Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Amityville Terror (2016)

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 undiscovered Slayer).

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.

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