Sunday, December 31, 2017

For God's Sake, Get Out!: The Amityville Horror Franchise Ranked

It’s often considered one of the classics of the era. The 1970s was defined by plenty of satanic powered horror films, but one film that rose to the top of the social conscious of the film consuming community was The Amityville Horror. The story of the Amityville house and the families that lived in it have inspired a lot different films, both as part of the official series and the multitude of knock offs, and whether you believe the events that spawned these films are true, it’s created a cultural phenomenon that really can’t be ignored when it comes to genre films. It’s a film series that is often instantly recognizable to people that don’t even watch horror films and there’s something to be said about that.

With the release of the latest “official” Amityville sequel, I realized I had not visited much of the series in many, many years. The overwhelming amount of knock offs in recent years has made it feel like a chore to even figure out which ones counted anymore and it’s not like I’ve ever felt a strong connection to the franchise to begin with. Yet, over the last handful of weeks the continued survival of the series has perked my curiosity and I became irrationally inclined to punish myself by watching them all. To justify this asinine craving, I decided that these films needed to be ranked in order from worst to best and then to justify that effort it was going to become an article for Blood Brothers Film Reviews. That’s where we are at right now.

This is the result; a list ranking all of the official Amityville Horror films. Now, there are a TON of various unofficial entries, knock offs, and unrelated horror films that simply slap the Amityville name on them to sell a few copies in big box stores, so I apologize ahead of time if I don’t rank some of the terrible films that people want to see covered. If you really want to see those covered, feel free to comment below with the ones that deserve some attention, but for the time being this list will stick to whatever I suppose defines an official entry for this scattered and wildly uneven franchise.

*Also, as with any list, this is purely the opinion of one person. Blood Brothers Film Reviews loves to promote discussion on genre film making and the art of it, so please feel free to comment your suggestions, opinions, and thoughts on the Amityville Horror franchise below. Share the list with your friends to promote that discussion too. The more, the merrier. And now, without further ado, here is the ranked Amityville Horror franchise.

09. The Amityville Curse (1989)

The greatest cinematic sin that any film can muster, in my personal opinion, is being so mediocre that nothing is memorable. This is exactly where The Amityville Curse resides. It's not cheesy. It's not atmospheric. It's not even fun. It's just a film that plays it safe the entire time, goes through the motions, and tries to pull off one stupid twist that comes too little, too late. Forty minutes into the film and I realized that I had no real grasp on any of the characters or what the plot really was, outside of the basic couple moves into a cheap haunted house (not THE Amityville house mind you, just another haunted house in the town of Amityville, I guess). There's some random shit thrown in for good measure, including some premonition powers or something, but really even that is so flat and uninspired it didn't resonate at all beyond being a hum drum plot progression point. Sure, Amityville 4 is bad and more on that in a second, but at least it was TV made movie bad and enjoyable in some of its terribleness. The Amityville Curse is cursed to be forgotten...and probably for the best.

08. Amityville: The Evil Escapes (1989)

You know when a film series goes straight to TV made films that it’s having a rough time. The fourth entry into the Amityville series falls into this territory. Honestly, the main idea isn’t so shabby as the film attempts to move the “evil” into a brand-new house. The problem? It moves the evil via one of the ugliest lamps ever into a narrative that’s both completely dry and utterly lacking personality. And the film then tries to parallel the haunting of this new house with a family overcoming a loss and having to reconnect. Not a bad idea, generally, but the execution lacks any kind of style as it runs through the motions and it just comes off as unmemorable when it’s not unintentionally humorous. The production is thin, the story is thin, and the entertainment is thin too.

07. Amityville: Dollhouse (1996)

There’s a point in the third act that one of the characters in Amityville: Dollhouse drops a quick one-liner that’s something to the effect of ‘Next time let’s just rent.’ Truthfully I can’t remember the full quote and I didn’t feel the urge to try and find it again once my viewing had ended. Let’s just say that it was the one time in the film that it finally understood just how bad it was as a film and addressed it. Unfortunately, for everyone that bought the damn thing, it was a stark reminder in their bad investment. Despite some great smaller ideas within the film, including a young son who is starting to be manipulated by the decaying image of his passed away father, Dollhouse is something of a train wreck. Scattered ideas, incoherent plot points, characters that never feel real, and cheap scares, the film doesn’t seemingly have any idea of what it wants to be and it just throws everything at the audience and hopes it sticks. Most of it doesn’t. If only it understood just what kind of terrible film it is, then it might have embraced some more camp and run with it like some of the other Amityville entries. Alas, it doesn’t, and it ends up being one of the worst in the franchise.

06. Amityville: The Awakening (2017)

Considering the horrific backlash that Amityville: The Awakening received from critics and the strange delays and release schedule it was eventually given (let’s just say that it was filmed years ago and was first released as a free Google Play release (?!)), it’s really not THAT bad. The problem it ultimately has to overcome is that outside of its gimmicky set up, the film doesn’t have a lot of identity. Considering its from the director of the Maniac remake, The Awakening feels more like a bigger budget Amityville knock off sequel than anything else. Tonally it’s coherent and there are a lot of attempts at making something more interesting with the smaller details, but it never embraces those things. It has a weird meta layer where the Amityville movies exist in this universe and the motivations for the mother moving her family to the house are somewhat intriguing. It just never actually goes anywhere. Really, it feels like a film that was tinkered with for far too long and lost its identity, for better or worse depending on the original product. It’s not a horrible movie by any means, but it’s a forgettable one and like I mentioned previously in this list…that’s one of the ultimate cinema sins.

05. Amityville: A New Generation (1993)

By the time we have reached this seventh film in the official Amityville franchise, the Amityville house itself has become something of a lost concept and the series has run just by having haunted items from the house – to various degrees – as the core to thread the original into new territory. While Amityville: A New Generation doesn’t quite hit some of the fun aspects like some of the other sequels, it does have a decent core story to it that carries it. The parallels between artistry and hauntings is a classic trope, but here it works thanks to a film that takes time to develop its characters. We actually care about them and the various hauntings, powered by an evil mirror this time, don’t necessarily go into camp but remain grounded to the concept. If some of the performances were better and if the film trimmed down its meandering narrative in the latter half this one might have been a pretty decent film. As is, it’s a mixed effort, but still one of the better sequels in a franchise of massive ups and downs.

04. Amityville 1992: It’s About Time (1992)

Considering the piles of cinematic trash that constitute the previous two entries (The Evil Escapes and Curse,) I had very low expectations going into the terribly titled Amityville 1992: It’s About Time. However, despite a ridiculously inconsistent plot surrounding a haunted clock from the Amityville house that is consuming a suburban modern family with the usual haunted house hijinks and also time travel…kind of, the film has this weird sense of style and tongue-in-cheek approach that is decently entertaining. Some of the quirky dialogue works, there are plenty of enjoyable offbeat moments, and the characters are all wonderfully memorable. It’s not like this film can match some of the strengths of the ones ranked above it, but when it comes to having a fun B-horror flick then It’s About Time suffices. Not to mention, the third act takes it to where I wanted it to go and it’s delightful.

03. The Amityville Horror (1979)

Although considered a classic in many horror fan and critic circles, every time I watch The Amityville Horror I’m reminded of just how mediocre it is as a film. It has those moments, visually or tonally, where one can see the instant classic it’s often referred to with some key memorable moments and creepy elements, but really it’s a film that feels uneven, cheesy, and poorly structured as a film to soar with its concept. For every moment of effective horror tension, there’s one of baffling intent. Still, it’s iconic enough to be often spoofed or homaged by films to this day so there’s something to be said about that and it deserves some credit which is one of the reasons that it ranks so high on this list despite my continued issues with the film itself.

02. Amityville 3D (1983)

Sure, Amityville 3D is not nearly as surprising in its creative quality as Amityville 2, but it's also a film that's so sold on its own cheesiness and Poltergeist knock off tone and moments that it's hard not to love it on some level. I mean, why does the Amityville house now have an evil well? Or a CHUD like monster? Or a group of fake seance professionals living in it for the opening scene? No one cares really, not when the film knows that it doesn't make sense and sort of embraces it for it is. Still, the film has some serious narrative issues and the characters are paper thin representations of what real people might be and it adds a bit to the fun even if it's problematic in the larger scheme of things. Not to mention, the 3D gimmicks are hilariously cheap and obvious. This film ranks highly on this list simply because it does not seem to give a damn and that kind of disregard for its own well being adds to the entertainment.

01. Amityville 2: The Possession (1982)

This comes as something of a surprise because my memories of the film do not align with my current thoughts on my most recent viewing. Amityville 2 is much better than I remember. There seems to be a lot of Evil Dead/Sam Raimi influences in it, even if it does spin off into an Exorcist knock off at times, and there is a kind of exploitative creativity to it that makes up for the mundane aspects of the original film. It has a lot of great direction, the visuals are creative, and it has some strange spins to its narrative that make it feel much more effective than expected. Using three different protagonists to drive the story in its acts is one that really stuck out (the son in the first act, the daughter in the second, and the priest in the third) can occasionally make the film feel uneven, but it’s also a risk that ultimately pulls off being a reward. The film does have its issues, but in the end, it’s much better than I ever imagined. 

1 comment:

  1. Sadly, all the Amityville Horror titles were a complete waste of celluloid with 3D the worst.