Retro Review: Amityville II: The Possession (1982)

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In my last article I expressed my disappointment in the newest entry into the Amityville franchise, The Amityville Murders. In the beginning of that article I briefly discussed my infatuation with the DeFeo murders as well as the paranormal occurrences detailed in the house at 112 Ocean Ave that were experienced by the Lutz family. I won’t rehash that in this article, curious parties can read that as well as my last review here. After discussing the franchise with Rayzor, he encouraged me to do a review of Amityville II: The Possession, which tells the same story as The Amityville Murders. So last night I watched the film again, and here we go…

Amityville II: The Possession is basically a retelling of the mass murder of the DeFeo family, committed by eldest son Ronnie “Butch” DeFeo. While this is a prequel to the original film, George and Kathy Lutz wanted the second movie to be an adaptation of John G. Jones’ novel The Amityville Horror Part II (which continues to follow the supposedly true story of the Lutz family after leaving the house). Instead, the producers decided to dramatize the book Murder in Amityville by famed paranormal researcher Hans Holzer. Holzer’s work was largely based upon Butch DeFeo’s version of the events surrounding the slaughter of his family, which included demonic possession and other supernatural occurrences.

In this film, the Montelli (Anthony, Dolores, and their children Sonny, Patricia, Mark, and Janice) have moved into the house of their dreams. Things seem to go ok until a secret room in the basement is discovered, seemingly releasing some sort of dark entity upon the family. The already tumultuous relationship between the father Anthony (Burt Young) and the rest of the family is intensified, as he becomes abusive to all of them. While Dolores (Rutanya Alda) tries to get help from a local priest, eldest son Sonny (who is based on Butch DeFeo) becomes increasingly affected by paranormal activity, and eventually becomes possessed. With the entity seemingly controlling him, Sonny single-handedly murders his entire family with a shotgun. After being arrested, the family priest begins to fight for the Sonny’s soul.

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There are so many reasons why I love this movie. For starters, I think the cast is incredible. Burt Young does an eery job portraying an abusive scumbag father/husband. He is complimented beautifully by Rutanya Alda who plays the mother, who despite being at her wits end, desires some semblance of normalcy for her family. Jack Magner is the key here, though, by taking on the role of the slowly possessed Sonny. His performance makes the viewer uncomfortable, which is exactly what it’s intended to do.

I’ve often described Amityville II: The Possession as being two really good movies. The first two thirds is a well executed, good old fashioned haunted house flick. Depictions of the paranormal are well placed and terrifying, not campy or silly. The latter half, which includes the actual homicide, can be described as a wonderful possession movie. The supernatural emphasis shifts from the house itself to Sonny, and it is twisted. Not only does the entity affect him mentally, but it affects him physically as well. This is depicted with some grade A 1980’s practical effects. Pulsating flesh, yellow teeth, and even a nasty face splitting scene. All the good stuff.

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One issue many who have meticulously studied these murders could have are it’s various deviations from the actual events. For example, the DeFeo victims were all murdered and found laying face down in their beds, while this is not the case for the Montelli’s. Also, the Monelli’s corpses were removed from the house the following morning, whereas the DeFeo’s were removed in the middle of the night (after a frantic Butch dialed 9-1-1 from a nearby bar). I’m also not entirely convinced of the truth of an incestuous relationship between Butch and Dawn, which is expressed by Sonny and Trish. While typically a purist, these things don’t matter a whole lot to me because the film is just so darn good.

So while I was ultimately left disappointed with the recent film’s version of the DeFeo murders, I am happy to be able to go right to Amityville II: The Possession. While not the most accurately detailed depiction, this film does a great job capturing a young man’s unfortunate descent into insanity and depravity, ultimately ending in the massacre of his own family. If you enjoy The Amityville Horror and have not seen this yet, you absolutely must. It’s a cross between The Amityville Horror and The Exorcist, and should not be missed by anyone who considers themselves a horror fan.

About Chuck Ransford 100 Articles
Ah now for the one thing everyone loathes...writing about themselves! Well for starters, my name is Chuck, and I am a south Jersey transplant living in Amish country. I’ve been a horror fan since 5th grade, about 16 years ago. My horror fandom started when I got my hands on a copy of Jay Anson’s novel The Amityville Horror. The book terrified me, and I knew I just had to watch the movie. An older cousin of mine had a copy of it, and that was the genesis of my obsession with the genre. Over the years I have expressed my horror fandom in many ways. Since about 2005 I have been regularly attending horror conventions. These have been great ways to amass collectibles, movies, and to meet some of my favorite celebrities. My best friend Mike and I used to run our own horror blog years ago, and we also dabbled in script writing. I am looking forward to going back to writing about horror, something I’ve always loved. When I’m not working (I work at PNC Bank), my non-horror interests are studying theology and economics, watching Japanese tokusatsu, and doing play-by-play commentary for professional wrestling. I’m also a member of the Barbershop Harmony Society and singing in a Barbershop quartet. Oh, and I’m probably the biggest fan of the Golden Girls you’ll ever meet. My top 5 horror flicks (definitely subject to change): 1. Cannibal Holocaust (1980) 2. Basket Case (1982) 3. Texas Chain Saw Massacre (1974) 4. The Beyond (1981) 5. Dawn of the Dead (1978)