The Best of a Bad Bunch
I have to say I'm amazed that the Amityville series of films managed to get more than a single sequel. That film, Amityville II: The Possession, was barely connected to the first movie, was a failure at the Box Office, and, I would have thought, proved there was any life (or unlife) left in the franchise. Of course, any horror series can be extended long past the point audiences stopped caring (and we've reviewed so many of those failures on the site already), but what do you do with a series when the main characters are dead, the prequel also kills off any other characters that were referenced before, and there's no connective tissue left to go by?
Hey, the house is still there. Wouldn't someone be dumb enough to buy the house a third time, not only after a series of grisly murders (and priest going insane in the house as well), but then another family fleeing the house, leaving all their worldly possessions behind as well? Wouldn't that be enough to make anyone sit and go, "yeah, you know... maybe I'll just go buy a condo... in another city... far from here." I'd think it would, but horror movie characters are clearly the dumbed of the bunch.
In this third iteration, we're introduced to John Baxter (Tony Roberts) and Melanie (Candy Clark), two journalists and con-scheme debunkers. They take down a so-called psychic who's setup shop in the Amityville house (that Amityville house) and has been operating there, giving supposed "messages from beyond the grave" from within the creepy confines of the establishment. John and Nancy reveal their scheme, getting the D.A. on their case, and everything is right and safe in the world. Except that John takes a shine to the house and, buying it for a song, decides to move in there with his daughter, Susan (Full House's Aunt Becky, and now also convicted felon, Lori Loughlin).
But, of course, almost as soon as they move into the house creepy things start happening. The real estate agent that sold them the place ends up dead in the house. John's elevator (at work) almost kills him. His pipes and lights and everything else turn on and off at will. Doors refuse to open, or blast open when no one is near by. And then everyone John knows starts dying, in mysterious ways, one by one. Is it just coincidence or is the house possessed and murderous? Well, of course its the house, but John doesn't believe in that so he sticks around long after everyone else would have left.
One of the big issues I have with this movie, along with the two previous films, is that we still don't understand what the goal of the house really is. Does the house want people to stick around so it can murder them? Is it trying to take possession of their souls? Or is the house just sick of having people living in it and wants to do whatever it can to chase them away? Some of its stunts, like the doors and the pipes and the lights, would seem to indicate it wants to chase people off. But then it purposefully kills people and you have to wonder, "why?" There's no logic to it, not that anyone should expect logic from a stupid horror movie, but even the dumbest horror villains have a motivation you can understand. This house just does whatever it wants for no understandable reason.
Take Susan for example. The house never bothers to do anything to her while she's around, even though she ends up taking over the bedroom of the eldest DeFeo son (the one that went around and killed all his family members). But then, suddenly it kills her (throwing her off a boat, because that's apparently a thing the house can do), drowning her. We see her in the house, soaking wet, walking up to her room at the same time her corpse is pulled from the water. Is she now owned by the house? We don't know because she never physically shows up again before the film ends. What was the point, then?
How about all the things the house can do to people when they're nowhere near the house? John's elevator craps out (as we noted), so the house can take control of machines now? Seems like because it also takes control of Melanie's car, crashing it, then somehow setting it (with her inside) on fire. And, of course, it throws Susan off a boat. So is it that when people touch the house the house somehow connects with them and can continue fucking with them no matter where they go? How powerful is this house and why?
At the same time, though, the house is also wildly inconsistent about who it attacks. The movie opens with the con artists living in the house and it was established that they were operating out of the house for six months. They never once saw anything from the house, being left to operate, and eventually leave unscathed. But then John and Susan moves in and within a week almost everyone is dead. why do some get to live while everyone else seems to die? Again, don't expect answers as this movie provides nothing.
I harp on all this because, as far as this trio of movies in concerned, Amityville 3D is the best of the set. It movies at a decent clip, has solid acting, and generally is the most competently made film yet. I actually half-way enjoyed it, at least in comparison to the previous films, even though the film still went over the same basic beats as the previous films. There's nothing new here, mind you (a flaw I've pointed out about every ghost and possession film), but for a film that goes through the same basic beats of every film in the genre, and pretty much mimics the previous two films, this one isn't bad.
But there's also nothing to really recommend this film at all. It documents another family stupid enough to move into this house despite knowing the history of the house. Whatever comes their way is, frankly, their fault. We've spent two movies with this house already, so they should just know better by this third one. It's hard to really care when it's obvious what's going to happen to the family and the film just goes through the motions. It's all preordained.
So at this point I have to ask, simply, why? What's the point of all this? If the film wanted to give us answers, or start defining what the evil of the house could do, what it's powers and limits could be, that might have made for a compelling story. But the films are so loosely connected, and the series keeps retconning itself, there's no way for us to keep up or understand the villainous house and what it can do. We're simply along for a ride we already have seen before, doing things that were done twice before, and it's all just so tedious now. I didn't hate this film, and if it had been the first of the series it might have actually been good, but by the third iteration it's hard to care at all.