A pesthole of corrupt, vicious filmmaking tendencies, the new atrocity "Amityville II: The Possession" made me nostalgic for the Catholic Church's old "condemned" rating.
Now at area theaters, "The Possession" has obviously been fabricated to gull what's left of the audience that bought "The Amityville Horror" while also incorporating a tardy, slovenly reprise of "The Exorcist."
The sequel makes grotesque, heartless use of an authentic tragedy which predated the alleged haunting spree exploited in "The Amityville Horror." It purports to reconstruct the gruesome mass murder case that emptied the Amityville, Long Island, mystery house in 1974, leaving it vacant for the family that claimed to be pursued by evil spirits a few years later. A teen-aged boy, Ronald DeFeo, evidently shot five members of his family -- father, mother and three siblings -- one night, blacked out the horrible episode and subsequently pleaded demonic possession as a possible, if legally untenable, defense.
From the outset, "The Possession" is calculated to make an alternately ludicrous and sadistic spectacle of the family's victimization. As the parents, called here Anthony and Deloris Montelli, Burt Young and Rutanya Alda are obliged to act like such crazed dunces that they virtually solicit extermination. Young, prowling the premises with a shotgun and bellowing threats at invisible trespassers, bears an uncanny resemblance to Yosemite Sam, allowing for the fact that Sam never looked remotely as slobby.
Not content with the suggestive possibilities of multiple murder in the Montelli domicile, the filmmakers titillate themselves with a dash of incest between Jack Magner and Diane Franklin as the teen-age Montellis, Sonny and Patricia. Naturally, Sonny's murder spree becomes all the more appalling as a result of this gratuitous kink. Could the diabolical spectres supposedly making Sonny do monstrous things really be more evil-minded than the men responsible for the plot calculations of this movie?
On two occasions director Damiano Damiani gets so carried away that he burns the house down; remembering that it's still needed a while longer, he switches pictorial signals and pretends the conflagrations were mere hallucinations.
It's that kind of horror thriller. And the kind where even the movers regard the house with apprehension, just in case we haven't registered the significance, moments earlier, of all the windows being nailed shut or the blood gushing from the kitchen faucet. And it's the kind where the basic ugliness of the presentation is emphasized by shots that identify with marauders rather than victims. As a rule, the camera can be found taking the role of the demons as they sneak up on characters, stalk them from room to room, force them to cower in terror or twist their faces into hydraulic contortions.
James Olson follows in the hardluck footsteps of Rod Steiger and inherits the most embarrassing supporting role -- Father Adamski, an agonized parish priest who misinterprets his inability to prevent disaster at the Montelli home as a sacred incentive to take matters in his own hands and drive the demons out of Sonny. One gathers that he makes a botch of the job, like many overreaching do-it-yourselfers, heaven knows. Sonny is released in his custody in the course of a peerlessly ridiculous scene where Moses Gunn, a homicide detective, volunteers to be sapped by Father Adamski, who then hustles the kid away for what he hopes will be a secluded exorcism. Handing the priest his service revolver, the policeman remarks, "Go on, Father, hit me before I change my mind." Could this be the voice of the moviemaker's unconscious pleading, too late to do anyone any good, "Stop me, Father, before I go ahead with 'Amityville II' "?