One could say that my horror fanaticism can be traced back to the house on 112 Ocean Avenue in Amityville, NY. I remember in elementary school I found a beat up copy of Jay Anson’s novel The Amityville Horror and devouring it. The novel detailed the supposed supernatural activity experienced by George and Kathy Lutz (along with Kathy’s children) after the couple purchased the home in which Butch DeFeo supposedly murdered his entire family. When I was in 5th grade I FINALLY had the opportunity to watch the 1979 film adaptation of Anson’s novel. It was the first horror movie I remember purposely watching. From then on I had cultivated a sort of fascination with not only the paranormal experiences of the Lutz’s, but with the details surrounding the actual murders that occurred in that domicile.
Naturally, after developing this interest, I began to watch movies and documentaries, as well as reading books (fiction and non-fiction) on the incidences. Unfortunately, most of the movies aren’t very good, and the books aren’t much better. I have my own theories about what happened at 112 Ocean Ave, but I think I’ll save that for another post.
Amityville II: The Possession is probably my favorite horror sequel of all time. Surely some of this has to do with my obsession with that particular house and town, but I do think it’s a damn fine movie. While I enjoy it a lot, I have longed for a film based on the actual murders that was a little more based on fact (the family in The Possession aren’t even named DeFeo). So needless to say when I saw the trailer for The Amityville Murders I was pretty excited. Once starting the movie, however, it didn’t take long to realize that my excitement would be short lived.
The Amityville Murders depicts some of the events leading up to the murder of the DeFeo family at the hands of eldest son Ronnie “Butch” DeFeo. Before I get into why I didn’t like the movie, I’ll say a few things I thought the film did well. One of those things was showing just how tumultuous the relationship was between Ronnie Sr. and his son Butch. Ronnie Sr. had been incredibly abusive to his older soon, both verbally and physically. I thought actor Paul Ben-Victor did a fantastic job playing the DeFeo family patriarch. Another thing I appreciated was the inclusion of a possible mafia angle. It has been widely speculated that Ronnie Sr. had mob connections, and that somehow played into the family’s murder, however this really hasn’t been mentioned in any other films. The last thing I enjoyed about the flick was the casting of stars from Amityville II: The Possession, with Diane Franklin and Burt Young who played Louise DeFeo and her father.
One of the big issues I had with this film was the injection of occult practices throughout. While this may not have been a bad plot device for any other film, it just doesn’t fit in with the actual story. Dawn and Butch doing some weird seance-esque ritual with bad CGI just didn’t do it for me. It takes away from the narrative that the house itself was just straight up evil. There was a weird angle with the grandmother (who honestly looked like Ron Pearlman in Beauty and the Beast) that just didn’t fit well at all. The depiction of Butch descending into madness was forced and was nowhere near as well done as Sonny Montelli’s in Amityville II: The Possession.
Another thing that really turned me off during this film was how unbelievably forced the film was. It seemed like every 30 seconds there was someone going “bang bang bang” or referencing a gun, or something else that attempted to be foreshadowing but ended up just being silly. At one point a police officer says to Ronnie Sr. something like “Ya know you really shouldn’t leave your firearms sitting out here” and he all but looked into the camera making eyes with the audience. I expected him to say “You never know, maybe your oldest son will pick it up and kill the lot of you. Just sayin’…”
As I said before, I have a bit of an obssession with the DeFeo and Lutz families. I get excited when I see new media being produced having to do with the events in Amityville, New York. Maybe it’s time I’ve learned my lesson. I suppose I’ll still check out new films, books, and documentaries, but I should have my standards lowered. Sub-par story telling and too much not-so-subtle foreshadowing really made me laugh more than anything else. I watched with some other horror fans, and the film actually made one of them rage. This film could’ve rightly been called The Amityville Horrible.
IMDb rating: 4.9/10
My rating: 2/10