Amityville Horror Trilogy, The (US - BD RA)
Matt investigates some strange goings on in Amityville with help from Scream Factory's new Blu-ray release.
The Amityville Horror (1979)
Basic Plot: Newlyweds George and Kathy Lutz move their family into a house where a gruesome murder was committed and experience strange manifestations which drive them away.
The last time I saw The Amityville Horror was about 10-years ago during a horror film festival, and after sitting back down to see it again I'm still not impressed and still don't get people's fascination with it. American International Pictures' "based on a true story" marketing campaign made this a hit for them when it was released in 1979, but it's really no better made or paced than any one of the made-for-television horror movies aired on the major networks during the '70s and early '80s, and not up to the standards of a lot of those at that. Little more than a series of things happening to the family followed up with a scene that if on television would normally serve as the perfect place for a commercial break, the film is not only dull but egregiously repetitious as well. Even poor Academy Award winner Rod Steiger--who in the spirit of Michael Caine must have needed the money to purchase a new home--can't save this turkey, and once he's more or less relegated to the sidelines things take an even steeper nosedive while we suffer through the rest of James Brolin and Margot Kidder's oil and water chemistry. It's been reported that the two stars didn't get along with each other during the shoot, and whether that's a result of their different acting styles or personalities who really knows, but it shows even in the early going when they're supposed to be playing the part of loving, newlywed couple. Even when things do pick up a bit towards the end it's all for naught as things conclude with an end title card coda and no real resolution. It may seem like I'm being a bit harsh on The Amityville Horror, but I don't how to otherwise express what a slog this one is to sit through and reinforce the fact that it is not the horror classic that a lot of people mistake it to be. I can take watching a bad movie, and hell, I love me some truly terrible ones, but bad and boring? That's a whole other deal and places things on plain of filmmaking that you as a viewer don't want anything to do with. But hey, at least Lalo Schifrin's score is quite wonderful.
From what I've been able to tell the 1080p, AVC encoded video transfer looks to be the same one included with the Blu-ray released by MGM back in 2008, and given the film's production history it's held up well even if it isn't remarkable by any stretch of the imagination. Like many of the films released by American International Pictures it has a soft, hazy and flat look, but is nicely detailed with deep black levels and strong color representation, even if the contrast levels aren't great. Print damage isn't as obtrusive as you might find on similarly produced films of the era either, and I didn't notice much in the way of any obvious defects such as aliasing, macroblocking or artifacting or edge enhancement. The disc features two choices as far as the audio goes, an updated 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio track and a 2.0 Mono DTS-HD Master Audio track, and if your sensibilities are close to my own you'll find that the 2.0 track is the better of the two in that it doesn't come off as sounding fake. Again, The Amityville Horror wasn't a huge production with tons of money behind it, so its sound design is much more reserved, not as polished and not as impressive as some of its big budget contemporaries. Sound is mostly relegated to the front and center channels with little use of the surrounds and disappointly the LFE channel, but dialogue is always easily heard and understood.
- Audio commentary with Dr. Hans Holzer - Dr. Holzer (who passed away in 2009) was an Austrian born, American paranormal researcher and author of over 100 books on the subject, including "Murder in Amityville". The commentary does have its lulls, but is still largely interesting given his knowledge of the subject. If you're looking for any insight into the production of the film, however, you'll have to look elsewhere on the disc (previously released).
- "For God's Sake, Get Out!" - Separate interviews with actors James Brolin and Margot Kidder are edited together as the two discuss the film and their careers (previously released).
- "Haunting Melodies" - A brand new interview with composer Lalo Schifrin, who discusses his career and the scoring of horror pictures.
- The original theatrical trailer, a television commercial and several radio spots.
Amityville II: The Possession (1982)
Basic Plot: In this prequel to the original film, a family moves into a new home which proves to be evil, resulting in the demonic possession of the teenage son who only the local priest can save.
Amityville II: The Possession is far and away a better film than its predecessor, even if at its halfway point it more or less shifts gears and comes off as a second rate The Exorcist. It's certainly held up better than The Amityville Horror too, and a lot of that has to do with the better pacing and overall unsettling mood that director Damiano Damiani infuses in it throughout, especially during the film's superior first half which focuses on the Montelli family and how they cope with a physically and mentally abusive father, played by an extra surly Burt Young, and even an incestuous relationship between teenage son Sonny and daughter Patricia, played by Jack Magner and Diane Franklin respectively. It's only once Sonny's possession begins to manifest itself in more physically overt ways that the picture get less involving and starts to come off the rails as everything original about it gives way to borrowing heavily from every other satanic or possession themed film of the '70s. Even so, when it does become more of a conventional horror movie Amityville II: The Possession is still an entertaining--and unnerving--piece of work that seems to have been lost in the shuffle over the years and not really given its due.
Amityville II: The Possession's video fares a little better than the original film, which is expected given its slightly larger budget and relatively younger age, and is the best looking video transfer in the set, but this 1080p, AVC encoded transfer still isn't going to blow anybody's socks off. Black levels are quite good and color representation is vivid and bright, and fine details can be seen throughout the picture. Besides some minor print damage there aren't any real defects to be had with the transfer either, so no worries as far as anything popping up that might hinder your viewing experience. Once again Shout! Factory as supplied both 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio and a 2.0 Mono DTS-HD Master Audio tracks, and while overall better than the previous film in that it's a slightly more modern soundmix, it's still the same old story as far as what which one I prefer and its pluses and minuses.
- Audio Commentary with Alexandra Holzer - Alexandra Holzer, the daughter of Dr. Hans Holzer, followed in her father's footsteps as a paranormal researcher, ghost hunter and author. Unlike her father though she delivers a commentary track that is rather dull and aimless with several lulls and contains even less information about the production of the film than what her father provided for the first disc in the set. Luckily for those of you looking for good features associated with the film the disc delivers about an hour's worth of new interviews, which are detailed below.
- "The Possession of Damiani" - In what may be his last interview (he passed away earlier this year), director Damiano Damiani discusses his take on the material and in what areas he felt that the movie worked the best.
- "Adapting Amityville" - Scream Factory mainstay Tommy Lee Wallace thankfully returns once again to discuss his involvement in adapting the story for the screen and his work with director Damiano Damiani.
- "A Mother's Burden" - An interview with Rutanya Alda discussing the production of the film.
- "Family Matters" - An interview with actress Diane Franklin discussing the film's production and her career.
- Father Tom's Memories" - Actor Andrew Prine (last seen gracing Shout!'s The Town That Dreaded Sundown Blu-ray release) gives his take on the film in a short interview.
- "Continuing the Hunt" - A nearly half an hour featurette with Alexandra Holzer which is every bit the commentary track's equal, but thankfully only one-third the length. The best bits of this are when she discusses her father's work, but why listen to her talk about it when you can just hear from the man himself over the course of the first film's commentary track?
- Theatrical trailers
- Still gallery
Amityville 3-D (1983)
Basic Plot: A reporter moves into the ominous Long Island house to debunk its recent supernatural events and is besieged by evil manifestations connected to a demon lurking in the basement.
I've been trying hard to remember, but I think this one was the first movie that I saw in this particular series so my fondness for it might be skewed a bit, but I still think that even if it isn't the best of the three pictures in this set it's certainly the most fun. Made during the early '80s 3-D craze that saw such releases as Friday the 13th Part 3, Jaws 3D, Spacehunter: Adventures in the Forbidden Zone and Metalstorm: The Destruction of Jared-Syn (seriously, what is with the titles of those last two?), Amityville 3-D is a fun and cheesy little scarefest that isn't particularly frightening but does provide for one or two jumps, some surprising plot turns and a couple of nasty effects, all while trying it's damnedest to poke you in the eye with a variety of objects at every opportunity. In general you get some pretty decent performances in this one with Tony Roberts, probably best known as Woody Allen's buddy Rob in Annie Hall, playing the investigative reporter who decides to buy the cursed house at a rock bottom price leading the cast, and supporting roles including that of his partner Melanie, played wonderfully by the underrated Candy Clark, and his daughter Susan, played by future Full House star Lori Loughlin. This one also oddly benefits from the fact that most of the characters are fully aware of the house's reputation and are rightfully weary of it, everyone except Roberts' character who is convinced there is nothing sinister about it at all, and the shift from the religious aspects of the two previous films to a more paranormal investigative one, which was no doubt inspired by the success of Tobe Hooper's Poltergeist a year prior.
I haven't had the opportunity yet to check out the 3-D presentation of Amityville 3-D, but am really looking forward to it and hope to do so in the very near future. If I do I'll be sure to append the review with my thoughts, but until then I can talk about the 1080p, AVC encoded 2-D version of the film also included on Scream Factory's release. Overall you have to take into consideration that this one was shot as a 3D feature, so it's at times soft and blurry, contains double lines (especially blue along many edges) and inconsistent focus a bit and doesn't offer the same amount of fine detail afforded the other films in the set, but I've seen far worse under the same circumstances. The source print used isn't the greatest with a lot of artifacts popping up and some instances of macroblocking when the bit rate can't keep up with everything that's going on in the print, but even then it represents the best the movie has ever looked with deep black levels, good color representation and fine detail for the most part, especially with objects closer to the center of the screen. I also didn't notice any other major defects in the transfer, and though it's not quite as strong as the video transfer for the other two films this one's still a fairly strong looking effort, if you take into consideration the source. Once again the audio choices presented are 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio and a 2.0 Mono DTS-HD Master Audio tracks, and once again the results are typically the same as the other titles, skewing more towards the slightly better second picture.
- "A Chilly Reception" - A very good interview with actress Candy Clark, who discusses the production and working with the 3-D special effects.
- Still gallery
- 3-D Version of the feature film for those with a 3-D capable television and Blu-ray player.
I'm not particularly fan of The Amityville Horror or any of its numerous sequels and this boxed set containing it and its two theatrical follow-ups wouldn't be high on my wishlist, but the series does have its fans or otherwise I wouldn't be reviewing this set from Shout! Factory in the first place. To that end I think this is a perfectly fine set and one that fans will get enjoyment out of, especially those that hold a special place for Amityville 3-D in their heart. The video and audio are good and while the extras aren't extensive and the commentary tracks really needed to be replaced or appended to with something that gave more insight into the actual production, what's here is pretty decent, especially the newly produced interviews for Amityville II: The Possession. The real treat in the set, however, is the 3-D presentation of the third picture which should be a lot of good, cheesy fun if you have a 3-D capable display and a couple of other people to watch it with.
Review by Matt Joseph
Under 17 requires accompanying parent or adult guardian
Release Date: 1st October 2013
Disc Type: Blu-ray Disc
Audio: DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 and 2.0 English
Extras: Commentaries, Featurettes, Interviews, Trailers, 3D Version of Amityville 3D
Easter Egg: No
Cast: A Creepy Old House
Length: 316 minutes
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