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John’s Horror Corner: Amityville 3-D (1983), a boring slog of a haunted house movie featuring Meg Ryan.

June 27, 2022

MY CALL: I wasn’t a fan and don’t recommend this movie, whose pacing is just way too slow for me even to recommend to lovers of ‘so bad it’s good’ cinema. Not much happens until the very end, it’s very boring, and it pays little respect to its source material. MORE MOVIES LIKE Amityville 3-D: Uhhhhhh, stick to Amityville II: The Possession (1982) and wander no further in terms of franchise sequels. Part II has all the dumb fun you’re looking for with great pacing.

As with this movie’s predecessor, director Richard Fleischer (Soylent Green, Conan the Destroyer) wastes no time jumping into the action with this sequel. After the slaughter of now two different families in the Amityville house built over the Native American burial ground, reporters Melanie (Candy Clark; The Blob) and John (Tony Roberts; Popcorn) expose a charlatan medium operation during a sham séance… in the Amityville house. Their examination of the house reveals a sort of crude well in the basement floor referred to as ‘the gateway to Hell.’ And shortly after this discovery, John Baxter said “to Hell with the superstitions” surrounding the house and decided to buy it, so cheap they were practically giving it away. Estranged from his wife Nancy (Tess Harper), it just seemed like the best way for him to move on was to buy the haunted house.

If Amityville II: The Possession (1982) was using The Exorcist I-II’s (1973, 1977) playbook with some Poltergeist (1982) flair, then Amityville 3-D is using The Omen’s (1976) tactics along with a strong dose of Poltergeist (1982). With people alarmingly distorted in photographs, this utilizes the means we’d later observe in the Final Destination (2000) franchise. Appear distorted in a photo… you can likely expect to be dead in a few scenes. And while Melanie notices the correlation and fears a deadly supernatural link, John denies the existence of such silly superstitious things.

Following The Exorcist II (1977) and Poltergeist (1982), Dr. Elliot West (Robert Joy; Fallen, The Dark Half, The Hills Have Eyes) plays the resident supernatural researcher, a scientist who has made profession from disproving most unusual coincidences. As we’ve seen in the aforementioned movies, West and his team conduct an overnight paranormal investigation with loads of scientific instruments.

It’s not the most exciting and I’m not sure why it’s fatal (perhaps ‘fright’), but the first death scene is death by swarm of pestilence. Overall, I’d comfortably say that the haunted house stuff is all quite cheap and weak compared to part II. Moreover, part II had appreciably entertaining pacing, whereas 3-D is largely a boring slog.

I realize I just said it, but it merits repeating. This movie is horrendously boring. Outside of being dedicated to doing a full franchise rewatch, this movie viewing experience has proven wholly regrettable. The tail end of the movie has a few briefly satisfying visuals (e.g., the screaming corpse emerging from the well, a mongoloid demon breathes fire on a man’s face). But they do not make up for the sluggish, unexciting stretches leading up to them. The most interesting thing about this movie is seeing Lori Loughlin and Meg Ryan (City of Angels, In the Cut) in early career roles.

At this point I feel the need to identify that whereas part I showed us what a bunch of desecrated (and thus enraged) Native American spirits may do to those who reside upon their graves, part II shifts into a demonic possession that is treated as an evil spirit to be exorcised by a Catholic priest. Here in part III, the movie doesn’t even feign interest in the source material (i.e., angry Native spirits). The evil here is simply some basement demon hiding in the “gateway to Hell.” No one ever suggests righting the wronged Native people. It just becomes a truthseekers’ mission to prove the supernatural exists. Subsequent “sequels” (e.g., ’89 The Evil Escapes, ‘92 It’s About Time, ‘96 Dollhouse) seem to follow suite and simply treat the Amityville house as cursed or evil.

So that’s it. I wasn’t a fan. I don’t recommend this. And while many enjoy deliberately bad movies, this one’s pacing is just way too slow for me to recommend to lovers of ‘so bad it’s good’ cinema.

2 Comments leave one →
  1. July 3, 2022 11:49 am

    I loved “boring slog of a haunted house movie”. That pretty much sums up this dreadful attempt to ruin the legacy of the original. Great review!

    • John Leavengood permalink
      July 10, 2022 9:14 am

      Yes, and ruin them it did. I wonder if there was a watchable pseudo-sequel after part II.

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