Watching Amityville 2: The Possession was like listening to a mix tape full of nothing but cover bands. Nothing was particularly original and everything was done better by someone else, but it's still surprisingly entertaining.
The house does all the typical haunted-house shit. Blood still pours from faucets, doors still slam shut and plates still flies off of shelves. There's the priest, struggling with his doubt in the face of absolute supernatural horror. There's the whispered voices and the mysterious chamber hidden under the stairs. And there's a teenager possessed by what appears to be deadites, flying around the walls and screaming blasphemies at the poor inhabitants. There was even the flying demon's eye view camera straight from Evil Dead. All this spookshow stuff is almost quaint next to the real horror of the movie, which is an almost unbearable atmosphere of abuse and repression.
Even before the Montellis take their first step into the house, it's clear that the family is barely holding together. Most of the animosity centers around the father, a toady little brute fond of guns and military terminology. Combined with a milquetoast, constantly apologizing wife and you have scenes of familial disharmony more chilling and uncomfortable than any z-grade slasher flick. There's one awesome scene early in the movie where the family is sitting down to dinner and a mirror inexplicably drops. Their first reaction, rather than alarm, is to quickly blame one another for the faulty nail. Yet underneath all the screaming we see the quiet teenage boy slowly falling under the house's spell.
So it turns out that the house was always fucked up, that the Montelli's murder was only a link in the chain, not the start. The murderer isn't even responsible for his actions. He goes through the house, methodically executing his loved ones, wearing a demon-face. If the movie is guilty of anything, it's that the narrative loses focus. If the filmmakers centered on the horror of the possessed boy as he corrupted and murdered his family, this could have been a great movie. Instead, the movie divides its attention with the family and the doubting priest, a character done better in The Exorcist.
Anyway, there's a lot of neat stuff in this movie. The cinematography is amazing, and captures the quiet discomfort of the unholy home better than most haunted house flicks. For me, one of the scariest images in the movie was a shot of the kitchen table after everyone had gone to bed. There's something creepy in the way the image is framed, with the silence and the stillness having a predatory quality to it. It takes talent to pull off that level of subtlety and the movie pulls it off.
So, yeah, this movie was a pleasant surprise. If this stuff doesn't appeal to you, there's incest. Lots and lots of creepy incest. Enjoy!
This post is my humble contribution to the Final Girl Film Club, of which I'd contributed one other review so far. If this your first turn in my carousel, welcome. Fakeademic horror essays are my shtick, and I do it pretty well. Stick around, we've got all kinds of neat stuff in the future.