Warning: spoilers, because they opened a gate to hell, or something.
Car mechanic Todd (Kaiwi Lyman), his wife Jessica (Kim Nielsen) and their
grumpy teenage daughter – as well as this evening’s designated heroine – Hailey
(Nicole Tompkins) move into a house in charming Amityville together with Todd’s
recovering alcoholic sister Shae (Amanda Barton). It seems the family moves from
the Big City mostly to keep Shae on the straight and narrow, but that’s what
family’s for, right?
Alas, the house is not a good place for anyone to straighten anything out in,
and soon its malignant influence increases the number of family shouting
matches, makes Todd pretty darn horny, gives Jessica an obsession with her new
rose garden and turns Shae completely crazy. Also, incest. Only Hailey is more
or less immune – one supposes because you can’t actually make a mopey teenager
any worse – so it falls on her to find out that she and her family not only live
in a haunted house, but are in fact the town’s chosen sacrifices to the cursed
building, to keep the evil spirits dwelling therein contained. Turns out, Hailey
is rather good at research, as well as a budding badass (or a hitherto
To no one’s surprise, if you come to Michael Angelo’s Amityville
Terror expecting some deep, thoughtful or riveting exploration of very
important themes through the looking glass of the ghost story, you’ll be sorely
disappointed (though one really shouldn’t blame a film for that which never
tried to be anything but what it is). If, on the other hand, you’re in for a
cheap yet fun horror flick that uses the word “Amityville” mostly because it is
available and has potential monetary value when slapped onto a cover - and a bit
to be able to quote other films of the non-franchise in a vague way that holds
the copyright police at bay - you’ll feel right at home.
In fact, I’d argue that Terror is one of the better
Amityville movies in general – not as if that’s terribly difficult to
achieve – a film that promises you cheap thrills and indeed works hard to
deliver them like the low budget horror movies of old. Sure, the plot – and the
town conspiracy – don’t hold up to any logical scrutiny, but as a provider of a
series of increasingly weird, and sometimes inadvertently funny, horror scenes,
the story holds up well enough, with the added bonus of not skimping on things
actually happening in it – not something you can always hope for in today’s
direct to video/streaming service/etc market.
As mentioned, there are some – of course – budget conscious variations on
scenes from other Amityville films, as well as other haunted house
movies, usually done effectively enough by Angelo – whose filmography contains
quite a few watchable films that really shouldn’t be – and certainly enough to
scratch my horror itch for the day. From time to time, the film even hits on
something more potent. I liked, for example, the tiny scene with the little girl
who insists on her friend still living in the house even though a new family
moved in and who won’t cross the imaginary line on the boardwalk to the house
quite a bit, the film clearly having fun with a moment that borders on being
actually disquieting. And how could I resists the absurd yet pretty awesome
finale including quite a bit of crossbow-shooting by our heroine, a head gift, a
(Lamberto) Bava style possessed and other sweet, sweet nonsense?
Mind you, I’m not saying Amityville Terror is a new genre classic or
anything even close to it, but to me, a film that genuinely (and cheaply) tries
to entertain like this does is worthy of a few words of praise.