Inspired by “true events” and based on a best-selling novel, The Amityville Horror wasn’t just a box office success for American International Pictures, it spawned two sequels (made under the studio’s new owners, Orion). MGM released the first film on Blu-ray in 2008, but now Shout! Factory brings the three films together in a 3-disc boxed set, with the third entry in 3D.
Distributed By: Scream Factory
Video Resolution and Encode: 1080P/AVC, 1080P/MVC
Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1, 2.35:1
Audio: English 2.0 DTS-HDMA, English 5.1 DTS-HDMA
Rating: PG, R
Run Time: 1 Hr. 59 Min., 1 Hr. 44 Min., 1 Hr. 33 Min.
Package Includes: Blu-ray, 3D Blu-ray3 Single Disc Keepcases housed in a Cardboard Sleeve
Disc Type: BD50 (dual layer)
Release Date: 10/01/2013
The Amityville Horror: 3.5 out of 5The best-selling novel by Jay Anson, The Amityville Horror, published in 1977, chronicled the events over the first 28 days that George and Kathy Lutz and their children lived in the home where Ronald DeFeo Jr. had murdered his parents and siblings one year earlier. Samuel Z. Arkoff purchased the movie rights, producing and releasing it in 1979 through his American International Pictures (which would later merge with Filmways and acquired by Orion Pictures). Sandor Stern was hired to adapt the book into a screenplay, and Stuart Rosenberg (Cool Hand Luke, Brubaker) was hired to direct.The film opens with a brief prologue highlighting the DeFeo murders, then jumps ahead one year later as George and Kathy Lutz (James Brolin, Margot Kidder) tour the house they are about to purchase with a real estate agent. One month later, they move in with Kathy’s two children from a previous marriage. Almost immediately, strange things begin to occur. Father Delaney (Rod Steiger), while attempting to bless the house, is attacked by flies, a sudden bout of nausea, and then ordered by an unseen demonic voice, “Get out!” George becomes obsessed with chopping wood, trying to make the house warm. One of the boys gets his hand crushed by a window that comes loose. The daughter finds an imaginary friend that that likes to sit in the rocking chair. And Kathy keeps seeing red glowing eyes outside their windows at night. It all comes down to that last night, when the walls and stairs begin to drip blood and the toilets fill with a black ooze.At its best, The Amityville Horror is a cheesy late-70s horror film with more atmosphere and implied terror than physical scares. Brolin, Steiger, and Kidder do their best with the material provided, but it is Lalo Schifrin’s Oscar-nominated score that adds an extra sense of eeriness to the mix. For me, though, the film is a reminder of the home I lived in during the late 70s and early 80s, which bore a passing resemblance to the famed Amityville house, which had its suspected instances of poltergeist activity.Amityville II: The Possession: 2.5 out of 5Three years later, Dino De Laurentiis acquired the rights to produce a sequel for Orion Pictures. Rather than a follow-up to the events in the previous film, it was decided to adapt Hans Holzer’s Murder In Amityville, which chronicled the DeFeo murders, and make the film a prequel. De Laurentiis hired John Carpenter protege Tommy Lee Wallace (Halloween III: Season of the Witch) to adapt the book into a screenplay, and Italian director Damiano Damiani was tasked with putting the story on film. Possibly for legal reasons, the character’s names have been changed for the movie adaptation, with the DeFeo’s becoming the Montelli’s.Shortly after moving in, the family is awakened by loud banging on the front door. The kids’ room is graffitied with a nasty message aimed at the father. Finally, the oldest son, Sonny (Jack Magner) becomes possessed. causing him to have an incestous affair with his sister (Diane Franklin, Better Off Dead) and eventually shooting the family. Burt Young (Rocky) is typecast as the abusive father, Rutanya Alda (The Fury) as the helpless mother,) and James Olson as the sympathetic priest who wants to exorcise the demon from Sonny. Damiani’s direction is completely over the top, yet provides enough bizarre camera moves and angles in addition to the grotesque make-up work by Glen Robinson and John Caglione, Jr. to make the film watchable.Amityville 3-D: 2 out of 5After box office success of the first two films, a third entry was inevitable (although the disclaimer on the packaging states “This picture is not a sequel to the pictures The Amityville Horror or Amityville II: The Possession). John Baxter (Tony Roberts) and his assistant, Melanie (Candy Clark), specialize in debunking haunted house myths for Reveal magazine. As the film opens, John and Melanie uncover a couple renting the Amityville house conducting fraudulent seances and turn them over to the authorities. As a way to prove all the reported events at the house as pure fiction, John purchases and moves into the home, despite warnings from his ex-wife (Tess Harper), as well as finding the real estate agent dead in the house after closing escrow. Several supernatural events (that are not particularly scary) then take place to nearly everyone surrounding John, but he still chalks it all up to coincidence, including the mysterious death of his teenage daughter, Susan (a pre-Full House Lori Laughlin). The lead scientist on John’s investigative team, Dr. Elliott West (Robert Joy, CSI:NY), suggests setting up cameras throughout the house and monitor for any paranormal activity, which leads to the big finale straight out of a William Castle film, literally destroying the house, once and for all.Amityville 3-D (aka Amityville 3: The Demon) attempted to take advantage of the resurgence of 3-D movies in the mid 1980s by shooting in the rather inferior ArriVision 3-D process (see the Video section for more details), and the producers hired Richard Fleischer (Disney’s 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea) to direct. Fleischer’s style is, perhaps, what gives the film it’s 1960s B-movie feel. Although the 3-D effects are interesting, they do seem dated by today’s standards, and Fleischer likes to shove items at the audience (elongated flashlights, pipes, etc.). The main problem with Amityville 3-D is that there is nothing really scary on display, and there is no real sympathy for John or what happens to the characters around him. Modern audiences, however, may get a kick out of seeing a very young Meg Ryan in a supporting role as Susan’s friend, Lisa.
The Production Rating: 3/5
The Amityville Horror: 4 out of 5The 1080p transfer provided to Shout! Factory retains the film’s original aspect ratio of 1.85:1 and has been compressed using the AVC codec. Although the print used has some very minor dirt and scratches here and there, colors are vibrant and consistent, and contrast is also excellent. Detail is also very good, allowing the viewer to see the thousands of lenses in the eyeballs of a housefly in several closeups.Amityville II: The Possession: 4 out of 5In its high definition debut, Amityville II’s 1080p transfer provided to Shout! Factory retains the film’s original aspect ratio of 1.85:1 and has been compressed using the AVC codec. The print used is in much better condition than the one used in Amityville Horror, presenting a much more flawless image. Colors are vibrant and consistent, and black levels are very good, retaining detail in the many darker lit sequences in the film.Amityville 3-D: 3 out of 5, 3-D: 3 out of 5The disc contains both 2-D and 3-D versions, but defaults to 3-D if 3-D is enabled on both your TV and Blu-ray player. There is no 3-D option provided on the disc, so 3-D needs to be disabled on 3-D setups if you wish to view in 2-D. Many will probably complain about the picture quality of this film in both 2-D and 3-D, but it should be noted that Amityville 3-D was filmed using the ArriVision 3-D process (the same process used on most 1980s era 3-D films). Essentially, ArriVision was a single-strip process, splitting a normal 35mm frame in half, recording the left eye on the top half and the right eye on the lower half. The result is a loss in image quality during the photographic process, and there is nothing that can really be done to increase that resolution. That being said, the 1080p transfer provided to Shout! Factory (compressed using the MVC/AVC codec, retaining the film’s original 2.35:1 aspect ratio) is probably the best this film is ever going to look, at least in 2-D. The image is overly soft, more so along the outer edges of the frame (a consistent issue with virtually all movies filmed in this process). Colors are consistent and well-saturated, but black levels are inconsistent, with some occasional crushing during darker sequences.The 3-D version compounds all of the issues listed above, and adds many others, especially ghosting and crosstalk in many shots due to misalignment of the left and right eye images that were inherent in the original negative. It is still “watchable” in 3-D, but may cause headaches for some viewers.
Video Rating: 3.5/5 3D Rating: 3/5
The Amityville Horror: 3 out of 5The disc contains both a 5.1 surround and (original) 2.0 mono soundtracks, both in lossless DTS-HD Master Audio. The 5.1 remix is overly gimmicky, placing discrete sounds in the surrounds which often took this viewer out of the film, as they just didn’t sound natural. The remix reminded of the dreadful 5.1 remix on the original DVD release of Jaws. To be fair, dialogue was directed mostly to the center channel and was always clear and understandable, and Lalo Schifrin’s haunting, eerie score was spread nicely throughout. The better choice is the original 2.0 mono soundtrack, though.Amityville II: The Possession: 3.5 out of 5The 5.1 remix (also in DTS-HD Master Audio) for Amityville II is well-done, with some fun discrete surround effects while highlighting Lalo Schifrin’s score, and at the same time never drowning out the dialogue. The movie’s original 2.0 stereo surround track is also included in DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 stereo.Amityville 3-D: 3 out of 5The DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 remix for Amityville 3-D is an adequate re-interpretation of the original 2.0 surround track (also included), with some minor discrete effects thrown in. But like the film, the soundtrack is rather bland.
Audio Rating: 3.5/5
The Amityville Horror: 4 out of 5Audio Commentary by Dr. Hans Holzer, Ph.D. in Parapsychology: Ported over from the MGM Special Edition DVD, the author of Murder In Amityville, discusses what he believes to be the truth and what was made up by Hollywood.“For God’s Sake, Get Out!”: A Look at The Amityville Horror with James Brolin and Margot Kidder (1080i; 21:34): Brolin and Kidder discuss, quite frankly, their careers prior to being cast in the film (Kidder admits she used the success of Superman to parlay a big paycheck for the movie), how it affected their career afterwards (Brolin claims he didn’t work for two years after the film’s release), and their thoughts on the legend. This feature was also ported over from the previous MGM Special Edition DVD, and has been upscaled to 1080i.Haunted Memories with Lalo Schifrin (1080p; 9:56): The famed composer discusses his career, scoring this and Amityville II, and working with both Dino De Laurentiis and Stuart Rosenberg.Theatrical Trailer and TV Spot (1080p/1080i; 3:29): The trailer looks to be in good shape, presented in 1.85:1 and 1080p, while the TV spot is presented in 1.33:1 and appears to have been upconverted to 1080i from a standard definition video tape.Original Amityville Horror Radio Spots (3:39): Seven radio commercials are included.Still GalleryAmityville II: The Possession: 3.5 out of 5Audio Commentary by Alexandra Holzer: Hans Holzer’s daughter discusses her father’s book on which the film is loosely based, pointing out what was in the book and what was created for the movie. This is an odd track, in that the film’s soundtrack has not been mixed in with Holzer’s comments, and there are long (and I mean very long) gaps in her commentary where there is dead silence.The Possession of Damiani (1080p; 6:08): Damiani discusses the film, in Italian with English subtitles.Adapting Amityville with Tommy Lee Wallace (1080p; 12:27): Wallace discusses his thoughts on the Amityville legend, how he hated the first film, and getting hired by Dino De Laurentiis.A Mother’s Burden with Rutanya Alda (1080p; 14:09): Alda discusses how she was cast in the film, working with an international crew, and some of the controversial subject matter in the film.Family Matters with Diane Franklin (1080p; 13:39): The actress discusses wanting to work with Burt Young, the incestous relationship of her character, and working with Damiani.Father Tom’s Memories with Andrew Prine (1080p; 3:43): Prine discusses very briefly about working on the film.Continuing the Hunt: An Interview with Alexandra Holzer (1080p; 28:46): Holzer covers much of the same material in her commentary track.Trailers (1080p; 3:13): Both the English language and Italian language trailers are presented.Still GalleryStephan Dupuis Recalls Amityville II (1080i; 1:42): The Academy Award winning FX artist talks briefly about creating some of the make-up effects for the film. This can be found as an Easter Egg on page two of the Special Features by highlighting the For Sale sign.Amityville 3-D: 3 out of 5A Chilly Reception with Candy Clark (1080p; 9:46): Clark discusses shooting the film in Mexico, having hot wax blown on her to simulate her being frozen, and working with Richard Fleischer.Photo GalleryTrailer (1080p; 0:39): More of a teaser than a trailer.
Special Features Rating: 4/5
Fans of these three films will likely be pleased with this set, particularly fans of Amityville II for the special features Shout! Factory has included here. While some may be disappointed in the video quality of Amityville 3-D, credit should be given to Shout! Factory for even trying to release the film in 3-D.
Overall Rating: 3.5/5
Reviewed By: Todd Erwin
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