Maybe you’re heard of the the Amityville haunting? The DeFeo Family murders on Long Island, New York? Or the Lutz family’s paranormal encounters? If not, you may be the only person entertained by the latest movie based on the infamous case. Since Jay Anson published The Amityville Horror in 1977, horror filmmakers have made just over 20 movies based on the legend. Only a handful of those movies have any connection to the 1979 classic, The Amityville Horror. But just like other straight-to-video horror franchises, including Hellraiser, Leprechaun, Children of the Corn, and The Puppet Master, they just won’t stop making these movies.
On November 13th, 1974, Ronald “Butch” DeFeo murdered his entire family with a shotgun. In the middle of the night, DeFeo went from bedroom to bedroom, shooting his parents and all four of his younger siblings. Later DeFeo would claim he was possessed and ‘voices’ instructed him to carry out the murders. Since that night, the house on 113 Ocean Avenue in Amityville, Long Island, has become synomous with the paranormal.
The Amityville Murders Offers Nothing New
As a franchise, The Amityville Horror movies are all over the map. Some sequels exist in the same cinematic universe. Other sequels share only the name. As a prequel to the 1979 original movie, The Amityville Murders is technically a remake of Amityville II: The Possession. That movie, which was released in 1982, also served as a prequel that recounted the DeFeo murders. So Amityville has the distinction of being the first horror franchise where a sequel and/or prequel got a remake.
Not surprisingly, with so many sequels, prequels, and remakes, The Amityville Murders offers nothing new. If you have seen any of the Amityville movies, you’ve seen this one. Writer and director Daniel Farrands pens what amounts to little more than a ‘Wikipedia’ version of the Amityville legend. This time around, Farrands drops the incest and exorcism subplots from the first prequel. While these are probably good choices, Farrands also dials down the supernatural. Instead, The Amityville Murders includes needless DeFeo Family background and, well, not much of anything else. It’s probably worth pointing out at this point that Farrands’ previous writing credits include Halloween: The Curse of Michael Myers.
Scare-Free and Paint-By-Numbers Horror
Arguably, familiarity is just about the only thing haunting this movie. Farrands dutifully checks off one haunted house trope after the other. Each of these tropes is filmed with the same bland and unimaginative style. Nothing ever feels remotely scary. While Amityville II: The Possession was no masterpiece, it at least had a few shocks and an exploitation grime to it. In contrast, The Amityville Murders has a safe and workmanlike quality to it. But horror shouldn’t be safe or bland.
We don’t even get a Razzies-worthy performance a la Rutanya Alda in this prequel.
For some reason, Farrands also opts to use some pretty poor-looking digital effects or some of the movie’s supernatural moments. These effects just give the movie a ‘made-for-television’ vibe. Even Amityville 3-D had more credible effects. Though the performances aren’t bad, no one in the cast rises above mediocrity. We don’t even get a Razzies-worthy performance a la Rutanya Alda in this prequel. But Burt Young makes a cameo, which is sort of an odd way of acknowledging the first prequel.
For God’s Sake, Stop Making These Movies
If you count the flashbacks in The Amityville Horror, Amityville II: The Possession, and The Amityville Horror remake, we’ve now seen the DeFeo murder played out on screen four times. Maybe there’s something about that crime worth re-visiting. If so, The Amityville Murders simply isn’t the movie to do it. Unless it’s set in The Conjuring universe with Patrick Wilson and Vera Farmiga, I don’t want to see another Amityville movie.