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Director: Stuart Rosenberg / Damiano Damiani / Richard Fleischer
Cast: James Brolin, Margot Kidder, Rod Steiger, Don Stroud, Murray Hamilton, Natasha Ryan / James Olson, Burt Young, Rutanya Alda, Andrew Prine, Diane Franklin, Moses Gunn / Tony Roberts, Tess Harper, Lori Loughlin, Robert Joy, Meg Ryan
Length: 305 min
Label: Shout! Factory
Video codec: MPEG-4 AVC
Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1 / 2.39:1
Audio: English: DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1
English: DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0
Out of all the franchises in horror, there are very few as peculiar in their existence as The Amityville Horror. Made in the late 1970’s as reaction to the growing popularity of horror film adaptations of bestsellers following Jaws and The Exorcist, The Amityville Horror used the “true story” angle to reinvigorate the waning haunted house genre and place horror further and further into suburbia. However, the film’s reactionary nature makes it very fascinating as it’s still a by-product of a gore-free horror landscape at a time where bloody madness began slowly permeating through the genre. The more subtle moments of the series are when it shines brightest, albeit in fewer and fewer spots as the series continued.
Nevertheless, The Amityville Horror is a horror series that certainly is indicative of it’s time and has some strong moments through it’s simplicity. There’s a respectability of the time and effort put into the movie by the cast, even if the film feels recycled with it’s score that sounds like a fusion of Psycho and The Omen, or it’s sometimes ridiculous, now-cliched moments. With the horror and the rationale lowering with every following entry, the new set from SHOUT! Factory for all three films allows fans of the series to bridge the continuity between each and experience each cinematic haunting on their own merits.
The three films all follow a rather basic plot, even if the second entry does get convoluted amongst the introduction of demonic possession. In each film, a family finds their way into 112 Ocean Avenue in Amityville, New York, where demonic entities invade their lives and put all of their lives in danger. In the first two films, religious figures come into play while in the third, a team of paranormal investigators help the families as the evil grows and manifests in various fears, afflictions and dangers. Among the films, the first is easily the most understandable and straightforward, which benefits from earnestness and nostalgia within this new set, as the second film goes incredibly far to go for shocking and exploitative sleaze and rips off the exorcism films of the time. The third film attempts to go back to simplistic scares but insteads offers weak, confusing storytelling by the way of color-coated pulp and laughably bad plot progression.
Technically speaking, the films vary greatly in this set, with various now-dated effects and contrived set pieces moving the story along at choppy paces. Among them, Stuart Rosenberg’s direction in the original is the most solid, as the film feels appropriately paced and intense, especially for the first half of the film, with much gratitude deserved to editor Robert Brown Jr. and art director Kim Swados. Damiano Damiani, despite excellent with visual flair in the second Amityville film, offers nothing new or groundbreaking in terms of the set pieces of practical effects, and offsets much of the tension with moments of unintentional silliness. By the third film, the production seems so devoted on appropriating the 3-D gimmick that longtime action director, Richard Fleischer, rarely gets to do anything besides a paint-by-numbers monster movie, despite inklings of creepiness throughout.
Of course, for this particular franchise, acting has never been quite the strong suit, favorite more melodramatic theatricality as opposed to realism. Once again, the first film has the strongest performances, with James Brolin mixing gravitas with overacting and Margot Kidder adding an appropriate amount of camp to the proceedings, although the acting from Rod Steiger as Father Delaney is incredibly devoted to the material and shockingly impressive. The second film definitely ups the melodrama and ham, as Burt Young and company show off some of the most hysterically absurd family drama in the history of horror. The third film is definitely bordering on embarrassing, as Tony Roberts and Robert Joy shine only in their enthusiasm for the weirdness on display.
All three films have good, but not excellent, transfers from SHOUT! Colors are definitely not as lush as they maybe should be, but the picture is sharp, the grain is not distracting and the contrast is excellent. Of the three films, Amityville II has the best transfer of them all, with evidence of age is apparent in the first film and the third film has a shockingly soft image quality.
As per usual, SHOUT! delivers in the audio departments. The original scores in each film have never sounded better outside of this set, with the dialogue and sound effects all clear, understandable and hiss-free.
The special features on this set are actually rather spectacular. On the first disc, there’s a really fascinating Commentary Track with Dr. Hans Holzer, and two great Interviews with James Brolin & Margot Kidder as well as Lalo Schifrin, as well as the standard Still Gallery, TV Spots and Radio Spots. On the second disc, there are some interesting Interviews with Damiano Damiani, Tommy Lee Wallace, Rutanya Alda, Diane Franklin, Andrew Prine and Alexandra Holzer, the latter of whom also provides a Commentary Track, as well as Trailers and Still Gallery. The last disc is the barest, coming with a sole Interview with Candy Clark, a Photo Gallery, Trailer and the 3D version of the film.
If you’re a fan in the Amityville Horror trilogy or are invested in the experiences surrounding the “true story” and the films, this set is perfection. Even though more care should have been taken with Amityville III, the first two discs are so strong to make-up for its failures. If you’re not a fan of the trilogy or if simplistic horror doesn’t strike nostalgia in your heart , the set is rather dull and ineffective. SHOUT! does right by this set and provides a plethora of great extras, so even though this set may be a little too outdated for my tastes, this definitely comes recommended if you’re the right audience for it.