In this era of streaming, some days it just seems like there’s too much content to sift through. Every year, there are so many low-budget genre pictures that slip through the fingers of fans the world over, simply because they’re not getting discovered by the people that would love them most. We all pine for the glory days of 42nd Street here at Daily Grindhouse or even the VHS boom of the early ‘80s, but where are the this generations crop of low-budget, sci-fi, horror, and action trash? Who has time to sift through all these films to find the real gems and moreso, who has time to read long winded reviews? It’s a daunting task, and it requires someone who loves genre cinema more than he loves his own words, and that person may be me. That’s why we’re going to be Keeping It 400 here at Daily Grindhouse: 400 word reviews that plainly and simply let you know if these films are worth checking out. This week Mike Vanderbilt looks at THE AMITYVILLE MURDERS.
The Film: THE AMITYVILLE MURDERS (2018)
Director: Daniel Farrands
The Players: John Robinson, Chelsea Ricketts, Diane Franklin, Burt Young
The Plot: On the night of November 13, 1974, Ronald DeFeo, Jr. took a high-powered rifle and murdered his entire family as they slept. At his trial, DeFeo claimed that “voices” in the house commanded him to kill. This is their story.
The Review: THE AMITYVILLE MURDERS is, I believe, the 21st film in the confoundingly long-running AMITYVILLE series. Someone is out there hoping for this to be “the good one.”
THE AMITYVILLE MURDERS attempts to be a more serious retelling of the true events that wherein Ronald “Butch” DeFeo Jr. murdered his entire family in November of 1974. At least that’s what the end credits imply, utilizing photographs from the case as a post-script. AMITYVILLE II: THE POSSESSION tackled the story of the DeFeo family via the Montellis, albeit it a much more exploitative– and enjoyable—style for lovers of trash. The 1982 film plays like an Italian knock off of the original AMITYVILLE HORROR, with elements of THE EXORCIST and V.C. Andrews inspired incest for good measure. The latest AMITYVILLE story recasts Diane Franklin and Burt Young from THE POSSESSION serving as a constant reminder how much more fun the original prequel was.
THE AMITYVILLE MURDERS bites off more than it can chew as it details the events leading up to the infamous murder, suggesting a long standing family curse and even the mob as the reason for the unexplainable events at 112 Ocean Avenue. The house itself—arguably the star of these films—is rarely seen in scale, most likely due to it being a special effect and a facade. Cheap tricks are abound: kitchen drawers slamming open, objects moving on their own, and creepy breezes. The smoke monsters—with their glowing eyes and simplistic design—are effective and creepy, reminiscent of the creatures in WE ARE STILL HERE.
However, the film missteps by going full on supernatural. Tackling real life issues like abuse and drug use, the film attempts to draw parallels between these events and the evil that inhabits the house. If THE AMITYVILLE MURDERS had been more subtle, never answering the question “is this house truly possessed,” then the film could have gone some interesting places. As it stands, THE AMITYVILLE MURDERS resembles a Lifetime movie, but rarely reaches the over-the-top heights that can turn an average made-for-TV potboiler into a camp classic. There is one moment where Paul Ben-Victor as the patriarch congratulates his son on confronting him with a shotgun that’s laughable in its seriousness.
There are some groovy ‘70s costumes on display and features cool garage rock from Tommy McLoughlin’s band The Sloths, but THE AMITYVILLE MURDERS winds up another lackluster entry in the AMITYVILLE franchise.
The Verdict: Skip it. Rent AMITYVILLE II: THE POSSESSION instead.
THE AMITYVILLE MURDERS possesses theaters February 8th.