Blu-ray
Worth a Look
3 stars
Amazon
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Overall Grade
3 stars

(click linked text below to jump to related section of the review)

The Movie Itself
2.5 Stars
HD Video Quality
3.5 Stars
HD Audio Quality
2.5 Stars
Supplements
3 Stars
High-Def Extras
0 Stars
Bottom Line
Worth a Look

The Amityville Horror Trilogy

Street Date:
October 1st, 2013
Reviewed by:
Review Date: 1
September 9th, 2013
Movie Release Year:
1979
Studio:
Scream Factory
Length:
316 Minutes
MPAA Rating:
Unrated
Release Country
United States

The Movie Itself: Our Reviewer's Take

The Amityville Horror

Funny how some movies you grew up remembering as really scary are actually not nearly as terrifying when you're an adult. After decades of watching hundreds more horror features with a fanboy passion since, it probably shouldn't come as much of a surprise that the clout and effectiveness of 'The Amityville Horror' has waned significantly. It endures largely from nostalgia and the belief that it's based on true events, despite having been proven a money-making hoax. Granted, the movie does bring memories of cowering under the sheets when the rocking chair moves by itself and yelling for George Lutz (James Brolin) to not return for the dog, but the once-great supernatural spookfest is ultimately quaint and dull, generating more feelings of gloomy melancholy than genuine scares.

Over the years and after many repeat viewings, the Amityville house is pretty much horror-less, especially with director Stuart Rosenberg ('Cool Hand Luke') relying on swarms of flies, wind, and reaction shots to create a spine-chilling atmosphere. Admittedly, there remain a couple moments of weird apprehension, like Amy's (Natasha Ryan) imaginary friend Jodie or Kathy's (Margot Kidder) growing fear of her husband's rage, but it still fails at capturing the imagination. Part of what now makes the production more of a somber and somewhat disheartening melodrama comes at the heels of watching 'My Amityville Horror' with a middle-aged Daniel Lutz. It's an eye-opening documentary that reveals the real horrors within the family — outside the demonic spirits nonsense and focused on the personal trauma of abuse and psychological damage of unwanted notoriety on a child.

The only remaining strength to the plot, based on the best-selling book by Jay Anson, is witnessing George's spiral into uncontrollable anger and madness while struggling under the weight of monetary issues. Brolin delivers a convincingly frightening performance as a man slowly ripping apart at the seams. Then there's the haunting, almost iconic music of Lalo Schifrin, which succeeds at giving me goose bumps better than the movie. At its worst and silliest, the house possesses an unusual animosity towards the Catholic faith, afflicting Father Delany (a forgettable Rod Steiger) in particular to the point of making him appear delusional. Someone should have asked which denomination the house preferred before moving in or inviting representatives from the wrong church. (Movie Rating: 2.5/5)


Amityville II: The Possession

As with its predecessor, the sequel in the 'Amityville' series (it amazes me that there have been 11 movies in the franchise thus far, with a 12th just recently completed) comes with several memories of its own and largely enjoyed for nostalgia. However, the story about the Montelli family has aged better than the first and is easier to digest on repeating viewings, providing more scares and an ever-pervasive sense of doom. It would be a bit much to suggest this is superior when in fact I would rate both films about equal. It's just that part two is better at generating a distressing vibe and mood, which makes it slightly more entertaining, and it's thanks to the directing style of Italian filmmaker Damiano Damiani.

Loosely based on Hans Holzer's Murder in Amityville book, Tommy Lee Wallace's script is a strange and frankly very unusual blend of sequel and prequel while also attempting to be two movies in one. The first hour is the strongest and most memorable with one of the creepiest and most disturbing sequences: the incestuous relationship between Sonny (Jack Magner) and Patricia (Diane Franklin). There's a feeling the Montelli family is inspired by the real-life murder of the DeFeo family, but the interior of the house is noticeably different, contemporary and we see modern devices everywhere. Issues of abuse are explored once again, coming from Burt Young's character, as Sonny worryingly grows troubled and mentally unstable. As he worsens, so does his physical appearance into a disfigured monster that could pass as Elephant Man's younger brother.

The last hour is devoted to the religious angle, an unexplained violent animosity towards the Catholic church specifically. Whereas the previous movie imagined the 112 Ocean Ave residence haunted by demonic forces, the sequel/prequel sees the house as consciously possessing the body of Sonny, turning the plot into a quasi-'Exorcist' movie with a "Take Me!" sequence of its own. James Olson plays the family's priest who goes rogue and tries to perform an exorcism inside the house while Sonny's transformation grows into something hideously worse. This second part of the story is a little on the lame and corny side, but Damiani keeps things entertaining and gives audiences a satisfying, shocking finish. (Movie Rating: 3/5)


Amityville 3-D

Once again, the third and final installment in the original theatrical trilogy of 'Amityville' movies is an amusing horror picture for nostalgia's sake — which frankly, would explain the lasting legacy of all three. It does more to bring back memories than it does in producing a single iota of scares, unless you consider electrical problems, losing control of one's car or a sudden gush of freezing air blowing on your face terrifying. In fact, such weirdness only happens to one hapless character, photographer Melanie (Candy Clark), whose pictures of a real estate agent is about as creepy as the movie really ever gets. In the first two stories, the house reveals its revulsion of Catholics, and here, it shows its true colors as a misogynist out to make women seem incapable of rational thought.

That's just one of several memories, with Melanie's unfortunate demise being particularly noteworthy and near laughable, but the part that has lasted and festered in the far reaches of my mind is that damn hole in the basement. When initially discovered by recently-divorced journalist John Baxter (Tony Roberts), who makes a living debunking supernatural phenomena and purchased the legendary Amityville home, the hole is just a dried-up well covered by a few pieces of wood. Why no one ever noticed it before is easily explained as lazy plot-device convenience on the part of the filmmakers — to hell with continuity. Sadly, it's also the best part of the movie, especially when it fills with bubbling, fluorescent green water, and what jumps out is the source of a number of childhood nightmares.

It's funny having specific but fragmented memories of 'Amityville – 3D' while also forgetting a great deal about it, namely the plot and characters. A very young Lori Loughlin, who is best known as Jesse's wife Rebecca on the TV sitcom 'Full House,' plays Baxter's teenage daughter, a girl strangely attracted to the house who meets with an ill-fated accident. Most surprisingly, her best friend is also a young Meg Ryan; it's a small role where she pretends to be obsessed with the history of the house, at one point even mentioning the DeFeo family as if part two never existed. Funnily, the interior of the house has once again gone through a makeover, not in the "Extreme Edition" meaning but minor little changes. In the end, what saves part three — if we can call it that — are the couple lasting memories and the kitschy enjoyment of watching it in 3D. (Movie Rating: 2/5)


The Blu-ray: Vital Disc Stats

Shout! Factory brings the 'The Amityville Horror Trilogy' to Blu-ray as a three-disc box set under the distributor's Scream Factory line. All three Region A locked, BD50 discs are housed in individual blue cases inside a rather flimsy cardboard box. At startup, they each go to an animated menu screen with options along the bottom while music plays in the background. The 3D disc also contains a 2D version of the movie and automatically detected by the player. Also, buying direct from the Shout! Factory website includes an exclusive poster of the newly commissioned artwork, available while supplies last!

The Video: Sizing Up the Picture

The Amityville Horror

The original demonic house arrives to Blu-ray with much the same presentation as the release from 2008. The movie really shows its age with several moments of softness and poor resolution. White specks and very minor scratches clutter a majority of the picture, and contrast is pretty bland, making the 1.85:1 image appear flat and somewhat dull. The AVC-encoded transfer does, however, show several positives. Colors are noticeably bold and cleanly rendered, especially the reds in clothing and the greens in the surrounding foliage. Black levels are strong and accurate for the most part, and a nice, thin layer of grain is consistent. The video is as sharp and detailed as a film of this vintage could be with close-ups looking particularly excellent and revealing. (Video Rating: 3/5)

Amityville II: The Possession

The sequel opens its doors with a better and more consistent 1080p/AVC MPEG-4 encode (1.85:1), showing good resolution and clarity in several sequences. Fine object details are clean and resolute, exposing the smallest piece of furniture in the background and in the far back of the house. The diffusion-lens photography of Franco Di Giacomo doesn't take away from the many well-defined lines of clothing and the interior architecture of the house, and shadow delineation is strong. Facial complexions are a bit sickly looking, but revealing nonetheless with great visible textures. Contrast isn't particularly bright, but it's stable and well-balanced while black levels are often deep and true. The color palette benefits the most with bright, vivid primaries. Aside from some minor scratches and white specks, the high-def transfer is very good. (Video Rating: 3.5/5)

Amityville 3-D

Part three uncovers a hoax on Blu-ray 3D with a sometimes great and enjoyable MVC-encoded transfer, showing excellent dimensionality in nearly every scene. However, there is both a good and bad to the presentation, largely thanks to the limitations of the technology and the photography of the time. Parallax is to the extreme, giving the image a gracious amount of depth but it also strains the eyes, shows a good deal of crosstalk and exposes ringing around the edges of many objects. The background penetrates deep into the screen, creating an exaggerated sense of space and distance. Overall, the picture has that sort of pop-up book effect that's less-appealing, more comical and flat than convincing. The most fun to be had are the various laughable gimmick shots where objects protrude from the screen and make viewers flinch.

On the 2D side, the 2.35:1 image is similar to part two but slightly stronger than its 3D counterpart. Then again, it's not a massive difference since its quality is dependent the results of shooting on single-strip ArriVision 3-D. Objects in the center of the frame are the sharpest while the sides and corners are noticeably soft and blurry, almost distractingly so. Facial complexions show excellent textures with natural tones, and fine lines around clothing and hair are distinct. A couple scenes reveal some minor damage to the source, like tiny white specks, poor resolution, and a brown vertical line towards the end. Contrast and brightness are very well-balanced with deep, rich blacks and good shadow details. Colors are bold and accurately saturated as well. Combining both versions of the movie, the high-def video is, in the end, passable and enjoyable. (Video Rating: 3.5/5)


The Audio: Rating the Sound

The Amityville Horror

Like the video, the audio for the first movie doesn't stray too far from the 2008 release, except that viewers now have the option to listen in either 5.1 surround sound or 2.0 mono. As with other such options, the former sounds wrong, exaggerated and simply louder than it really should be. Unfortunately, the latter isn't all that spectacular either since the mid-range feels largely limited with noticeable noise and minor clipping in the upper frequencies. Imaging is very narrow and centered, failing to ever create a soundfield that's broad or welcoming. Action sequences basically come off screechy and shrill, and while bass is apparent in some instances, it's also listless and barely audible. Dialogue is, at least, well-prioritized and intelligible, but considering the other issues, the lossless mix is overall average and fairly disappointing. (Audio Rating: 2.5/5)

Amityville II: The Possession

Shout! continues their usual ritual with another selection of 5.1 surround sound or 2.0 mono. And as always the new upmix isn't half bad, maintaining much of the action in the front soundstage where it should be, but it also sounds somewhat hollow and strained, making the dialogue seem like a bad dubbed track. The original mono soundtrack is the clear winner, as vocals sound more natural, with excellent clarity in the center. Imaging has a nice sense of presence and fidelity with an engaging and somewhat broad soundfield. Dynamic range is clean and distinct for the most part, but not very extensive or discrete in the higher frequencies. Low bass is noticeably lacking, making most the action sound flat. Overall, the lossless mono mix is average but better than the 5.1 upmix. (Audio Rating: 3/5)

Amityville 3-D

As with the previous two, so too goes the third picture with two audio options, both of which have their set of drawbacks and one very irritating distraction. As always, the 2.0 stereo mix is the better soundtrack, but surprisingly, the 5.1 upmix serves the film decently well, as it maintains the majority of the action up front where it belongs — save for a few discrete surround effects for ambience. The mid-range is clean and quite detailed, pretty much the best of three movies, yet it's not very extensive, pushed very hard, and mainly keeps things somewhat uniform. Bass is once again failing to be a team player, making the actions feel flat and listless. In the end, the biggest issue is the dialogue reproduction. Vocal are clean and intelligible, but the problem is lip movement is not in sync, making several conversations appear like the result of terrible dubbing. It's incredibly distracting and sometimes makes it difficult to enjoy the movie. (Audio Rating: 2/5)


The Supplements: Digging Into the Good Stuff

The Amityville Horror

  • Audio Commentary — Dr. Hans Holzer, expert in parapsychology and author of Murder in Amityville, shares his thoughts and expertise on the history of the family, the house, and the movie itself.

  • "For God's Sake, Get Out!" (1080i/60, 22 min) — A short retrospective with James Brolin and Margot Kidder talking about their careers and their involvement with this production.

  • Haunted Melodies (HD, 10 min) — A recent interview with composer Lalo Schifrin discussing his career, influences and his creative approach to creating scores for horror movies.

  • Trailers (HD) — Original theatrical preview with one TV commercial and seven radio spots.

  • Still Gallery (HD)


Amityville II: The Possession

  • Audio Commentary — Alexandra Holzer, professional ghost hunter, author of Growing up Haunted: A Ghostly Memoir and daughter of Dr. Hans Holzer, provides a horribly boring commentary track. Not only are there huge gaps of silence, but the times she does talk, she spends narrating and pointing out the most mundane, useless details. This ranks as one of the worst commentaries ever.

  • Continuing the Hunt (HD, 29 min) — The longest featurette is sadly given to Alexandra Holzer, the most boring, uninteresting person who has little connection to the Amityville legend other than being the daughter of Dr. Holzer. Talking in all seriousness about the paranormal and the unfounded stories surrounding the house, she talks extensively and in great detail about her father, his research, and his books.

  • A Mother’s Burden (HD, 14 min) — Recent Interview with actress Rutanya Alda reminiscing on the production.

  • Family Matters (HD, 14 min) — Another recent interview with actress Diane Franklin talking about her career, her involvement on this production and sharing her thoughts on the finished product.

  • Adapting Amityville (HD, 12 min) — Interview with screenwriter Tommy Lee Wallace discussing his interests on the subject, his thoughts on the real legend, his involvement on the project and his aspiration for doing a prequel and working with Damiani.

  • The Possession of Damiani (HD, 6 min) — The late director Damiano Damiani talks enthusiastically about his involvement, his creative approach to the script and his favorite aspects of the movie.

  • Father Tom’s Memories (HD, 4 min) — Actor Andrew Prine is given a few minutes to share his thoughts and memories.

  • Trailer (HD) — Two theatrical previews: one in English and the other in French.

  • Still Gallery (HD)


Amityville 3-D

  • A Chilly Reception (HD, 10 min) — A recent interview with actress Candy Clark sharing a few memories from the production, comments on the special effects and working with the cast & crew.

  • Trailer (HD)

  • Still Gallery (HD)


HD Bonus Content: Any Exclusive Goodies in There?

Other than having the third installment available in 3D for the first time on home video, there are no high-def exclusives.

Easter Eggs

Under the "Bonus Features" section, switch to the second screen of special features and scroll down to "BACK." Then, press the right button to move cursor over the "For Sale" in the corner. When highlighted, press "OK" and enjoy a brief interview with makeup-effects artist Stephan Dupuis reminiscing on a couple details from the production (HD, 1 min).


Final Thoughts

The original theatrical trilogy to 'The Amityville Horror' franchise comes with more amusing memories than it does genuine scares. Although this is somewhat disappointing, especially with the first movie not being as scary as once thought, the nostalgia all three films elicit is enough for them to still be enjoyed. The sequel/prequel has arguably aged best, but they each come attached with their own set of memories. The Blu-ray box set arrives with good high-def video but lossless audio that is troubled and fairly limited. With a strong collection of supplements, except for a couple really boring ones, the overall package makes for a decent purchase for the most devoted of fans and those with fond memories.

Technical Specs

  • Three-Disc Box Set
  • 3 BD-50 Dual-Layer Discs
  • Region A Locked

Video Resolution/Codec

  • 1080p/AVC MPEG-4
  • 1080p/MVC MPEG-4 (Amityville 3-D)

Aspect Ratio(s)

  • 1.85:1
  • 2.35:1 (Amityville 3-D)

Audio Formats

  • English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1
  • English DTS-HD Master 2.0 Mono

Subtitles/Captions

  • English SDH

Supplements

  • Audio Commentaries
  • Featurettes
  • Trailers
  • Still Galleries

Exclusive HD Content

  • 3D Blu-ray

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