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MGM Studios DVD presents
The Amityville Horror Collection (1979/1982/1983)

Kathy Lutz: I just wish all those people hadn't died here. A guy kills his whole family. Doesn't that bother you?
George Lutz: Yeah, it does. But houses don't have memories.

- Margot Kidder, James Brolin from The Amityville Horror

Review By: Rich Rosell   
Published: April 05, 2005

Stars: James Brolin, Margot Kidder, James Olson, Burt Young, Tony Roberts, Tess Harper
Other Stars: Andrew Prine, Candy Clark, Robert Joy, Rutanya Alda, Jack Magner, Moses Gunn, Murray Hamilton, Meg Ryan
Director: Stuart Rosenberg, Damiano Damiani, Richard Fleischer

Manufacturer: Deluxe Digital Studios
MPAA Rating: R for (horror violence, language)
Run Time: 05h:45m:09s
Release Date: April 05, 2005
UPC: 027616909138
Genre: horror


Style
Grade
Substance
Grade
Image Transfer
Grade
Audio Transfer
Grade
Extras
Grade
B- B-BB B

DVD Review

If you're a nitpicker, MGM's four-disc The Amityville Horror Collection is not really the complete collection, because there were a few forgettable loosely-connected sequels that popped up well into the early 1990s, but for all practical purposes this is the set of the main three titles in the infamous "based on a true story" haunted house series. As with most films that spawn sequels, the 1979 original is still the best of the lot, even if it is remarkably tame (and bordering on the lethargic) by today's fast-edit standards.

The Amityville Horror (1979)
Directed by Stuart Rosenberg
01h:58m:32s

Easily the best of the three films in this set, Stuart Rosenberg's (The Pope of Greenwich Village) relatively slow-moving tale of a house with too many bad memories doesn't offer too many outright scares, but it does present a percolating sense of disconcerting unease. James Brolin and Margot Kidder are George and Kathy Lutz, who move into the priced-to-move house on Long Island that was the scene of violence a few years before when a man murdered his entire family while they slept. Before you can say "that's a creepy looking house that looks like the windows are eyes", weird things start happening, including a plague of flies, windows that close by themselves, invisible friends, bleeding walls, disembodied voices, to say nothing of Rod Steiger's frothy priest character who has conniption fits every time he crosses the threshold of the house. This one is more a slow burn that fast-paced spook house ride, with the highlight being Brolin's progression into a brooding, dark individual who swings an axe like a man possessed. Literally.

Amityville II: The Possession (1982)
Directed by Damiano Damiani
01h:44m:23s

It may be the second film in the series, but it's actually a prequel, taking a stab at telling the story of the family that lived in the house prior to the Lutzes. The culprit here is evil spirits rising out an old Indian burial ground, and it eventually turns teenaged Sonny Montelli (Jack Magner) into an incestuous mass murderer who kills his entire family, including a cigar-chomping Burt Young as his pain-in-the-ass father. As the title of this one indicates, Amityville II is more a straight-forward possession flick (borrowing liberally from The Exorcist playbook) than it is a haunted house title, featuring your standard issue rebellious priest (James Olson) who immediately recognizes the need for an exorcism, whether The Church sanctions it or not. What follows are some low-budget possessed teenager antics that don't look quite as hip today as they did in 1982, but a few worthwhile individual moments of creepy weirdness still hold up well.

Amityville 3-D (1983)
Directed by Richard Fleischer
01h:33m:14s

There are few things as pointless as watching a 3-D film that's not in 3-D, but that's the hand fans are dealt on the third entry in the Amityville series from Soylent Green director Richard Fleischer. Tony Roberts is some sort of expose-the-truth journalist who moves into the infamous Long Island home to begin work on a novel, and soon finds out the house may be the doorway to you know where. There is a fun seance sequence early on, and though the story flops around with no real direction or purpose much of the time, there is an undeniable cheese factor that makes this probably the most fun of three films in this set. Dumb, silly and a victim of seeming more concerned with having scenes that feature 3-D effects (dig that title sequence), something that is a distraction when watching the "flat" version MGM has issued here. For the curious, this one features a young Meg Ryan. If you do a shot everytime something rushes toward the camera, you might not even care about the absence of 3-D by the time the final credits roll.

There's been a lot of chatter over the years as to whether or not the whole Amityville haunted house phenomenon was a hoax or not, but that hasn't really dampened keeping the myth alive, and with a remake in the works for 2005, it seems like the story is ready to be fed to a whole new generation.

Rating for Style: B-
Rating for Substance: B-

 

Image Transfer

 OneTwo
Aspect Ratio1.85:1 - Widescreen1.33:1 - Full Frame
Original Aspect Ratioyesno
Anamorphicyesno


Image Transfer Review: The Amityville Horror is presented in a new high-definition 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen transfer, and though there is some evidence of shimmer and ringing in spots, the print issued here looks quite good. Colors have a lifelike quality to them, and black levels look solid, offering no major detail loss on shadowy sequences.

Amityville II: The Possession and Amityville 3-D are each two-sided discs, with fullframe on one side and anamorphic widescreen on the other. The sequel (well, technically a prequel) is presented in 1.85:1, while the third film in the series gets the 2.35:1 treatment, and the only thing that makes that a mixed blessing is that it isn't presented in 3D. For a low-budget title, Amityville II: The Possession has cleaned up nicely, with consistently natural fleshtones throughout, but the 3-D entry suffers from some significantly soft detail that is almost blurry in spots.

All three prints do have some minor grain issues, as well.

Image Transfer Grade: B

 

Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
MonoEnglish, French, Spanishyes
Dolby Digital
5.1
Englishyes


Audio Transfer Review: The Amityville Horror is presented not only with the original English mono for purists (as well French and Spanish mono), but with a spanking new Dolby Digital 5.1 surround mix. There's a noticeable lack of any real bottom end, but the rears do get used quite a bit on this new mix. and the channel separation across the front does a fine job moderately expanding the soundstage, giving some of the creepy house sounds more directionality.

By comparison, Amityville II: The Possession gets the quick once over, with just the original English mono track available. No major hiss issues to contend with, but noticeably less depth than the original and it's beefed up 5.1 track.

Amityville 3-D gets a decent Dolby Digital 5.1 track (though the original mono is absent) and like The Amityville Horror disc, the rears do get a bit of workout when needed, even if the overall lack of a prominent .LFE channel is a minor beef on an adequate audio mix for a tepid B-grade horror film from 1983.

Audio Transfer Grade: B

 

Disc Extras

Full Motion menu with music
Scene Access with 64 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in English, French, Spanish with remote access
3 Original Trailer(s)
4 Other Trailer(s) featuring The Amityville Horror, The Woods, Species, Jeepers Creepers 2
1 Documentaries
1 Feature/Episode commentary by Han Holzer, PhD
Packaging: Box Set
Picture Disc
4 Discs
6-Sided disc(s)
Layers: single

Extra Extras:
  1. Free movie ticket
Extras Review: All four discs come housed in individual Amaray cases housed inside a sturdy cardboard slipcase. Also included is a coupon (valued up to $10.50) for admission to see the remake, valid through May 8, 2005, so this is like getting a rebate of sorts. Not a bad deal, even if the rest of the supplements don't float your boat.

Disc one, with the original film, sports a sometimes dry commentary track from Han Holzer, a PhD in parapsychology who also wrote the book that Amityville II: The Possession was based on. There is a lot of dead air on Holzer's track, but of minor interest for those with a curiosity about the supernatural. Also found on disc one is a brand new featurette called For God's Sake, Get Out! (21m:34s), with James Brolin and Margot Kidder talking about the hype of the original release and their remembrances about the production.

A fourth disc in this set is entitled Amityville Confidential, and is a cross between history and promotion, offering two History Channel documentaries and a short bit of hype for the 2005 remake. Amityville: Horror or Hoax? (42m:39s) and Amityville: The Haunting (42m:10s) were both installments from the History Channel series History's Mysteries, with the first covering the whole "is it real or isn't it?" angle, and the second delving more into a supernatural history of the Amityville area. On Location: The Amityville Horror (05m:33s) is your basic sneak peak of the upcoming remake, essentially shameless self-promotion for a film that looks promising, as far as haunted house flicks go.

There are trailers for each of the three films (plus radio spots for the original), plus one for the remake and another creepy looking outing called The Woods. The Amityville Horror has 32 chapter stops, while the other two features each have 16. All three films feature optional subtitles in English, French or Spanish.

Extras Grade: B

 

Final Comments

These aren't all particularly great films, and certainly are not the "be all end all" haunted flicks of all time, but the packaging by MGM for this moderately priced four-disc collection somehow makes them all seem more substantial. This is a smart-looking set, anchored by a nice new audio/video transfer on the original, with a bonus disc that digs into the real-life history a bit.

Add to that a $10 coupon to see the remake, and that makes this seem like a ridiculously sweet offer that will be hard to resist for horror fans.

 


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