Studio: Uncork’d Entertainment
Director: Michael Angelo
Writer: Amanda Barton
Producer: Philip Day, Justin Jones, Zeus Zamani
Stars: Nicole Tompkins, Kaiwi Lyman, Kim Nielsen, Amanda Barton, Trevor Stines, Christy St. John, Tonya Kay, Bobby Emprechtinger, Lai Ling, Cher Hubsher, Priscilla Emprechtinger
A troubled family unknowingly moves into a cursed Amityville home with a dark connection to local residents.
It rarely fails. Whenever word breaks on another low-grade Amityville project, you can count on confused consumers to comment about how far off the rails the film series has gone since its 1979 debut.
What they have yet to realize, although more and more learn this with each disappointing entry, is that there isn’t exactly a canonical Amityville series to speak of. “The Amityville Horror” is a specific trademark, and Hollywood studio productions genuinely tied to this title can be counted as related, certainly those 1980s sequels anyway. But being the name of a city, anyone has free reign to plug “Amityville” without the “Horror” into whatever s/he wants and voila, a seemingly “official” Amityville movie when there is virtually no such thing.
Indie horror producers/distributors/filmmakers count on this name recognition and that naivety to combine for an ill-informed iTunes rental or blind DVD purchase. That’s why the fright film market is flooded with almost as many movies bearing the word “Amityville” as it is “Paranormal.”
Speaking for myself, I don’t have being uninformed as an excuse. I’ve long known about this tired tactic and yet here I am still willingly walking into minimal effort movies like “The Amityville Terror” as though I don’t know any better, even though I do. Shame on me.
Amityville is of course located in Long Island, New York. So pay no attention to the palm trees and mountains in the background of “The Amityville Terror” as it was clearly shot in California. Or possibly one state over since an unmarked police car visibly sports a Nevada license plate.
The film also takes place in some bizarro reality where no one seems to know what Amityville is infamous for. The name apparently carries as much weight as Ypsilanti or Cleveland as far as cities with sinister connotations go.
A traditional story summary is unnecessary. I’ll just list an assortment of included clichés and if you’ve seen at least one haunted house horror movie before, you’ll have no problem figuring out how it all fits together:
Troubled family looking for a fresh start unknowingly moves into a cursed home. Creepy child’s doll. Creepy music box. Odd little local girl cryptically references an entity in the house. Woken suddenly from a nightmare. Nearly drowning in a bathtub. Bitchy bad girl doesn’t like the outsider new girl starting a romance with her good guy boyfriend. Conspiratorial townspeople suddenly hush up and look down whenever the new neighbors casually mention which house they’ve moved into. Struggling husband supernaturally seduced. Unsolved mysteries dating back decades. Google search montages of someone doing online research. Paranormal activity. Possession. A buxom landlord practically wearing a negligee to pick up the rent check.
That last one may be somewhat atypical, but you get the picture. About the only thing missing is a killer clown to complete the smorgasbord of routine chiller conventions.
Rife with dysfunctional family melodrama and teen soap subplots, “The Amityville Terror” is the kind of by-the-book supernatural thriller where if it were actually based on true events, it might fit as an average Tuesday night MOW on Lifetime. The movie is more technically competent than the lowest of the low Amityville cash-ins like “The Amityville Asylum” (review here), “The Amityville Haunting” (review here), or “The Amityville Theater” (review here), at any rate.
However, it’s hard to regard “The Amityville Terror” as even the mediocre movie it sets out to be because it stops living up to its own initial standards of what counts for passable entertainment value. The set-up may induce sleepiness, but at least it follows a formula, never mind how rote that formula may be. Then the film seemingly loses all remaining respect for itself by degrading into a sloppily edited last act tying threads together in ridiculously rushed fashion.
Scenes stop making sense. Substories come to hurried resolutions. Continuity becomes careless. And it’s a tie as to which ugly attempt at fire special effects is worse: the laughable layer of CGI flames standing in for an unaffordable explosion, or the orange light bulb flickering on a dimmer switch meant to simulate a burning living room.
Recognizable from other productions, several actresses in particular attempt to make lemonade out of their sour lemon roles. But basic characterizations and hurried, seemingly single-take setups don’t afford wiggle room to wash away the warts. “The Amityville Terror” is what you get when limited time, a limited budget, and limited enthusiasm come together to pinch out an unoriginal horror film: something partly functional, yet entirely forgettable.
Review Score: 30