31 Days of Horror: ‘Amityville II The Possession’, a cheesy horror movie that sets everything on fire around it

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Amityville II
Directed by Damiano Damiani
Written by Tommy Lee Wallace
1982, USA

If Nigel Tufnel from Spinal Tap directed a movie, it would be Amityville II, because everything in this film is turned up to 11.

It has all the subtlety and grace of a jackhammer hitting a gas line and exploding into a fireball of sex, gore, incest, asshole fathers, holy-roller mothers, snarky demons, and homicidal kids. And this is meant  in the most endearing way possible.

Despite its flash and bang, there are some subtly effective scenes , and every frame is awash with a dirty mood and tension. This is helped by a very creepy incestual storyline, and a father, played with a snarl by Burt Young, who is completely unhinged at all times.

Director Damiano Damiani brings his Italian sensibilities to a film that completely separates itself from the more restrained and typical haunted house film of its predecessor. He brings a bit of irreverence and daring to the material both in the script, which jarringly, but effectively, shifts gears midway through, and in his camera work.

The camera work in particular is noteworthy in that often we are given the malevolent and playful point of view of the demon.  He takes chances, and toys with the view.  At times this comes off as overdone and ham-fisted, but in the context of a film where every aspect is over the top, it blends in with the fever pitch set from the beginning.

The film teeters on the edge of disaster from beginning to end, but what keeps it grounded is the subtly effective scenes alluded to earlier. Some of these come in the form of Damiani’s creative demon point of view, such as close ups of a characters through the demon’s eyes. He also successfully creates a real danger for the characters. None of them strictly adhere to any established horror role, so no one feels safe. Because of this, it is a reluctant priest who rather by default becomes the film’s hero. Very little about the character arcs seem to be born of typical horror arcs. Some characters, such as the mother, might make cliché gestures, but they never build steam. This gives the film a sinking tension.

There is also a comical B-level kookiness that runs throughout, from the odd facial hair and pimp-like appearance of one of the lawyer characters, to a character that seems to materialize out of thin air to deliver a verbal jab at the “hero” priest. These little quirks scattered throughout all reek of Italian horror smirks.

Ultimately, one wouldn’t bill Amityville II as the pinnacle of horror, but, If you enjoy a fun, cheesy horror movie that sets everything on fire around it, watch this film.

– James Merolla

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