SEQUEL v PREQUEL - Blogs
SEQUEL v PREQUEL
For Hicksflicks.com, Friday, April 15, 2016
EDITOR’S NOTE: The Hollywood term ‘prequel’ for a movie whose events precede the original is common parlance today, but not so 34 years ago. The first time I ever used the word ‘prequel’ was in a 1982 story about a-then upcoming film, ‘Amityville II: The Possession,’ and I put quotation marks around it then, too. When I subsequently reviewed the film — published in the Deseret News on Oct. 1, 1982 — I apparently felt it needed further explanation.
“Amityville II: The Possession” is what’s known as a “prequel,” that is, a sequel that tells the story of what happened before the tale related in the original film.
The phrase was coined when “Butch and Sundance: The Early Days” came out a few years back. In that film, two young actors were hired who really could pass for a young Newman and Redford. And some effort was made to have the film genuinely live up to the style and tone of its predecessor.
But “Amityville II: The Possession” seems to have been made by people who didn’t even see “The Amityville Horror.” Aside from the title, the house itself (on the outside) and Lalo Schifrin’s similar score, this new film doesn’t even seem to be related to the first picture.
The story of “Amityville II” is of the family that was murdered in the infamous house before George and Kathy Lutz moved in. The Lutzs were played in the first film by James Brolin and Margot Kidder, and the opening sequence in “The Amityville Horror” relates the killing of an entire family, shot with a rifle in their beds as they slept, by the oldest son, who apparently was possessed by a demon.
In that first film, much was made of George Lutz’s strong resemblance to the killer, and there is a scene where a newspaper photo of the young man who killed his parents and siblings does look exactly like the bearded Brolin.
But “Amityville II” begins much as the first film did, with the young man and his family moving into that horribly nasty house, thinking they have a lovely new home. But the boy looks nothing like Brolin, and his face doesn’t even have a beard. Further, when the killings finally take place (about half-way through the picture), he doesn’t kill the family members in their beds, he tracks them down through the house, in what is a very gruesome, drawn-out scene.
What’s more, the interior of the house doesn’t seem to resemble the Lutz’s home in the first film at all — and that’s especially true of the infamous basement.
The first half of the movie has the boy, played by newcomer Jack Magner, and his father and mother (Burt Young and Rutanya Alda) constantly fighting, along with a younger brother and sister, and a teenage daughter (Diane Franklin, of “ The Last American Virgin”).
The son is gradually becoming possessed, as we see when he commits incest with his sister, draws a rifle on his father during a family squabble and plays satanic practical jokes on the local priest who comes to bless the house. James Olson, as the priest, is the only actor worth mentioning here, and before the film is over, he is reduced to spouting silly dialogue and running around with a cross, as if he’s tracking down a vampire.
But Magner isn’t that. He turns into a real demon, with a face full of makeup that appears to be left over from “The Beast Within,” and the demon within gets into shouting matches with the priest. At one point, Olson says he is going to exorcise the demon, to which the creature replies: “You’re not authorized!” Later, the priest explains to a cop, “The boy’s possessed.” “I saw one once in Puerto Rico,” the cop replies. Ridiculous dialogue like that had the audience in hysterics the night I saw this film — and that laughter was not intended by the filmmakers.
When “Amityville II” is stupid, it’s kind of fun, but just as often it’s grotesque and repulsive, as when the family is done in by the boy and later, when the body bags are unzipped for the camera’s full inspection.
Italian director Damiano Damiani wallows in the grotesqueries and idiocy of this film but he’s not helped by one of the worst scripts to come along in some time.
Would a priest really ignore his phone just because he wants to go camping, especially when there have been serious medical and spiritual problems among some of his parishioners? Would a mother who has just moved into her new house be completely unconcerned by a major water leak beneath her home? Would a demon speak to the person he’s possessed only through stereo headphones?
And as with the first film, no matter how many loud explosions and rattlings come from that house, the neighbors never seem to notice.
This script appears to have been put together in fits and starts, with a few interesting ideas and nothing to tie them together. Screenwriter Tommy Lee Wallace is also credited with directing the upcoming “Halloween III: Season of the Witch.”
Rated R for violence, nudity, sex and profanity, “Amityville II: The Possession” seems to have stolen the title and the outdoor set of the house just to cash in on the original film. But I guess that’s OK, since “Possession” is 9/10s of the law.