The Amityville Curse (1989)

DECEMBER 3, 2012


It was only last week that I was bemoaning that The Amityville Curse - the last of the series for me to see/review - was not available on DVD here in the US, so I was kind of weirded out to see it added to Netflix Instant a few days later. Are they listening to me? Do I wield some previously unknown power over them? Let's try it - it really sucks that I have to quit HMAD because of time/money; if someone were to pay off all my debt and buy me a house I'd be able to quit my job and keep this going forever.

While we wait for that to pay off, let's talk about this thing, which may be the shittiest entry in the entire series. And that's saying something, because now that it's over (for now), I am almost kind of impressed that they made 10 films and NONE OF THEM are particularly great. The first two and the remake are the best, but I'd hardly consider them classics or go out of my way to own them. Most of the others are a blur, but even at their worst they at least formed some semblance of a connective tissue, going back to the house (or the objects inside of it), or dropping a reference to the Lutzes. Hell, even the friggin Asylum entry used the DeFeo family as a backdrop.

So it's kind of funny that I'd watch this last, since it's so disconnected that I'm actually pretty sure it wasn't even a sequel until post-production. Amityville is mentioned, but only in voiceovers - there's nothing ON-SCREEN to tell us where it is (note - in the trailer there IS a shot of a cop car driving by a sign - if it's actually in the movie I might have missed it - I was polishing another article while I watched), and the vague references to past tragedies could mean anything (such as the film's own backstory, which involves a church next door to "the house" - since when was there a church there?). The fact that it's near the water is probably a coincidence (it's on the wrong side anyway) and they don't even get the damn windows right! If nothing else, you can at least have those "eye-shaped" curved windows to let us know what's up, but there's nothing even close. So until I hear otherwise, I will be of the opinion that this was just a generic haunted house movie (of sorts) and got molded into a franchise entry sometime in between the final day of shooting and the film's premiere on VHS.

Worse, it's just a lousy movie. Since I'm not a big fan of the series, I couldn't actually care less about continuity and the overall storyline, but I DO care about being at least mildly entertained when I watch a movie, and on that front the movie fails. An opening scene featuring the replacement old guy from Mighty Ducks 2 paves the way to a death, and then 20 years (or whatever) later some folks buy the house and go about fixing it up, only to be tormented by dull visions, freaky occurrences, and (after like 45 minutes or so) the death of a weird old lady who keeps coming over. Could it be g-g-g-g-ghosts? Demonic possession?

Or could it be actor Kim Coates, who even though this was way early in his career already deserved better than to sit around doing next to nothing for the whole movie until (spoiler, but come on) it's "revealed" that he's the killer. But even though he finally gets to do something here, he has to do it with some really goofy makeup on his face (it got half melted), so it's just shameful across the board. I was all excited to see his name above the title on the poster - he's one of those great character actors who you see in a million movies but will probably never get to star in a big Hollywood film because producers are stupid (see also: William Fichtner), and figured he would elevate it into something watchable even if they weren't giving him anything to work with, but there's only so much he can do.

And it's doubly annoying, because it takes one of the easiest plots to work with for a horror movie - renovation! It practically writes itself, as you have a group of folks who have a good reason to be split up at all times (one guy works on the bedrooms, one guy works on the basement, etc), an excuse to have plenty of dangerous items around, and even a built-in explanation for why they don't call for help - no phone (and it's 1989, so no cells!). But director Tom Berry and his screenwriters fail to milk it for its potential; there's a brief bit setting up a nail-gun that's mildly amusing, but that's about it.

It doesn't help that the other male lead (David Stein) seems to think he's the grouchy boss in a zany comedy, delivering every other line with an expression and tone of voice that suggests he's about to chew the Police Academy cadets out for indulging in yet another hare-brained scheme. When he's not doing that, he's rolling his eyes and looking down on everyone, so basically he's just an insufferable asshole that I was sick of after 15 minutes. Our hero! The other characters are too bland to even mention, though I did laugh at the heroine's over-reaction to everything - she spends the last third of the movie in a state that suggests she just saw her dog AND cat get run over.

Most of the scares are by the book, and even when they try doing something new it doesn't work - I'm sure "a dog menacing them only to be scared off by a crucifix" sounds eerie on paper, but in a poorly directed, blandly acted, late 80s Canadian horror movie, it doesn't quite hit that mark. Even the callback for the nail-gun feels forced, and it takes so long to pay off it bungles any potential it may have had. In short, the movie sucks not because it doesn't tie itself into the series properly, but because it actually managed to make me MISS a series that was never that great anyway. No wonder it's not on DVD, it doesn't deserve to be on the shelves alongside the others.

Final series ranking: original, II, 2005 remake, the lamp one, 3D, the clock, the dollhouse, the mirror, the Asylum one, this thing. Let that be the end of it.

What say you?


  1. Hopefully this isn't too late to get looked at because it might help clarify a bit.

    The Amityville Curse was always an Amityville movie, because it's actually based on a book of the same name by Hans Holzer (Holzer also wrote "Murder in Amityville", the book the second movie was based on).

    The reason it doesn't fit into series chronology is because the book was actually a sort of "alternate universe" story. Murder in Amityville was Holzer's attempt to write a "prequel" that was based on the real-life DeFeo killings, and he even used the family's real name. The Amityville Curse, on the other hand, was ALSO a prequel to the more famous Lutz haunting story, but one that was entirely fictional, contradictory to the other book, and written... just for kicks, I guess. And money.

    It was set in "THE house" but came up with all this nonsense about a church rectory and the long-ago murder and such. I have yet to read that particular book, but from what I hear the movie adaptation is pretty different; it basically uses the plot of the book as the "backstory" for the mystery and then created the new story about the people renovating the house and such. It also moved it from THE house to an unrelated other house in Amityville that also just happens to be haunted, either because of that contradiction or because they just couldn't find a suitable location.

    That said, it was sort of an "unofficial" entry in that it didn't have any of the same producers, writers, etc. as the rest of the series. The thing about Amityville is that it's a real place with a (supposedly) real haunted history, so anybody and their uncle can make an Amityville movie if they want as long as they aren't using one of the copyrighted stories (or, as in this case, buy the rights to one of the crappier and more obscure ones).

    Hope that helps.

    As to the review itself: Yeah, this movie was awful. I thought Dollhouse was much worse, personally, but that doesn't excuse this hunk of junk.

  2. Too bad this one sucks, cuz I gotta admit, that trailed looked awesome!


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