It’s often forgotten that a truly horrific event took place in the house at 112 Ocean Avenue better known as The Amityville House. I’m not talking about the ghostly goings on that is the focus of the series but rather the real-life DeFeo murders.
Briefly…Ronald DeFeo, Jr. murdered his entire family (mother, father, two brothers and two sisters) in 1974. After attempting to cover it up as a mob-style hit his story fell apart under close scrutiny & he admitted to killing them all. His defence was that he had heard voices urging him to kill them as they were plotting against him. The insanity plea was rejected & he was found guilty on all counts.
For those wishing to know more there is a wealth of information available & I strongly recommend you do read up on it.
The first Amityville focused on the Lutz family who moved into the house over a year after the DeFeo murders. During their brief stay they were supposedly terrorised by all manner of spooky goings on. This story has served as the inspiration for the most of the films in the series to date & makes for a compelling watch.
Amityville II: The Possession is a prequel & one that is inspired by the DeFeo murders & the claims Ronald made. This alone makes it the reason any fan should see it.
The Montelli family consisting of father Anthony, mother Dolores, eldest son Sonny, the teenage daughter Patricia and the two youngest, a boy & a girl are moving into their new house, the Amityville House. The family seem happy even though there is tension between Sonny & his father.
It’s not long before unusual things begin to occur within the house blamed mostly on the children by their strict & abusive father. After a nasty incident involving the local priest the true extent of the Montelli’s family problems become apparent, they are falling apart & Sonny seems to take the brunt of most of his father’s anger.
The strange events going on in the house seem to affect Sonny the most & he becomes sullen & withdrawn refusing to go to Church with the rest of the family. It is while alone that he is attacked by an unseen presence & subjected to demonic possession. A now possessed Sonny becomes even more withdrawn, starts an incestuous relationship with his sister & his face contorts to resemble a demon during times of stress.
This all eventually leads to Sonny being instructed by the demon to kill his entire family which he does with his father’s gun. The next day having been arrested Sonny claims to not recall anything that happened the night before. The priest having been suspicious before realises that Sonny is possessed & sets about trying to exorcize the demon.
As interesting as the story subject might be it is poorly told & you can’t help but wonder why it isn’t more of a direct telling of the DeFeo murders. The hints are dropped throughout & several rumours about Ronald DeFeo & his family are utilised such as a supposed incestuous relationship between brother & sister.
Those scenes are so awkward & you’ll wonder why Patricia is so ok with taking off her clothes for Sonny to play-photograph her. Sure their relationship seemed a little deeper than the other members of the family but that doesn’t mean they should go off & start having sex!
What is interesting to see is Burt Young (best known for his roles as Paulie from the Rocky movies) play a really dark & intense role. Abusive father & husband, his behaviour is clearly a catalyst for the demon to go after Sonny who harbours deep resentment towards his dad. I can’t help but think if the movie had instead left the supernatural elements out & played on a more thought piece regarding the ‘like father, like son’ possibility than it would have been a much better film.
…but hey, we wouldn’t have had the long-winded exorcism ending that rips off the Exorcist on several occasions. An extremely graphic face pulling/splitting apart seems completely out of place also considering the lack of gore elsewhere.
This stuff takes you out of the movie completely & just reminds you that you’re watching a poorly done demonic house film rather than an interesting & fresh take on a real-life crime.
We really could have had something good here, something that would be remembered instead of being consigned to the bargain bin like many of the films in the series.
Amityville II - The Possession