That is, unless your house is haunted! That'd be a hell of a thing, huh? Well, regardless of what such a scenario might otherwise be, it sure makes for one hell of a bad movie! Yes, folks, the 2008 Christmas Turkey is 1990's The Amityville Curse, a hole in the wall of an already douche-poor series of Haunted House flicks that is almost as much fun to watch as paint drying (which we actually are shown). But hey, one can't claim that this year's Turkey doesn't keep Christ in Christmas. Yeah, there's a lot of Jesus in this flick. Not much Christmas, though.
See, the reason that fat douche Psychologist Marvin (David Stein) gets his friends together to spend the night in this house isn't to chuck presents at each other and introduce their neighbors to a new level of headache pain with their caroling. No, he gets his friends and loved ones and patients (a group that tallies out at four whole people) to help him fix up their collective new investment... namely that famous-cum-infamous house in Amityville, New York!
Yeah, that good, old, familiar house in Amity where ol' Butch offed his whole family and sent the Lutz family running less than a month after they moved in. You know it, you'd recognize it anywhere, the Colonial building with the fan-shaped half-windows that look like eyes. You know that house?
Well this isn't that house!!! Nope, nope, nope, nope, this is apparently some other house that just happens to also be in Amityville and just happens to also be haunted. Look, folks, Christmas or not, rule of thumb, don't become a realtor on Long Island, m'kay?
Also "coincidental" is the fact that in spite of the fact that this house looks about 8 million kinds of NOTHING like the actual 112/ 108 Ocean Avenue, it has the exact same history as the more famous house.
Could it, per chance, be that this actually is the same place, it just looks completely different? Eh... COULD BE-EEEE! Yeah... I'm thinking that we're looking at a budget so low that they couldn't even fake the house or scout out a location that resembled the real deal Holyfield even vaguely, man!
Before I move on, let me dispel any possible doubt or confusion by assuring you Christmas Turkey hounds out there that in spite of the fact that this is quite obviously NOT the house of (dubious) legend, director Tom Berry certainly intended it to be. So did the trio of goof ball writers, Michael Krueger, Doug Olson and Norvell Rose. They based their story (and subsequent screenplay) on the book of the same name by Hans Holzer whose story was set at 112 Ocean Avenue (as was his nearly unrelated 1979 book Murder in Amityville). Further, if this was intended to be another haunted house in Amityville, clearly nobody let straight-to-video distributor Vidmark Entertainment in on that little tidbit, seeing as how their tagline was "A RETURN TO THE MOST DANGEROUS HOUSE IN THE WORLD". Yeah, folks, it's not a different house with a series of coincidences haunting it... it's just one example of lazy-ass filmmaking (or, at least, location scouting). Maybe they counted on most of their viewers being really, really high during viewing. Hell, I don't know.
Regardless, clearly the house was disguised well enough to fool ol' Marvy, because he not only buys the damned thing, but agrees to spend the night there with his "Friends". We'll start that list with his wife (if you can believe that), a psychic (if you can believe that) named Debbie (played by Dawna Wightman, if you can believe that). It's somewhat easier to buy when one realizes that Debbie also appears to be one of his patients. Manipulative son of a...
Lest this become some pilot for some lame-ass "Must See TV Thursday Night" Sitcom called "The Psychologist and the Psychic", they're also joined by three others (whom Marvin might be paying to hang out with them). The first friend here is the unbelievably hot chick Abby played by sexy Cassandra Gava! It would be worth braving a haunted house just to spend the night with her. The only thing more unbelievable than how hot she is would be the fact that she's dating a chain-smoking dufus in a bad sweater named Frank (played by Kim Coates). The words "Yeah" and "Right" spring to mind in quick succession. At least the fifth sucker in this forlorn quintuplet, Anthony Dean Rubes' Bill, is flying believably solo.
Actually, I sort of wonder why Abby would hang out with any of them! Maybe this is a Christmas Movie, judging from the admirable charity that lovely Abigail shows. Clearly it's not quite enough for her to grant us (or the cast and crew) a nude scene, but her enchanting Bra and Panties scene is almost worth sitting through the rest of the film.
No... no, it's not. Just stop watching right there!
Anyway, it's not long before strange things start to happen (almost as strange as Abby sleeping with Frank), but nobody seems to notice at first but Debbie (whom Abby should be sleeping with). Remember... Debbie is a psychic. At first, the plumbing starts going crazy (shudder), next the nail gun temporarily malfunctions (tremble, tremble), then the paint starts bubbling as soon as it's applied (shiver), then cracks appear in the walls (oh good heavens). At some point I had to ask if this was really a film about the demonic horrors of Hell or about the inconvenience of home-ownership? Dude, is this The Shining or The Money Pit?
Well, when creepy neighbor Mrs. Moriarty (Helen Hughes) shows up, it's pretty clear that The Amityville Curse really wants to be Poltergeist (with undertones of "This Old House"). Moriarty alternates between aping that Munchkin Medium from Poltergeist and the drunken title character from Bad Santa (at least the boozin' part).
I'd like to tell you that she ultimately has a point in this film, but, in essence, she's an overblown McGuffin, meant to pad out the film and give us some connection to what purports to be the REAL reason the house is haunted. The problem is, the script can't seem to make up its mind what that is. Might it be the Murdered Priest who lived in the home back when it was a rectory(!)? If so, what connection does all this have to the hanged man Debbie keeps seeing in her dreams? And what supernatural explanation is there for Abby dating Frank? (Okay, sorry, I'll stop.)
Still, so that the movie lasts longer than 18 minutes, even when the paranormal events become undeniably "weird" and hardly within the realm of Debbie's Imagination, these home-repair hair-brains seem only mildly annoyed, clearly not super-anguished by the fact that it's time to call the Ghostbusters, man! Do the words "For God's Sake GET OUT!" mean nothing to you spazmoids? Folks, I'm pretty sure the Time Life do-it-yourself series of books doesn't have a volume on "Exorcism" right between "Kitchens and Bathrooms" and "Drywall" (though I'll admit, my subscription is a bit out of date). When the nightmare is at its worst, instead of fleeing the house for the rest of their lives, Abby suggests heading out to the local pub for a Brew. Huh. Temporary solution, I'll admit, but okay. I'll even buy!
The redeeming qualities in this film are relatively few and... well... really hard to find. I will say that for the time and budget, the special makeup effects (by Patrick Shearn and crew) are pretty decent. Further, Cassandra Gava is really quite sexy and not a bad actress. Dawna Wightman does a fairly salty job herself. However, the cast didn't have a whole lot to work with so most of the time they're either screaming at the top of their scale-compensated little lungs or they're sleepwalking through their roles.
It's hard to imagine just what the intent was here (aside from pure money-grubbing name-dropping cash-cow-cronyism), but the result was a worse film than the previous four (if you count 1989's Amityville: The Evil Escapes). At times, The Amityville Curse shows a glimmer of the promise of a half-way to half-way decent film, but almost immediately such hopes are dashed on the rocks of mediocrity and anti-continuity. Mind-warpingly, Lorette Leblanc is credited in this Turkey with "Continuity". Dude!
Mind you, I'm not complaining about the continuity with the rest of this "Series"! No, I'm talking about the slippery plot-holes, logic lapses and inconsistencies in this isolated, flawed film. After all, the Amityville flicks hardly qualify as any kind of cohesive series in any way, shape or form. Setting aside the fact that most of these films have been released by different, unrelated companies, let's look at the stories themselves.
In the first flick the Defeo family was murdered in an already tainted house (with a secret room in the basement), then the Lutz family fled just before the same fate could befall them.
The second film (which was based, incidentally, on Murder in Amityville) purports to present a sensationalized prequel all about the Defeo Murders. Instead we get a veritable cheese-fight about some annoying, incestuous family renamed Montelli told with almost as much accuracy as one could expect from a blind archer.
In the third film, the Defeos and the Lutzes both existed, but the story itself doesn't even pretend to be based on real events to the point that the finale shows us the house's complete destruction (hidden room and all), though the subterranean well remained to pop up again in the Ringu flicks!
And now there's THIS thing. The house is still there, but it looks completely different, the hidden room in the basement is (or was) a storage closet for actual holy relics from the Catholic Church (oooh! Scary!) and instead of an evil doorway to HELL, we've got homeowner woes. Seriously, if someone showed claiming to be the Tax Collector, slamming Marvelous Marvin with a re-assessment bill for his county property taxes I wouldn't be remarkably stunned. Actually I would have been pleasantly surprised that, at last, we were shown something scary!
Well, actually, the portrait Abby painted of Marvin was kind of scary. More than a little bit, actually.
Taken for all with all, The Amityville Curse seems to be out to prove that the "Series" on the whole is cursed! It's rather like "The Seinfeld Curse", but slightly funnier. It should come to no surprise to anyone out there that The Amityville Curse gets a DOG! Convenient, really, seeing as how we were in immediate need of the 2008 Christmas Turkey. And we got it, man! The Amityville Curse is, most certainly, a stringy, gamey TURKEY with way too much stuffing... instead of potatoes! Any wonder why this is the ONLY Amityville flick that has never, to date, been released on DVD? Damn, oh, damn! Folks, I hope your holiday get-together with family and friends went better than this. But trust me, experiencing a murderous poltergeist nightmare in person is definitely better than watching this film about it! I'm just glad it's over.
Now, if you'll excuse me, I have to get on with my Christmas Celebration (though I'm eating Quorn-brand fake Turkey instead of this kind of crap). Then I think it's time to do some routine maintenance on my house... right after I make sure I'm still in the right one! Would a ghost tell me to "GET OUT!" if the place was in PEAK condition? Nah, but the Orange County Tax Collectors office might. Now I am scared. Enjoy your Turkey, folks and MERRY CHRISTMAS, until next year! Adios, Amigos!
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