Overtaken by veteran producer Dino De Laurentiis, the "Amityville" lore shifted to the tragedy of the DeFeo family, the home's prior owners, here modified into the equally dysfunctional Montelli family. Tommy Lee Wallace, editor and production designer on John Carpenter's "Halloween" and "The Fog," made his wobbly screenwriting debut in "Amityville II," and adapted factual events chronicled in Hans Holzer's own book of the "Amityville" tragedies, though much like the first film, the sequel ignored Holzer's own stand that the land, along with the spirit of an angry Indian Chief, was responsible for the fearful events, and not the house proper.
Not unlike the recent dueling "Exorcist" prequels (by Renny Harlin, and Paul Schrader, respectively), a prequel can open the door to a fascinating backstory and kick-start a whole new franchise. During the 1980s, De Laurentiis exploited several series, including "Halloween" (via "Halloween 3: Season of the Witch," also written by Wallace), "Conan the Barbarian," "King Kong," "The Evil Dead" (via "Army of Darkness"), and events within Thomas Harris' Hannibal Lecter triptych in "Manhunter"/"Red Dragon," "Silence of the Lambs," and " Hannibal ."
Italian director Damiano Damiani, in his lone American production, eventually runs out of shocks, given the film's terrors are pretty much isolated to the home interior. Where "Amityville II" differs from the original, though, is through overtly palatable sleaze: brother Sonny Montelli really likes his blossoming sister, Patricia, and his incestuous obsessions culminate in a topless posing session, before she realizes Sonny has icky intentions. The gore effects - largely absent in the first film - make use of popular bladder technology, and Sonny's head-splitting scene is still pretty nasty (and fun).
MGM's DVD contains a nice transfer of the widescreen production, and a standard mono track, with composer Lalo Schifrin blandly revisiting his "Amityville" themes. (Fans of the series should note, however, that a Region 2 release of the film from Sanctuary Entertainment in the U.K., contains a commentary track with horror historian Kim Newman and Stephen Jones, a still gallery, and stills from an extended version of the "Lost Souls" sequence. That release also includes Dolby 2.0 stereo and tweaked 5.1mixes.)
© 2005 Mark R. Hasan