Amityville 3-D (1983) Review
Published on May 19, 2019
November 18, 1983
Two journalists set out to debunk the Amityville urban legend but get more than they bargained for when faced with a bubbling well, a ball of floating purple candy floss, meat flies and a spirit who hasn’t quite worked out how to blow dry hair yet!
"The drama quickly shifts from pantomime theatrics to a melodrama of nattering shrew status for the final 20 minutes of the film before the besieged evil manifestations (glowing purple candy floss), connected to the hell-spawned demon (a giant Chafer grub) lurking in the well destroys the entire property."
'Amityville 3-D', directed by Richard Fleischer (Doctor Dolittle) from a script by David Ambrose a.k.a. William Wales (The Final Countdown), can be best described as a disjointed mess with as many wasted sub-plots as it had extras in the final act taking up floor space to fill the film’s wrenched running time. Unlike the first two Amityville movies, 'Amityville 3-D' makes no claim to authenticity, but such honesty doesn’t save this lacklustre offering from being a truly disconsolate piece of 80s cinema.
The film’s plug-and-play affair this time around follows a fluff-piece journalist called John Baxter (Tony Roberts), who purchases the infamous 112 Ocean Ave home in the Long Island suburb of Amityville, N.Y., after debunking the property’s
notorious past by posing as one half of a recently-bereaved couple hoping to make contact with their dead son via a medium who’s renting the haunted property to run sham séances due to its reputation.
Once the gig is up and the séance is revealed to be a hoax John wastes no time in unpacking his typewriter. Once he has settled in strange occurrences begin to happen; the estate agent who sold John the property is assaulted by a swarm of vengeful meat flies resulting in a heart attack and his colleague Melanie (Candy Clark) is blown to the floor by a white foam substance coming from the basement. But even with the estate agent’s premature death and Melanie’s Farrah Fawcett rug violently blown out of place, John remains a cynic; after all, the property was the bargain of the century.
Melanie, who has been left an hysterical wreck after her spiritual blow-dry, begins to investigate the stories associated with the property a little more closely. Upon revisiting with a magnifying glass photos she had taken on the night of the séance she spots one of the home’s demonic inhabitants lurking within several frames. Without haste Melanie jumps into her car to warn John of the impending doom lurking in his basement well, but before she can warn him her vehicle’s brakes give way and inevitably she ends up as the film’s next casualty.
With the body count raised to two John’s daughter, Susan (Lori Loughlin), and her friend Lisa (Meg Ryan) are thrown into the mix. Susan, who appeared briefly in earlier scenes with a minor sub-plot reminiscent of Exorcist II: The Heretic, begins to visit her father’s property. On her second visit, after fun and games with a makeshift Ouija board, Susan meets her maker, notching the film’s body count to three. John’s estranged wife, Nancy (Tess Harper), quickly moves into the property, convinced her daughter is not deceased, and forces John to draft in a supernatural expert, Elliot West (Robert Joy), and his camera crew of fifty. The drama quickly shifts from pantomime theatrics to a melodrama of nattering shrew status for the final 20 minutes of the film before the besieged evil manifestations (glowing purple candy floss), connected to the hell-spawned demon (a giant Chafer grub) lurking in the well destroys the entire property.
Tony Roberts, who had taken an ill-advised hiatus from Woody Allen films, is quite possibly the worst offender, second to the film’s diabolical FX, in this whole mess. His character’s nonchalant attitude to the deaths (two of which occurred in front of him) connected directly to his property is absurd. Meg Ryan, who shows up for approximately seven (pointless) minutes, manages to fare better, getting off relatively unscathed by playing a character purely there to fill in the blanks for anyone not familiar with the series prequel released in 1982, but instead of referring to the prequel’s characters by name she in fact references the names of the real life murder victims, the DeFeo’s, due to an ongoing legal wrangle. Candy Clark’s opening performance was a solid turn from the actress best known for her role in The Blob, but as the film progressed her acting chops declined and her emoting became fit only for a few giggles.
The film’s SFX were something else entirely. It’s hard to imagine that the movie came about during the greatest decade for visual FX milestones in film history. Even the floating objects appeared clunky when compared to the 1979 Academy Award nominated original.