In Praise of 1983’s AMITYVILLE 3D

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Is AMITYVILLE 3D the best film in the franchise?

With the long delayed Blumhouse sequel/re-boot AMITYVILLE: THE AWAKENING set to open on April 1st, SHOCK decided to lay some love on another AMITYVILLE film, one that doesn’t get nearly enough respect: 1983’s AMITYVILLE 3D.

Released at the tail end of the early 80’s 3D renaissance led by the gory Italian western COMIN’ AT YA and Charles Band’s PARASITE (see our recent love-letter to this wave of 3D horror HERE), this third AMITYVILLE sequel (which, in 2D, ran on cable and was known in early home video versions as AMITYVILLE: THE DEMON) may be mild in the on-screen violence department (as opposed to the previous year’s outrageously vulgar AMITYVILLE II: THE POSSESSION which earned every inch of its R rating) but it offers much filmmaking craft and a nice aura of amped up atmosphere and dread.

Credit that steady creative hand to that of journeyman director Richard Fleischer, the veteran filmmaker who helmed everything from lush 50’s epics like 20,000 LEAGUES UNDER THE SEA and THE VIKINGS to grotty thrillers like 1968’s THE BOSTON STRANGLER and the intense 1971 Mia Farrow vehicle SEE NO EVIL, to legendary 70s exploitation flick MANDINGO to the scrappy 80s fantasy romps CONAN THE DESTROYER and RED SONJA.

And he also directed SOYLENT GREEN. Which is, like, one of the greatest sci-fi films in history.

Literally, the man could handle any genre and all of his work was sturdy, professional and unpretentious, like a firm handshake. And that’s exactly why AMITYVILLE 3D succeeds. It knows it’s a haunted house film. It lacks the European flourishes and eccentricities of its predecessor and the doom-drenched urgency of the original. It’s simply a series of creepy set pieces that are designed to jump at the viewer and the entire screeching evil-entity littered opus is grounded by rock-solid work by a no-nonsense cast.

Woody Allen regular Tony Roberts stars as the latest easy mark to purchase the dreaded Long Island adobe; he’s a paranormal debunker who moves his wife (TENDER MERCIES’ Tess Harper) and daughter (future FULL HOUSE star Lori Loughlin) in and soon lives to regret it.

Shutters rattle, the wind howls, there’s a portal to hell in the basement and bad things happen to good – if terminally dumb – people.

A young Meg Ryan also shows up to get deviled by some deadly demonic bees and the entire thing feels like a considerably more expensive 1970’s TV movie, the kind the late, great Dan Curtis used to make and it has that very same old fashioned, elegant but still vaguely dangerous charm.

There’s great music too courtesy of composer Howard Blake (FLASH GORDON) and, if you get the chance to watch the stunningly rendered 3D version, it features perhaps the best dimensional effects of its time, maybe of all time.

Is it the best AMITYVILLE film? Truthfully, outside of the sleaze-soaked second picture, none of the AMITYVILLE movies exactly skirt anything approaching high art.

But it sure is a damn great 3D-goosed spook house entertainment. Watch it. Love it. Watch it again. Love it more.

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Weekend: Nov. 21, 2019, Nov. 24, 2019

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