Tag Archives: incompetent acting

Amityville II: The Possession

I have arcane rules for when to review a movie, rules that I only barely understand myself. I try not to break them, though. It has to be an event movie, like if I go to the theater, or otherwise sit down by myself or with a group of people specifically to watch the movie. If it just happened to be on the TV, no. I have to stay awake all the way through it. (This pitfall is usually not based on quality, but just on tiredness, and I’ve broken it once so far. No, I’m not saying when. I will say that this pitfall is what will prevent me from reviewing The Amityville Horror (original), which I watched on the same night as this one.) If it’s something I’ve seen before, the scrutiny gets worse, because how much can I reasonably take out of a movie on repeat viewings? Then I have to really feel it before writing anything down. This is in contrast to books, which I intend to review every time I read through one, first time or not. Because there’s more of a personal investment to it, I guess. Games would be on the book end rather than the movie end, except there are way too many games for me to replay any.

The sad part is, I broke my rule and wasn’t going to review Amityville II: The Possession despite it meeting all of my criteria. But it keeps tumbling about in my head, and so I must. Let me start off by making this perfectly clear. This is a bad movie, a terrible movie, really. The acting aspires to golden moments of competency, but rarely succeeds. The storyline is really no worse than most schlocky horror films, but it ends about an hour in, while the movie drags on for thirty grueling minutes beyond that point. There’s absolutely no reason you should watch it, other than if the review makes you curious. That said, if you do plan to watch it of your own accord, don’t read any further, as I am going to spoil the hell out of it. (I wish I could say ‘no pun intended’ here, with a fake little laugh that proves the opposite; unfortunately, I can’t, because there’s no actual pun here. You’d think so, in a movie about demonic possession and the grisly murder of an entire family. But, no.)

So this family moves into a three-story house in New York, in the 1970s. The father is kind of an asshole, the mother shows classic Edith Bunker signs of abuse, and then there are four kids, two of them young, plus an older son and his live-in girlfriend. There’s some kind of mysterious underground chamber which opens and closes at will, blows out cold air, and dripped blood and flies all over a repairman. Much to my personal frustration, though, nobody ever investigated it extensively. Also, the son starts to be possessed by a demon, the symptoms of which include setting up a pretend sexy photoshoot with his girlfriend, acting sullen and withdrawn around his parents, occasional bursts of anger, and lots of sly sarcasm. Well, and sometimes his skin starts pulsating and turns green, but only ever when he’s by himself and nobody else can see it happen. Then, later, the family’s priest goes off with his porn-moustached “friend” on a “camping trip”, instead of responding to their pleas for help about the weird things going on, and the son kills everyone in the house before the priest can get back in time to save them. Feeling guilty over the whole fiasco, he breaks the son out of protective custody and then exorcises the demon from the son into himself, thus removing the kid’s one good trial defense. Then the movie ends, with the priest sitting up there in the corner of the attic, twitching with demonic angst.

So, yeah, that was weird. But you should know that I lied at one point in the above narrative. It was for effect, but it was also because I got fooled in this exact way, until someone pointed it out to me. The live-in girlfriend? Actually, she’s the eldest daughter. But there they are, in the first scenes of the movie, way before any of the demon-y stuff starts up, flirting like mad. That probably should have been a clue, I guess. You don’t get that level of sexual tension out of people who are actually involved with each other. But right from the start, neither the direction nor the acting give any indication that they’re related to each other. It’s not that I’m outraged here over the lack of making incest feel icky factor. It’s that every expository indication from the film is telling me that it’s supposed to be icky, but at the same time there’s this dissonance in that it’s filmed as straight-up, regular, completely run-of-the-mill behavior between the two of them. Even by the time the nude photography role-playing scene comes along and it’s clear they’re brother and sister, well, by then he’s all demonic, but she looks like she’s uncomfortable only that she hasn’t yet come up with an excuse to say yes to everything he wants to happen. Then later when she’s confessing to the priest, her big sin in her own mind is pre-marital sex, not incest. It seems like she wants the priest to help out so that her boyfriend will stop acting weird, and that’s it. Allow me to reiterate that there’s never any hint she’s being controlled by evil, either.

So, what you’ve got is a tremendously bad bit of film that has only two characters with any free will, both of which I found deeply compelling yet impossible to really understand. One of them a priest who makes consistently bizarre, non-sensical choices about how to deal from moment to moment and is wracked by guilt over each one, and ultimately ends up filled with a demon and with no hint of what becomes of him after. The other a teenage schoolgirl who is to all appearances in love with her older brother, demon or not, and who the film treats as not in any way out of the ordinary.[1] Yet, somehow, the demon thought she was just as worthy of death as the rest of the family, so she takes a rifle shot to the gut, just like everyone else. I wish I knew if they’d be equally compelling outside the context of this particular movie, because I’m probably going to steal them someday, if it’s at all feasible.

[1] Untrue: at one point, her brother hugs her on his birthday, and despite the hug being almost completely normal except that it might have lingered for no more than a second too long, the mother immediately figures out what’s going on somehow, and then later when the sister goes inside to find him since he’s the only person not outside celebrating his own birthday party, in favor of another bout of turning green and pulsating under his skin in the privacy of his attic bedroom, she gets slapped by the mother for her trouble. There was really no reason for the mother to figure out anything there, nor did the scene have any consequences. Based on the rest of the movie, my only conclusion is that the slap was borne out of jealousy rather than anger at sin.