Monday, June 8, 2009

House-warming: Amityville 3 - The Demon(1983)

I've always had a great fondness for horror movies about haunted houses. The Haunting(1963), directed by Robert Wise, is still my absolute favorite and I think one of the best "haunted house" movies ever produced. Obviously there are more films featuring haunted abodes that litter the movie "landscape", some good and some bad. One film that rates as bad, but one I still have a lot of fun watching, is Amityville 3 - The Demon, directed by Richard Fleischer and originally opening in theaters back in November of 1983.

The film's story: "Reveal" magazine writer John Baxter buys a Long Island house from a local realtor named Clifford Sanders, despite the house's long history of purported ghosts and spirits borne out of a horrifying family tragedy many years before. Baxter settles in inside the house, even invites his daughter to inspect the home. Baxter's purchase of this house, not surprisingly, sets off a chain of events that result in the deaths of many people close to him, both personally and professionally. In the end Baxter seeks out the help of a paranormal scientist, Eliott West, to find the answers to these mysterious deaths.

This film is noticeably campier than the two previous "Amityville" movies. Tony Roberts is solid as "John Baxter", Tess Harper portraying Baxter's estranged and presumably soon to be ex wife, "Nancy". Lori Loughlin plays Baxter's daughter "Susan" and a young Meg Ryan is Susan's friend 'Lisa". These and the other characters of this movie are all serviceable but the star attraction of the third "Amityville" film is the house itself. Admittedly, the special effects could have been a lot better but the Amityville house, despite the effects shortcomings, definitely takes on a life of its own.

Several sequences do well to hold my attention regarding the otherworldly and, turns out, demonic effects going on in this creepy abode: the realtor Sanders(played by John Harkins) has a particularly unpleasant experience with flies, Baxter's daughter "Susan" goes on a sailing trip to hell, literally, Baxter's photographer assistant Melanie meets with a sudden and gruesome demise and paranormal researcher "Elliott West"(played by Robert Joy) has an up close and personal encounter with the demon in the basement of the house.

Creaking doors, slamming doors and thumps and bumps are expected in any "haunted house" film and they're present here, as well as a hole in the basement described by those familiar with the house as "a gateway to hell", a description that later in the movie becomes reality. There's also a nasty and very hostile demonic force at work in this film, manifest in the form of a fly for a great portion of the movie. Thankfully the entire appearance of the demon isn't revealed until the end of the movie: the monster won't scare the hell out of veteran horror movie buffs like me but it's sufficiently hideous enough to perhaps evoke a jump or two from someone who doesn't watch many horror movies.

The film's teaser trailer:
Teaser - Amityville 3-D