Horror and exploitation movies from the non-CGI era reviewed semi-weekly
Saturday, January 24, 2015
#199: The Amityville Curse (Tom Berry, 1989)
Setting aside the films I had an ethical problem with because of their depictions of rape and/or torture and basing my judgments purely on cinematic creativity and entertainment value, the straight-to-video barely-a-sequel The Amityville Curse is, by a long stretch, the worst movie I've written about for this site. Some films are so strangely bad they become accidental dadaist art, and some are so inept they stumble into unintentional hilarity, but too many are just super shitty and boring. The Amityville Curse is, unfortunately, one of the latter, making Amityville 3-D look like an exemplar of film art by comparison.
The Amityville Curse begins with a couple serious disadvantages/bonehead plays for a sequel to a film about a famous haunted house in Long Island. First, the house in this film looks nothing like the Amityville house. Second, the run-down outskirts-of-Montreal neighborhood standing in for Long Island here looks nothing like the affluent, suburban Long Island neighborhood of the previous films. Right off the bat, we understand that the filmmakers are just slapping the Amityville name and a couple lines of dialogue on their generic Canadian-financed cheapo horror production to try to drum up a little business.
Soon, we encounter more disadvantages. The movie looks like garbage, visually. The lighting is gray and dim throughout, the house is ugly, and the shot composition/visual presentation is sub par and devoid of personality. I'm not one of those nitpicky continuity people who say things like, "OMG, he's holding a cigarette in the opposite hand for an eighth of a second when the camera cuts back to him after the shot of the pool table," but when you have characters run out of the basement and immediately end up on the second floor, you clearly don't give a shit about what you're shooting. The story is a sloppy patchwork of cliches and goes exactly where you expect it to almost all the time, except in a few incoherent spots. The characters are all either unpleasant and irritating or paper-thin, and the acting is mostly pretty atrocious. Two of them clearly know they're in a terrible movie (Kim Coates and Cassandra Gava), and the other ones are just bad actors with, to a man and woman, whiny, nasally voices. Why? Who wants to spend 90 minutes with these people?
The movie begins with a prologue of a parish priest playing some Lugosi Dracula organ in his home and chatting with his housekeeper, who just caught an enormous rat in a trap. Then he goes to the church to hear a confession and is murdered by an unknown to us, known to him, assailant. The movie then jumps 12 years into the future-present of possibly 1989 (though my wife has a theory that this movie takes place at the same time as Amityville 3-D--we had to talk about things like this to make the movie bearable). An obnoxious, thoroughly unpleasant psychologist and anti-Semitic negative Jewish stereotype named Marvin (David Stein) and his mousy, nervous wife Debbie (Dawna Wightman) are cruising into fake-Amityville Montreal to look into purchasing the famous haunted house to fix up and flip with their pals, but Debbie gets a psychic premonition about the dilapidated shithole formerly rented by our dead priest, and they buy that one instead. Soon, the whole gang comes up for a long vacation of house remodeling and straight-to-video nonsense.
Besides Marvin and Debbie, our crew includes newlyweds Frank (Sons of Anarchy's Kim Coates) and Abigail (Conan the Barbarian's Cassandra Gava) and fifth-wheel legend Bill (Anthony Dean Rubes, whose father Jan plays the priest). Abigail is a sexy painter and old college buddy of Debbie's. Frank is a chain-smoker with a mysterious past. Bill is a restaurant co-owner who works out a lot and listens to classical music on headphones. None of these people have any chemistry together (except possibly Coates and Gava, who know what kind of movie they're in) and are impossible to believe as a group of friends, especially since they seem to dislike each other. Marvin, in particular, is a complete asshole who would have no friends or a wife if he weren't a movie character, despite his propensity for bizarre and outlandish sweater combinations.
You know what happens next. Haunted shit happens in the house. We learn about Frank's mysterious past. Marvin tells everyone there is a rational explanation for everything until it's too late. Some people die. There are tarantulas, for some reason. There are obligatory interactions with oddball locals. Nudity is teased but never realized. The special effects are horrible. And why is the house even haunted? The priest was killed in the church, not the house, for reasons having nothing to do with anything supernatural. A guy dies sitting in a chair in this movie for reasons never explained, 4 realz. Okay, I just stopped giving a shit about continuing this review.
The Amityville Curse sucks and sucks hard, people. Mostly, I have a lot of fun watching these movies and writing about them, but I should have been paid for this one. Sheesh.
Dr. Mystery, aka Robot X, aka Raul "Sous Chef" Mendoza, aka Josh Krauter was killed in a brawl in a Pizza Hut parking lot after expressing his disappointment with the "Dippin' Strips" pizza. His skeleton was saved and inserted into an apesuit-wearing robot powered by an electrical current emanating from the still-beating heart of deceased actor Zero Mostel. He is also a limited liability company and writes the weekly advice column, "Pull Your Head Outta Your Ass," for the Vermont Luthiers Annual Newsletter.