shot of Susan hitting the propeller, and sending drops of blood flying into the audience,all powered by 3-D, make for a better scare?
If only William Castle had been making films when the screen could play tricks on the audience, rather than having to play the tricks around the screen.
Lisa’s death causes John’s ex-wife Nancy (Tess Harper) to go crazy; running around believing in ghosts. So John invites a University research team to outfit the house with cameras to investigate the phenomena. Their cameras find that the haunted poo-hole, a fixture in the series, is now empty of black and brown gold, instead filled with what appears to be heavily chlorinated water.
The team manage to film the house’s spirit, visualized as a purple blob that floats around the screen, and they also a mesmerized Nancy to follow it to Satan’s shitter. The head scientist moves to investigate the boiling poo-hole, when a demon that looks like a bloated, albino, fire-breathing Creature from the Black Lagoon springs from the water and burns the researcher’s face off.
The house then self-destructs, taking everyone with it except John and Nancy; who, presumably run off and have nervous breakdowns.
—More Amityville Madness—