I first saw Amityville II: The Possession in its first-run theatrical engagement sometime during the brief period of my life in which I was a film-school student. At the time that I saw it, I was taking a once-a-week class called Contemporary Cinema, and at the start of every class meeting we’d go around the room, mentioning what films we’d seen during the previous week and whether we liked them or not. The week after I saw Amityville II: The Possession, I mentioned that I had seen it and that it was, in essence, a steaming pile of tripe. I did, however, also mention that there was one shot in the film that knocked my socks off, a camera move that started behind a character then went over the character’s head and ended up in front of him.
So, while rewatching the film for this write-up, I was eagerly anticipating that camera move, to see if it still was as wondrous as I once thought that it was. It didn’t wow me this time around, but then again there have been three decades of movies that I’ve seen in the interim to blunt that shot’s impact. Still, the two things that I came away with from this viewing are that this film a) has some pretty interesting camerawork in it and b) is so sleazy that a shower seems like it’s almost a necessity after viewing it.
The plot of the film is loosely based on Hans Holtzer’s book Murder in Amityville, which is an account of the DeFeo murders that occurred before the events that supposedly happened to the Lutz family in The Amityville Horror. Screenwriter Tommy Lee Wallace (who had previously worked with John Carpenter on Dark Star, Assault on Precinct 13, Halloween, and The Fog, and would go on to direct Halloween III: Season of the Witch and the TV adaptation of Stephen King’s It) might have written it as a sequel, since Sonny Montelli heard the demonic voices that told him to kill his family mostly through a Sony Walkman, but that could have been a change from the screenplay which was made in the shooting process. However it was written, the film was sold as a prequel, which certainly causes a massive anachronistic problem. I really can’t decide exactly when the events are supposed to be taking place in relation to the first film, since the Lutzes and their fate aren’t mentioned during the course of the film, either. It’s perplexing, this film.
Just like in The Amityville Horror, a priest is called in to help with the creepy stuff that’s going on in the house. The priest this time, Father Adamsky, is played by James Olson, who was about as ubiquitous as they come in the 1970s. He was all over television, guest-starring on hour-long dramas and cop shows as well as on sitcoms. He was in movies, such as The Andromeda Strain and Crescendo, and in made-for-TV movies, like Strange New World, The Spell, the VD laff-riot “drama” Someone I Touched, and one of my favorite TV movies, Paper Man. He’s definitely one of those actors who, when you see him, you think “Man, he looks familiar–what was his name?” and then you never come up with it. Joining him in the supporting priest role (although the character is never clearly shown to be a priest–I thought he was just a pal of Father Adamsky’s, but the end credits told me otherwise) is Psychotronic favorite Andrew Prine, who was only slightly less ubiquitous than James Olsen in the ‘70s. His career pretty much mirrored Olson’s, in that he was in scads of TV and movies and nobody can name him when they see him, either.
Other unnamable-to-the-average-viewer-but-familiar faces in the cast include Burt Young, Rutanya Alda, and Diane Franklin. The lone returnee from the first film in any capacity (if you don’t count the house itself) is composer Lalo Schifrin, whose music adds just about the only bit of class that this film can muster. The special effects seem to owe a great deal to not only The Exorcist but also Altered States and, especially and oddly enough, The Beast Within. In the end, as awful as this film is, I have to admit that it’s actually more watchable than The Amityville Horror. While the first film suffered from a lack of momentum, this one at least moves. I’m not saying that it’s a better film than the first one, since both of them are fairly awful, but this one has some interesting camerawork and attempts to push the sleaze factor up to eleven. And that’s got to count for something, I suppose.
Here’s the trailer from YouTube:
And for those gluttons for punishment (and you know who you are), here’s the whole movie, again from YouTube. As always, the usual caveats about watching it soon before it’s taken down apply.