Okay, I’m slightly misusing the word “objectionable” here, but it’s for an intentional reason. Vinegar Syndrome has done their usual magic on four films from the long-running The Amityville Horror franchise, with the additional connective tissue being the presence of cursed objects tainted by the demon who first brought terror to Long Island in 1979’s The Amityville Horror. The objects in question have traveled across the country and are now killing folks and keeping priests employed in California, and no collector is safe!
The four sequels are a mix of made-for-TV and direct-to-video flicks, but the fine folks at VS lather them with a degree of love sure to please producer Steve White — the man who decided the horror from Amityville was suitable for road trips — and fans of the films. The 4K scans and restorations look fantastic, each film comes with some new extras, and the hardcase box-set is gorgeous. Keep reading for a look at Amityville: The Cursed Collection.
Amityville Horror: The Evil Escapes (1989)
This house is clear. Well, that’s what the priests who gather for a spiritual cleansing party at the infamous Amityville house declare, but a yard sale sees the furniture and household objects sold to unwary fools looking for deals on antiques. One passerby buys a lamp and ships it to her sister in California, a delivery that coincides with the old woman’s daughter and three children arriving to stay after an untimely death. Things immediately take a turn for the worse as parakeets wind up in toaster ovens, chainsaws find a mind of their own, and the evil lamp starts targeting the entire family.
As a made-for-TV movie this first of the cursed objects sequels is a mostly bloodless affair, but it manages some minor thrills as the old woman’s (Jane Wyatt) house falls apart with the family seemingly destined for the same. A garbage disposal sequence is milked to the expected conclusion, a boy’s grip on a possessed chainsaw teases some carnage, and the lamp plays with the family’s grief in some cruel ways. Director Sandor Stern wrote the screenplay for the original film, and he can’t come close to that film’s terrors so instead he manages an okay — albeit occasionally dull — horror thriller. The cast helps with both Wyatt and Patty Duke anchoring the film with straightforward and stable performances taking the events seriously. It’s ultimately a familiar tale, too familiar, with a priest who shows up in time to help them defeat the evil and some lightweight antics throughout. Again, it’s a network TV movie.
The disc includes two new special features:
- The Return to Amityville: An Interview with Director Sandor Stern [14:51] – The doctor turned filmmaker recalls how he first came to join the original film and how it eventually led to directing this sequel, but the talk is most informative when it comes to his residual earnings over the years.
- Televised Terror: An Interview with Cinematographer Tom Richmond [14:28]
Amityville 1992: It’s About Time (1992)
As the title says, it’s about time. This time it’s a cursed clock brought home by a traveling architect to his teenage sons and daughter. An ex-lover comes to stay when the man of the house is viciously attacked by a neighbor’s dog (or not), and soon all four of them are feeling the demonic heat from the hellish time piece.
The director of 1988’s Hellbound: Hellraiser II has fun with the premise and ups the ante from The Evil Escapes thanks to bloodletting and makeup f/x by KNB. A brief turn by Dick Miller doesn’t hurt either, but while the main cast can’t compete with that legend they do perfectly serviceable work falling prey to possession, hallucination, and seduction. That last bit comes courtesy of the teen daughter who seduces a boyfriend and tries the same on her brother — don’t worry, it’s nothing compared to the gross antics captured in 1982’s Amityville: The Possession — but it’s enough to add to the icky fun here that also includes some nasty wounds, oily sewage, and more. The film’s ending could feel like a cop-out to some, and it might even to me, but it’s handled well for what it does and maybe even satisfies? Either way, the ride there is a fairly fun one, and that’s no small feat for this franchise.
The disc includes two new special features:
- Time Pieces: An Interview with Director Tony Randel [13:30] – If you’re a fan of the film’s time reset at the end you have Randel to thank.
- Clockwork: An Interview with Co-Writer/Producer Chris Defaria [7:29] – Defaria is enthusiastic about the film and shares some fun anecdotes including one involving the overflowing bathtub and the disaster that followed.
Amityville: A New Generation (1993)
A photographer living in a loft apartment bordering the bad side of town prepares for a gallery showing shared with other tenants, but when a street bum gives him an old mirror their artistic endeavors take a turn. He starts having dreams about the original Amityville house, a late night visitor goes for a deadly dive out a window, a fellow artist turns suicidal, and the mirror sees it all. It also reflects some demonic faces and that creepy house’s “two-eyed” visage.
After the direct-to-video high of It’s About Time this followup feels like a noticeable step backwards despite a story that’s arguably denser. The film actually works as a direct sequel of sorts to the original as the teenage killer — the one who murdered his whole family and said the voices made him do it years before the home was sold cheap to James Brolin — is back as an old man, and the film becomes something of a nature vs nurture situation. There are pluses including being well-shot (credit Christopher Nolan’s cinematographer of choice, Wally Pfister) and starring an Asian actor (Julia Nickson) as a female lead despite the role not requiring an Asian. The gore is extremely limited, but we do get some supporting help from Richard Roundtree, David Naughton, Lin Shaye, and Terry O’Quinn. Still, it’s a meh.
The disc includes a commentary track and two new special features:
- Commentary with director John Murlowski
- Through the Looking Glass: An Interview with Director John Murlowski [13:08]
- Malevolent Reflections: An Interview with Co-Writer/Producer Chris Defaria [4:32] – The writer recalls the film’s impetus being a blend of the previous entry making money and an urge to move the franchise outside of suburbia
Amityville: Dollhouse (1996)
A family comes together Brady Bunch-style with the dad bringing two kids and the mom bringing one, but when they move into a newly built house there’s a surprise waiting for them in the old shed out back. That’s right… it’s a dollhouse designed to look like the Amityville original. The already tense family unit is soon pushed and pulled even further with ghostly apparitions and worse.
The highlight of the film is first and foremost the dollhouse itself thanks to its intricate design and how well the film ties it into the supernatural shenanigans plaguing the family. We get some nice change-ups from the expected most notably with the little girl — a character easily manipulated in past films — who might just be the smartest family member here. IT looks good, it has some fun effects, and there’s also a biker couple who double as psychic mediums who know a fucked up dollhouse when they see one. Toss in some creepy dolls, even creepier insects, a stepmom lusting after her stepson, a poorly designed fireplace, a malicious zombie, and some impressively soundproofed walls, and you have one of the more entertaining entries in the series. Granted, the final ten minutes is a bit bonkers and you’ll wish the rest of the film had been so monster heavy, but still.
The disc includes three new special features:
- Welcome to the Dollhouse: An Interview with Director Steve White [9:25] – The producer behind “the cursed collection” talks about taking on directorial duties for this $1 million movie — well, it went over budget so he worked for free.
- Jump Into the Fire: An Interview with Cinematography Tom Callaway [15:11]
- Demons in the Dollhouse: An Interview with Special Effects Artist Roy Knyrim [11:30] – The f/x artist talks about working with White and how the demons in the end were all creatures and monsters created previously for the Weird Science television show — it ran for 88 episodes?! — and Mirror Mirror (1990).
The movies may be a mixed bag, but there’s no arguing against the quality and presentation of Vinegar Syndrome’s first box-set. Amityville: The Cursed Collection is a terrific, slickly produced set, and fans of the films will be extremely pleased with this release.