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Posts tagged ‘exorcisms’

BSD Halloween Movie Club: Amityville II, The Possession

The Brown Shoe Diaries Halloween Movie Club.

Watch today’s movie and posts your comments.   Good?  Lame?  Scary?  Not scary?  Bring it.


Today’s recommended feature is:

Amityville II: The Possession (1982, d. Damiano Damiani)

If you’re a fan of the original Amityville Horror movie from 1979 or the 2005 remake, this sequel is the prequel.  If you’ve never seen The Amityville Horror, this one works as a stand alone as well.  The first Amityville Horror was based on the  terrors of the Lutz family who moved into the Long Island, pumpkin-eye windowed, Dutch Colonial house unaware that it had recently been the site of the grizzly Defeo family murders.  Amityville Possesssion is drawn from the story of the Defeos, although there isn’t any reference to the Lutz incidents and there’s no indication in the script or art direction of time setting.  The real Lutz incident is to have taken place in 1975; the preceding Defeo murders in 1973.

Standing in for the Defeo’s are the fictional Montelli’s, who also purchase the Amityville house for a dime and soon become the surprised victims of it’s aggressive behavior.  Then the teenage son is overtaken by a demon and goes on a shooting rampage inside the house.  A family priest feels responsible for not trying hard enough to save the family.  The priest kidnaps the teenager from police custody and takes him back to the house to perform an unauthorized exorcism, a dramatic showdown between good and evil.

Amityville Possession is a paint-by-number haunted house movie, another in a long list of The Exorcist copycats, and you don’t need a degree in psychology to break down the obvious metaphor between evil spirits and sexual temptation.  However, they did a great job with scary effects and sound.  Also,  there are some big surprises in the last third of the movie that all happen after family is murdered.

If you want to watch The Amityville Horror before or after, the 2005 version is an excellent remake, made almost beat-for-beat, accept for the ending.  I prefer the 1979 version because the filmmaking is grittier. Rod Steiger is great as the family priest and James Brolin is a slow-boiling kettle of phycho.

There are a also a bunch of Amityville sequels I haven’t seen.  Some apparently continue the story of the house, some are just sponging from the name.  A guy buys a stapler from the Amityville house estate sale and now his office is haunted sort of thing:

Amityville 3D: The Demon (1983)

Amityville 4: The Evil Escapes (1989)

The Amityville Curse (1990)

Amityville: It’s About Time (1992)

Amityville: A New Generation (1993)

Amityville Dollhouse (1996)

Feel free to comment on this post if you know any of these to be good.

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The Amityville Horror (1979, d. Stuart Rosenberg)

The Amityville Horror (2005, d. Andrew Douglas)

Liar, Liar

The Last Exorcism (2010, d. Daniel Stamm)

Most faux documentaries are phonies.  I don’t mean to state the obvious.  I mean to say that a sub-genre of horror films (and an innovation in internet marketing) was started in 1999 with the Blair Witch Project.  Blair was the first, to my knowledge, to incorporate elements of cinema vérité, reality television, and teen-oriented horror into a truly different kind of scary movie.  It spawned many off-spring most of which are either Blair knock offs – The Last Horror Movie, June 9 – or routine horror narratives wearing a hand-held camera for post-modern disguise – Cloverfield, Rec, The Fourth Kind. What was neat about Blair, and what I like about The Last Exorcism is that the phony documentary conceit isn’t just a different way of telling a story, it’s that the making of a supposed documentary and the fictional filmmakers themselves are the story.  The Last Exorcism doesn’t exhibit the, now overdone, “true story” or “found footage” artifice.  There’re all fake.  We know that.  In this one the hand-held camera, in real time, is our voyeuristic guide into a very weird mystery.  We also identify with the documentary filmmaker characters themselves who get over their heads in dilemmas of ethics and personal responsibility, and in attempting to determine what is real.

Cotton is an evangelical preacher who has had a crisis of religious doubt. He is now an admitted huckster in his longtime use of magic tricks, con-artistry and performance, particularly in the stagecraft of demonic exorcism.  Cotton is getting out of the phony exorcism business and brings in a video crew to document his last exorcism; his last production.  Cotton and crew stumble into helping a rural Louisiana family, whose teenage daughter has been slaughtering livestock while purportedly in the trance of a demonic possession.  Cotton attempts to sell an effective exorcism but circumstances reveal the girl and her family have very complicated psychological and inter-personal problems.  The documentary from this point explores a numbers of mysteries:  Is the girl’s so-called possession in actuality the product of abuse or mental illness?  Are members of her family and people from the local town representing themselves truthfully?  Most important, is she really possessed by a demon or is the video crew capturing her performance; her lie?  The layers of mystery within the confines of the story are as thick as a Bayou swamp.  And don’t forget the film’s mediated interaction with us, the audience.  It’s only pretending to be a documentary.  This is a lie horror fans have apparently now come to accept without other truthy marketing gimmicks, as would the audience of a musical or professional wrestling.

An interesting thing about The Last Exorcism in its unrehearsed documentary abstraction,  it’s also an excellent piece of screen writing.  The plot and the dialogue have a very sophisticated way of keeping you wondering what in Hell is going on, trust me.  That being said, I don’t want to say too much.  I’m docking the movie half a point on my scale for its ending.  I think the story leads its characters into a very difficult moral trap.  That’s the challenge of good drama and I have to say that the last two minutes feels tacked on and, well, artificial.  I’ll be positive and call it the shocking last twist.  I’m putting The Last Exorcism on my list as qualifying for the top 10 movies of the year.  Can you believe that?