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Overall Rating

Awesome: 20.83%
Worth A Look54.17%
Average: 12.5%
Pretty Bad: 8.33%
Total Crap: 4.17%

1 review, 18 user ratings

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Amityville II: The Possession
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by Jack Sommersby

"Scary, Suspenseful Prequel"
4 stars

Delivers the goods one expects from the genre, with an array of suprisingly believable characters as a bonus.

To say Amityville II: The Possession is superior to the abysmal 1979 The Amityville Horror may not seem like the grandest of praise in light of that movie's startling ineptness, but thanks to superb directorial craftsmanship, solid acting, and a functional screenplay it's guaranteed to give you a serious case of the heebie-jeebies. With the veteran Italian director Damiano Damiana at the helm, the movie expertly envelops us from the very first shot and refuses to release its vise-like grip even when the ending credits are rolling -- it puts you through a nerve-jangling experience unlikely to be shaken off without a few shots of hundred-proof bourbon afterwards. I can't rightly aver it's "entertaining," because, with unbearably suspenseful scenes that make you want to look away to get some temporary reprieve, it's exceedingly unpleasant and disturbing stuff. The movie has a take-no-prisoners mentality that hasn't an iota of sympathy for fragile sensibilities, and, especially with its unrelenting assault on the family unit that makes Stanley Kubrick's odious The Shining look like docile marriage-counseling sessions by comparison, it may be seen as amoral, irredeemable, but at its center it emphasizes the prevailing power of steadfast religious conviction. The hero is one Father Adamsky (a first-rate James Olson, who was one of the few attributes of the abominable Ragtime the year before), the local priest who does battle with the ultimate evil that apparently has taken refuge in a creepy Long Island manor since it was built (on an ancient burial ground by a woman expelled from Salem for witchcraft, we're informed); and the family is a six-member unit (husband and wife, teenage son and daughter, pre-teen son and daughter) whose troubles are made readily apparent even before they step through the front door. Burt Young, who was the abrasvie Paulie in the Rocky pictures, plays an equally abrasive father: a foul-tempered, hard man whose belt-spankings are his idea of family discipline, he doesn't have the imagination to accept the weird goings-on (obscene messages painted on the walls, poundings on the front door, drawers and mirrors sent sprawling to the floor) as anything other than child-committed pranks; and because his withdrawn wife (a moving Rutanya Alda), who loves him but is repulsed by his emotional and physical abusiveness, has stopped responding to him sexually, he's prone to particularly violent outbursts.

Initially we expect the father to be the object of the "possession" by the house's Evil, but, as the skillful Young and the writing communicate, he's not an overall bad man, just myopically inflexible, intolerant. (Besides, the Evil would probably find him way too easy a target.) No, the one overtaken is the oldest child, Sonny (a fine Jack Magner), a high-school senior uncomfortable around his father who easily confides in his attractive one-year-younger sister, Patricia (the luminous Diane Franklin); they're unusually physically expressive with each other, and the Evil zeroes in on this -- in a pretty sick joke, their eventual incestuous selves are having a more active sex life than their parents. (When a horrific murderous rampage ensues, it's at night during a thunderstorm and the husband having it out with his wife, "You don't want to do it anymore!?") The rest of the movie details the priest's efforts to convince both the police of demonic possession and his gutless, politically concerned chancellor that an exorcism is necessary to free the son. In what is probably its most impressive achievement, Amityville II: The Possession succeeds in getting us to believe in the unbelievable -- we're right there with the innately decent-hearted priest every step of the way, emotionally invested in his quest; and when he's willing to make the ultimate sacrifice it's right up there with Father Karras's noble selflessness in The Exorcist. This is Damiana's first foray into horror (his best-known is the 1975 How to Kill a Judge), and he handles the assignment like a seasoned pro. With a notable assist from cinematographer Franco Di Giacomo (who lovingly lit the Taviani brothers' The Night of the Shooting Stars), the movie has a tantalizing tactility where every frame is garnished with phantasmagorical intensity -- the layers of the house, especially the eerie basement that gives way to a secret room laden with frigid cold, flies and excrement, looks like a domain favored by Beezlebub. Like The Shining it's lacking in ratiocination (the story doesn't play by any particular set of rules), and a few scenes are abruptly ended (suggestive of unplanned last-minute diddling in the cutting room; after all, this is Chinatown editor Sam O'Steen we're talking about), yet I can't think of any point along the way where it embarrasses itself given the ultra-outlandish story elements it dishes out. The movie manages the admirable feat of giving sequels a very good name.

The anamorphic DVD offers up an impressive anamorphic transfer and robust audio. No special features excepting a theatrical trailer.

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originally posted: 04/13/13 22:45:51
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User Comments

9/13/17 morris campbell tacky bullshit prequel does not follow the real story 1 stars
2/14/17 mr.mike I found it to be worth watching on YouTube. 3 stars
4/16/13 cr a scary prequel that is very suspenseful. 4 stars
12/11/12 Mallory A classic that scared me witless. 5 stars
6/07/09 Josie Cotton is a goddess Far superior to the first. 4 stars
12/03/06 Jeff Anderson The best of the AMITYVILLE'S! Chilling & acting by J. Magner, Franklin & Olson is terrific. 5 stars
12/10/05 cody a very good prequel followup, freaky and scary,and very slick and nice movie 4 stars
8/19/05 Danny Not a horror classic, but it shoud be - some very frightening moments. 4 stars
4/05/05 gray could have avoided sucking 2 stars
12/23/04 darkofnight (shiver) Horror of the highest quality! Disturbing and intense, with fantastic direction! 5 stars
9/08/04 Scott Hoffman ONe Of The 2nd Best Horror Films Ever Made...One Of My Favorite Diane Franklin Films Too!! 5 stars
3/23/04 Trannon Goble Better than the original! 4 stars
12/09/03 Samuel an ok movie... 3 stars
11/18/03 Nikki Jean Theophobia i luv andrew prine!!!! and i lov this movie!!!! 5 stars
4/12/03 Jack Sommersby Scary and shocking. Wellconceived and developed. Top-drawer acting, too. 4 stars
10/14/02 Charles Tatum If Burt Young was my dad, I'd get the shotgun down too 2 stars
8/16/02 Shaun ok, but has not continuety with what they said happend in part 1 in that house 3 stars
6/07/01 King Jackass its scary, its average, its got hot chicks! 4 stars
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  24-Sep-1982 (R)
  DVD: 05-Apr-2005

  N/A (18)

  N/A (M)

Directed by
  Damiano Damiani

Written by
  Tommy Lee Wallace

  Burt Young
  Rutanya Alda
  James Olson
  Andrew Prine

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