AMITYVILLE TRILOGY BLU-RAY REVIEW
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Long before it was de riguer for DTV titles to release prequels with sequentially numbered titles, 1982’s Amityville II: The Possession focused on the original murders in the Amityville home, dramatizing the final days of the home’s previous owners leading up to the gruesome scene from the original film’s opening (though the continuity between the two flicks is a mess). All manner of creepiness abounds here, with spousal/child abuse and incest upstaging the haunting and demonic possession we expect from the film.
Amityville II’s special features are no less impressive. There is – an audio commentary with Alexandra Holzer, daughter of Hanz Holzer and a ghost hunter and author in her own right; The Possession of Damiani, a six-minute subtitled piece with the director discussing the film’s production; Adapting Amityville, a great and candid talk with screenwriter Tommy Lee Wallace, who talks over his thoughts on the original film, his work on the sequel, and his opinion of Damiani’s work on the film; A Mother’s Burden, an interview with Rutanya Alda, who played the family matriarch in the film; Family Matters, a talk with the energetic and still quite pretty Diane Franklin, who spends her time discussing the production and her approach to the quite icky incest subplot; Father Tom’s Memories, a brief chat with the always fun Andrew Prine; Continuing the Hunt, a thirty-minute talk with Holzer concerning her father’s work, and how she’s taken up his mantle and reopened a number of his old case files; two theatrical trailers; a still gallery; and a cool easter egg featuring Academy Award winning effects artist Stephan Dupuis recalling the Amityville II shoot.
AMITYVILLE II: THE POSSESSION (1982) goes back in time to the house's previous tenants whose dysfunctional relationships were further fractured by a demonic force lurking within the house. Burt Young, Rutanya Alda, James Olsen, Diane Franklin, and Andrew Prine star.
MGM previously released AMITYVILLE II: THE POSSESSION on DVD in the aforementioned Amityville boxed set and individually. The DVD was barebones with only an anamorphic transfer, original mono audio, and the film’s theatrical trailer (the UK got a commentary by critics Alan Jones and Kim Newman, as well as a photo reconstruction of the deleted “lost souls” sequence). Fortunately, Scream Factory’s 1080p24 MPEG-4 AVC 1.85:1 (not 1.78:1 as mentioned on the cover) features an impressive-seeming package for the film (which also includes the usual DTS-2.0 rendering of the mono track and a 5.1 upmix).
Alexandra Holzer, ghost hunter daughter of the late Hans Holzer, is on hand for a stilted commentary track. Like her father, she points out what was Hollywood embellishment, what “happened”, and what occurrences were at least possible (she has yet to be on a case where blood ran from sink faucets). There are plenty of pauses, but she does provide some interesting details about her father’s involvement (the film was based on his book, after all) with the case and the production. She reveals that it was he that sought out producers for a movie deal after writing the book, and that he genuinely believed DeFeo might be possessed and that he couldn’t divorce his emotions from the facts.
She also mentions some aspects of the real story that were not depicted here or mentioned in the other films (the gift of the house to the family from the mother’s father was more of a cause of tension than any strange occurrences). She says her father was okay with some of the additions like the make-up effects transformations because they visually conveyed how a possessed person would feel. She describes some of the differences between the film and the book as well (the book correctly depicted the killings while the film has a more dramatic sequence that leaves bodies strewn all over the house, and of course there was no climactic exorcism) and how amused her father was that the script swapped his character out with a priest. She also relates some of her own reactions to seeing the film as a child and now (she says the sequence where Sonny is taken over is inaccurate but she still enjoys it as a viewer). Presumably the stiltedness of the track has to do with her lack of preparation or unfamiliarity with the commentary format, but Shout really should have brought up the feature audio during the pauses.
In "A Mother's Burden" actress Rutanya Alda (14:08) discusses landing the role, shooting in Mexico (James Olsen took it upon himself to find the actors a hotel free of earthquake damage), her affection for her fellow cast members, and the film’s enduring popularity. In "Family Matters", actress Diane Franklin (13:38) also conveys her surprise at the film’s continued popularity. She reveals that the incest scene was easy since she didn’t have a brother, and interpreted her character as being closer to Sonny than her abusive father (Franklin also appears on the commentary and featurette on Shout’s TERRORVISION/THE VIDEO DEAD Blu-ray/DVD combo as well as Arrow Video’s upcoming Region B combo for THE LAST AMERICAN VIRGIN). In "Father Tom's Memories" (3:42), actor Andrew Prine actually has little to say about the film – he does have little to do in the film – other than expressing his admiration of the actors (it may actually be an unused extract from the Prine interview on THE TOWN THAT DREADED SUNDOWN).
Alexandra Holzer appears again in the interview “Continuing the Hunt” (28:45) in which she is more laid-back and personable. She talks about “growing up haunted” (also the title of her book). She discusses her father’s reaction to the first film, the shooting of this film, the commercialization of his source novel, his relationship with Ronald DeFeo (who apparently had unkind things to say about Holzer once he was no longer useful), his published novels and unproduced screenplays, his running commentary on the various series sequels when they appeared on television, and his opinions on the current paranormal reality shows. Besides the theatrical trailer (1:55) present on the MGM DVD, Shout adds a French trailer (1:17) and a still gallery (which includes a lobby card with one of the “lost souls” deleted shots). There is also a brief Easter Egg (1:24) in which make-up artist Stephen Dupuis (SPASMS) recalls working with Caglione Jr. and Ed French (NIGHTMARE) on the film’s make-up effects (and Franklin’s “whore” make-up in the climax).
HOLLYWOODCHICAGO.COM says What to Watch!
“The Amityville Trilogy”
Brian Tallerico, Content Director
We’ve broken most Scream Factory releases out to their own standalone Blu-ray reviews because there’s usually so much to talk about in relation to them. Such is not really the case here. The special features were all previously available, the transfers aren’t as mind-blowing as some of the recent SF ones (“Day of the Dead” is breathtaking), and, well, arguably 67% of the set is horrendous. Even the first movie hasn’t held up very well. This is for diehard horror fans this holiday season only, those excited to watch “Amityville 3D” again. You know who you are.
The Amityville Horror
o Audio Commentary By Dr. Hans Holzer, Ph.D In Parapsychology
o For God’s Sake, Get Out! - Documentary With Stars James Brolin and Margot Kidder
o Theatrical Trailer
o Radio Spots
Amityville II: The Possession
o Interview With Director Damiano Damiani
o New Interviews With Actors Andrew Prine, Diane Franklin And Rutanya Alda
o Audio Commentary With Author Alexandra Holzer (Growing Up Haunted - A Ghostly Memoir)
o Theatrical Trailer
o Theatrical Trailer
Where to Watch: Blu-ray, Amazon Instant Streaming, Vudu
NEXT MOVIE Posts:
'The Amityville Horror' Trilogy Blu-ray
Box Office: $105 million (combined)
Rotten Tomatoes: "The Amityville Horror" (25% Rotten), "Amityville II: The Possession" (7% Rotten), "Amityville 3-D" (0% Rotten
Storyline: This new Scream Factory collection packages together all three of the original "Amityville Horror" movies. "The Amityville Horror" stars Margot Kidder and James Brolin as Kathy and George Lutz, the infamous real-life couple who unknowingly moved their family into a haunted house and quickly fled. "Amityville II: The Possession," which makes its Blu-ray debut here, is actually a prequel to the first movie and tells the story of the family that was murdered in the house by the eldest son prior to the Lutz family moving in. Finally, the trilogy-ending "Amityville 3-D" debuts on Blu-ray 3D and features an early performance by a young Meg Ryan in a supporting role.
Extras!: "The Amityville Horror" contains the same extras of the stand-alone edition, including a documentary with Brolin and Kidder, radio spots and commentary. "Amityville II: The Possession" has an interview with director Damiano Damiani, new interviews with the cast and audio commentary with author Alexandra Holzer. "Amityville 3-D" has both the 2-D and 3-D versions on one disc.
We Say: People don't agree on whether or not the Lutz family really were the victims of demonic forces in the infamous Amityville house on Ocean Drive, but Kidder and Brolin do their best to sell it even as the 1979 special effects haven't aged very well. "Amityville II: The Possession" is the darkest, scariest and most stylish film in the trilogy, even as it takes a somewhat familiar detour into "The Exorcist" territory in the third act. The PG-rated "Amityville 3-D" starring Tony Roberts is the tamest film of the bunch, but this Blu-ray 3D delivers the floating glowing orbs and in-your-face 3-D spook effects that were popular in the '80s.