Sunday 5 August 2012

Amityville II: The Possession (1982)

Those damn Amityville movies. When I saw the first film I didn't realise that it was much more fiction than fact. Then, just a few years later, when I saw the second movie I didn't realise that it was highly derivative of both The Evil Dead and The Exorcist with a little bit of Poltergeist thrown into the mix.. But the first film being a bit of a fraud never stopped me from enjoying it even after I found out the truth and this sequel remains every bit as unnerving and impressive as it was back in the early 1980s when I first saw it. In fact, considering how much the first movie now almost resembles some sanitised Hallmark take on the famous haunting, it's impressive to see just how dark and nasty this sequel gets. It tramples some taboo material and remains fairly daring from start to finish.

The plot isn't all that different from the first movie, initially. A family move into the house in Amityville and shit gets real. This time around the family is already strained from the very start. There's a domineering and rather cruel father (played by Burt Young), there's a mother trying to keep everyone happy and harmonious (Rutanya Alda), there are two younger children who try to run about and have fun when they can and there are two older children who get on much better than most brothers and sisters (Sonny is played by Jack Magner and Patricia is played by the absolutely gorgeous Diane Franklin - look, I had a crush on her and it's never gone away so let's just drop it and move on). After a couple of unnerving incidents and a failed attempt to bless the house by the local priest (James Olson) it's on to the actual possession part of the movie title and Sonny is the figure that the evil in the house wants to take over.

Directed by Damiano Damiani, and written by Tommy Lee Wallace, there's no denying that the star of the show is once again THAT house. The cast all do pretty good work, especially Magner and Franklin, but the movie creates an intense and almost cloying atmosphere because of the house, helped yet again by a fantastic and creepy score from Lalo Schifrin. There are also some impressive and icky practical effects that hold up well to this day. It's strange to watch the movie 30 years after it was initially released and to see it holding up so well. Oh, most classic films can be watched decades after their release and still enjoyed and appreciated but that doesn't happen so often with horror sequels made to grab a slice from popular cash cows of the time. This is a very rare thing indeed.

Maybe, just maybe, I can't watch the movie without removing all trace of my first reaction to it. The terror I felt every time the musical cues would do their job, the extra beating of my heart when I first saw Diane Franklin, the anger at the father figure too quick to reach for his belt and dole out punishment. Maybe all of those things influence my thoughts on the movie to this day. But, if that's the case, doesn't that just mean that the movie was as effective as it set out to be?



  1. Greetings from Arizona, Kevin! My name is John and I'm a fellow Diane Franklin-phile. I have to admit that I'm a little late to the party, but I grew up with the same crush you did thanks to "Better Off Dead..." and "TerrorVision." It never died, and now I feel the most positive and happiest of influence due to her resurgence. I'm sure you're aware of her charming, critical book about her "Excellent Adventures" and "Babes of the 1980s" radio show as I am, and I've been revisiting each of her movies in excitement on my own Blogspot page, Mind of Frames. I've even been lucky to land "Punchcard Player" from 2006! I know I got some catching up to do, but I not only consider Franklin very lovely, indeed, but a genuinely talented, natural performer who I'm glad to hear from again in print and on the radio. If we must move on, let's remember Franklin as the soulful, sweet and kind of subversive woman we should all be proud to admit we remember and, yes, got the bug for. I've just suscribed to your site and chipped in ten pounds for support.

  2. That's very kind of you, John. Many thanks.
    Franklin certainly is a memorable beauty (I know a lot of fans who still hold her dear in their hearts for those movies you mentioned and also The Last American Virgin). I was very tempted to pick up
    her book but just haven't done so yet (so much to do, so little time eh). I already have my reviews for TLAV and TerrorVision over on IMDb but am sure that she will pop up here again, especially as I have to revisit the likes of the superbly entertaining Better Off Dead :-)