The Amityville franchise is a rancid body of work. From the first feature in 1979 to the Michael Bay produced remake in 2005, the series has served up all the ooze, breasts, dog abuse-Fu and questionable real estate purchases that…well…there must have been someone who wanted them.
The second film, supposedly a prequel to 1979’s Amityville Horror, aims to show us how the famous three story Dutch colonial on Long Island made an innocent young teenager murder his family. We discover quickly that the kid didn’t need a lot of inspiring. The through line of the story goes like this: loud, abusive jerk moves his dysfunctional family into a big house on Long Island, demon possesses skeevy oldest boy, oldest boy boinks his sister en route to killing his family with a rifle, then kindly priest spends next hour performing exorcism on boy, finally defeating the demon by forcing it to possess him instead.
Here are the major story issues with Amityville 2:
1. The last hour steals all of its plot beats from The Exorcist. The effect of this is that when victim/viewers see…say…a word appear in the flesh of the possessed boy, they think That was in The Exorcist! You know, that was a great film: the head spinning around, Max von Sydow’s performance, the floating bed, Father Karras’s sacrifice, the fall down the steps… I’m sorry, Amityville 2. What were you talking about?
2. There are hazards to telling a story in which everyone is an irredeemable asshole. And oh, is everyone in Amityville 2 an asshole. The Dad’s moods run the gamut from crabby to violent. The Mom is pathetic and bland. The smaller kids are obnoxious. The older son is a creep. And though, during the infamous incest scene, the older son is possessed, the movie offers no explanation for why the older daughter is into it. Satires like Clockwork Orange can function on this basis, but horror movies usually require at least one sympathetic character. Viewers of Amityville 2 couldn’t be blamed if, after the first ten minutes, they start chanting, “Dee-MONS! Dee-MONS! Bonk bonk on the head!”
So what to do?
If we’re going to stick to the idea that the family moving into the house is a bunch of assholes, we could turn this into a comedy. In fact, Tim Burton already did.
Or we could make it a horror movie from the ghost’s point of view. Here we have a nice ghost, accustomed to friendly families whose foibles he can laugh at and whose troubles he can look upon bemusedly, like the Stage Manager in Our Town. Maybe, in keeping with the supernatural premise of the movie, he’s an actual Native American, buried beneath the house, whose long period attached to this land has given him an interesting perspective on the comings and goings of mortals. Maybe he even shares the house with a couple of other ghosts of those who’d died here in the recent or distant past.
Then a monstrous family moves in. The ghost tries to do what he can to get them to leave, but they won’t. They’re dreadful to each other, and he knows the older boy of the family is especially disturbed and thinking of murder. He tries to intervene, but his attempts are invariably misunderstood, driving the dysfunctional mortals ever closer to doom. The ghost is desperate, knowing he has to either prevent the killings or at least force the family out, because if he doesn’t, the kid’s murder plan will mean he has to spend eternity, trapped on this piece of land, with the angry spirits of these terrible people.
That’s how I’d save it? How would you, the readers at home, do it?