September 24, 2017 Amityville II: The Possession 35 Years Later
Back on July 27th of 1979, The Amityville Horror stormed into movie theaters across the United States. Based on the 1977 novel of the same name by Jay Anson, it told the tale of the alleged “true” story of a Long Island family who fled their home in the middle of a cold February night because of supernatural forces. One of the most successful independent films produced at the time, several years later, on September 24th of 1982, a sequel by the name of Amityville II: The Possession followed. Considered a prequel to the original, this time loosely tells the story of the DeFeos, the original family to resided at 112 Ocean Avenue in Amityville, New York, who, sadly, were not as lucky to get out.
Based on the 1979 novel Murder in Amityville by the parapsychologist Hans Holzer, Amityville II: The Possession featured a screenplay by Tommy Lee Wallace, who also directed Halloween III: Season of the Witch in 1982. A long-time collaborator with John Carpenter, Wallace’s story shows the DeFeo family, or should we say the Montelli family.
Directed by Italian filmmaker Damiano Damiani (Bullet For A General 1967, How To Kill a Judge 1975), in his first American film, the cast included a great mix of talent including Burt Young (Rocky 1976, Back To School 1986) as Anthony Montelli, James Olson (Andromeda Strain 1971, Moon Zero Two 1969) as Father Adamsky, Rutanya Alda (The Deer Hunter 1977, Mommie Dearest 1981) as Dolores Montelli, and Diane Franklin (Last American Virgin 1982, Better Off Dead 1985) as Patricia Montelli.
With all of the supposed supernatural phenomena surrounding the DeFeo murders – resulting in the first book and movie being such a big hit, as well as 1973’s The Exorcist becoming a worldwide phenomenon – Amityville II: The Possession naturally explored the territory of demonic possession more closely. So on March 8th of 1982, principal photography began on location in Toms River, New Jersey. Yes New Jersey! For those who do not know, The Amityville Horror was shot there, as well. Although, unlike much of the first film being shot at Pinewood Studios in England, the eight-week studio shooting of Amityville II: The Possession was done in Mexico City at Estudios Churubusco Azteca S.A.
Having a decent budget for the time, of approximately 5 million dollars, it was quite a good-looking film shot by the late award-winning Italian Cinematographer Franco Di Giacomo (The Night of the Shooting Stars 1982, Dark Eyes 1987). Matched with the buzz of the first film, hopes were high for the sequel but, unfortunately, it provoked a split reaction from both audiences and critics at the time. That said, does it get better with age and does it hold up after 35 long years?
Let us examine the plot further. The Montelli family are moving into their new home – Anthony aka dad, Dolores aka mom (Rutanya Alda); Sonny, the oldest boy (Jack Magner: Firestarter 1984), Patricia (Diane Franklin), along with the two younger kids Jan and Mark, played by real life sister and brother (Erika Katz and Brent Katz). It is a fresh start and the entire family is happy, that is until they discover a mysterious tunnel in their basement. Shattering their high hopes, they find that there is evil in this house that soon results in paranormal activity and unexplainable happenings.
Finally when the family has had enough, mom goes to see the local priest, Father Frank Adamsky (James Olson). Father Frank attempts to bless the house but Dad will have none of it and tells him to “Get out!” Upon returning to his car, Father Frank finds his door open and his Bible ripped to shreds. Was this the work of one of the Montellis or an angry spirit?
In an attempt to apologize for the way Dad acted in front of Father Frank, the whole family go to church except for Sonny, who is not feeling well. He also starts to have sexual feelings for his
sister. Wait, what? Nonetheless, while at home, everything starts to go to hell so to speak. Sonny starts to hear laughter coming from the tunnel in the basement and with hammer in hand, he heads to the basement where he experiences a “presence.” Frightened, Sonny heads back to his bedroom but not alone, as he is now possessed by a demon. Now controlled by forces from beyond, Sonny starts to act on his infatuation with his sister. Oddly enough, Patricia also seems to be feeling the same way and without getting too graphic, things become weird, very weird. Soon afterward, things go from weird to ugly, and thus begins the demise of the Montelli family.
So is Amityville Horror II: The Possession a great film? No, but it is entertaining! Unjustly taking a beating from critics, amazingly Roger Ebert of the Chicago Sun-Times, who has never liked Horror films, at the time stated Amityville II: The Possession “is actually slightly better than The Amityville Horror.“ Who would have thought that! Regardless, the film was dubbed a failure in many eyes, but it did rake-in over an estimated 4 million dollars on its opening weekend and approximately 12.5 million dollars total. Take that critics!
Negativity aside, the cast did a good job considering what they had to work with. In fact, in a recent interview with Diane Franklin, she told CrypticRock: “It was very real and I think the acting was really good. I think Jack, Rutanya, Burt, and James Olsen did an amazing job. It was very gritty and took you off guard, but I was always surprised that people remembered the film out of the three.” Many dedicated fans would agree with her, and back on February 1, 2017 it was played at Quentin Tarantino’s movie theater, New Beverly Cinema. Played in between 1980’s The Changeling and 1978’s The Evil, it was chosen from a listing of Amityville films to be shown. Impressive!
Also helping the film was the soundtrack scored by Lalo Schifrin (Mission: Impossible 1966, Starsky and Hutch 1975) making the feel superbly frightening. Reflecting on this factor, Franklin also stated: “I love about the music in that film, specifically, is that when I did the film we would watch the dailies. Dailies, during my time they were called ‘dailies,’ where you did a scene then you get to watch it the next day before it’s…without it being cut into anything. I’d watch the Dailies and there’d be no music. So you’d see a clock ticking or someone walking up the stairs. It wasn’t scary! It was just almost boring, why are we doing a closeup on a tablecloth or a mirror or something? Then I went to see the film in the theater and they added the music and it’s over. Once the music is added, now we’re talking about a scary film.”
Decades later, Amityville Horror II: The Possession should be credited for paving the way for a massive franchise. It was followed a year later by 1983’s Amityville 3-D, before 15 more Amityville related films, with the most recent being the forthcoming release of Amityville: The Awakening. That in mind, who knows where the franchise would be if not for Amityville Horror II: The Possession. Unsettling and eerie, 35 years later, Amityville Horror II: The Possession still holds up in the heart of Horror lovers.