- Movie Rating -

Amityville 3-D (1983)

| January 16, 1983 | 0 Comments

There is a scene deep into “Amityville 3-D” in which the new owner of the famous haunted house at 112 Ocean Avenue comes home and hears water running in the upstairs bathroom. He opens the door and finds the room filled with thick clouds of steam. Waving his way through the steam he finds that the faucets in the sink are turned on full-blast with hot water. He struggles to turn them off, and after a few minutes, he does. Then the scene is finished. No ghosts, no blood, no murders, just a plumbing problem. That scene is pretty much a commentary of this terrible movie; it’s needless, pointless and easily forgotten, like water running down the drain.

“Amityville 3-D” is like an old Kleenex that missed the free-throw to the garbage can; it’s disgusting and disposable. It’s the kind of movie that you watch passively as your mind becomes preoccupied with all of the wonderful things that you’re going to do after this movie is over. Fun things like laundry and cleaning up after the dog.

If that sounds cruel, consider the mean-spirited intent that made this film possible. The two previous entries in this series, “The Amityville Horror” and “Amityville II: The Possession” were very profitable at the box office, despite the fact that neither was worth the powder to blow them up. Yes, they were bad but you felt that somebody was trying. The problem is that there isn’t really much to build on, once you’ve told the DeFeo story and then the Lutz story, there’s really nowhere to go. That’s good news for the filmmakers since they have clearly come into this project with no ambition to make a workable movie. The title is a brand name, and so apparently they figure that no effort is needed. Just put that creepy house in the frame, kill some people with special effects and no one has to work very hard. This isn’t art; it’s commercialism at its most cynical. Worse is that all the press releases for the film made clear in big block letters that this was not related to the two earlier pictures. It takes place in the same house, it has a big “3” in the title, and there are several conversations about the events that led to the first movie.

Apparently these crass business people are counting on 3D to save the day. It’s a crummy process, blurry and dark that adds nothing to the experience, and is only pliable so that something – a Frisbee, a metal pole, the movie’s title – can come flying at the screen. That happens about every 15 minutes and it isn’t worth the wait.

The threading tissue that gets us from one indistinct 3D image to the next is something that might be mistaken for a story. Whereas the second Amityville adventure withered into a pathetic rip-off of “The Exorcist”, this film withers into a pathetic rip-off of “Poltergeist.” Tony Roberts plays a journalist from a tabloid rag called Reveal Magazine who doesn’t believe in all the hooey about haunted houses. He and his wife (Tess Harper) are separated, and he’s taken up with a new lover (Candy Clark). Still he buys the house at 112 Ocean Avenue because the Realtor is eager to unload this turkey as a bargain basement price. Roberts doesn’t believe in ghosts and isn’t even convinced of the validity of the supernatural claims when the Realtor drops dead on his third floor landing. He’s not even convinced when ghouls start popping out of the well down in the basement. There are few things more aggravating than a horror movie with slow-learners at the fore-front.

What is most frustrating about “Amityville 3-D” is that is breaks the first rule of haunted house movies: You have to have rules. There has to be some form of establishment so the audience can understand what is at stake and what is happening. Otherwise the movie is just a free-for-all and we get a freak show without purpose. That’s especially true when the movie takes the haunted house stuff away from the house. When the characters are killed in their cars miles away from the house, then we are left to wonder why. Are the people cursed? Is the car cursed? Those questions give you an even bigger headache than the 3D.

Is there a high point to “Amityville 3-D”? Actually, yes. There’s a brief performance here by a 21 year-old Meg Ryan making her feature film debut. She’s bouncy and fun, but on screen in too few scenes. Her character postulates – through giggles – that a living person can have sex with a ghost. It makes you rethink that orgasm scene in “When Harry Met Sally.”

About the Author:

Jerry Roberts is a film critic and operator of two websites, Armchair Cinema and Armchair Oscars.
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