Retro Review: Amityville 3-D (1983)

Oof. The Amityville franchise seems to have gone steadily downhill–as, I suppose, most franchises do. But Amityville 3-D reaches a new level of blah.

You’ve got your ho-hum skeptic type, John Baxter, (played by a perpetually-mildly-befuddled Tony Roberts), and his assistant (or something) Melanie, who work for “Reveal” magazine, a crappy paranormal-debunkery rag that out-cons supernatural con-artists a la The Awakening, only without that much more recent film’s writing, acting, or gratifying levels of Rebecca Hall. They start things off by pretending to be a recently-bereaved couple hoping to contact their kid in the afterlife. For some reason an older couple has rented out the infamous Amityville house and are holding seances there (scams, of course). When they try to convince John and Melanie that they’re in contact with their deceased child, the jig is up, because of course there is no dead kid, and it’s all revealed as a big silly hoax.

It’s revealed, of course, that John is an inveterate (but obnoxiously bland) skeptic who provides the Scully to this film’s increasingly large pool of Mulders (pretty much all the other characters are willing to accept supernatural stuff almost from the start). So Johnny buys the house, because he’s recently divorced and, I dunno, he wants to prove how stupid other people are for not wanting to live in the site of a mass murder. And he wants to write a novel or something. Something stupid. John is stupid.

Summarizing this movie is difficult, because approximately not a goddamn noteworthy thing happens. It’s just tons of scenes of talking, of dry, halfhearted speculation on the supernatural and the nature of belief and yada yada yada snooooooore. Really, I’m fine with a slow pace. My favorite films are those that aim for atmosphere over speedy scare sequences. But holy shit when is something going to happen.

Then, whatever, Melanie realizes some pictures she took of the large guy who owned the house previously are all messed up, and the big guy’s face is all blurry, and then he dies in a stupid fly-related scene ahhhhhhhhhh. What. It’s not even really clear why he died. I mean, being covered in flies is gross, sure, but they’re not Jeff Goldblum-sized. I don’t think they could digest an obese middle-aged realtor with their vomit. I think he just died from being grossed out. Guh. So Melanie starts to believe that something weird’s going on, and then she finds another weird thing in a picture, only THIS weird thing is pretty clearly a demonic face so, um, shit, right? So she rushes off to tell John only FIRE, for some reason. I mean, it’s conceptually awful–the force in the house doesn’t want her interfering, so it wrecks her car and traps her inside and burns her alive–but it’s the most poorly-executed burning I think I’ve seen in a horror film. There’s fire all over, then a fast cut, and smoke, and oh no is that a skeleton gee what else is on oh shit this is Netflix and it doesn’t work like channel surfing and I’m too lazy to watch something else.

Seriously, the filmmakers just seem to have no idea what they’re going for. Most of the movie is a blend of the weakest parapsychology procedural/1980s after-school family life special imaginable: teen struggles to adapt to her parents’ divorce, they struggle to define their identities outside of the confines of their shattered marriage, and oh shit haha ghosts–but then this freaking happens.


Because all monsters in the ’80s, cute or evil, had to be hairless big-eyed monstrosities. Also WHAT THE HELL WHEN DID I START WATCHING PUMPKINHEAD.

There’s also a parapsychologist guy who looks like he might be a distant cousin of Steve Buscemi, and they eventually set up a study in the house because John and his ex’s daughter drowns off-camera (and ain’t nobody in Amityville who knows CPR) and what the hell ever. I don’t know. And then that fire-breathing demon thing pops up and melts half his face and he gets pulled into a well and I’m gonna go sit and think about how my time could have been better spent. Argh.

It takes a certain alchemy of mediocrity and carefully-timed moments of severe disappointment to really make me angry at a film. I mean, complete garbage is one thing. You can, as we all know, enjoy the worst bad films on a meta-level. This film never descends to slap-your-mama hilarity the way some crappy horror films do. It teeters on the edge of having a point, but said point never materializes. It’s an Amityville film in name only, and it makes the previous two entries worse by association. Also it contains unforgivable amounts of Meg Ryan.


7 thoughts on “Retro Review: Amityville 3-D (1983)

    • You’re too kind. It’s on Netflix, so the price is right (in the US, at least–I know the licensing is different in the UK, so you may not have it there right now).

      Really though, this is one of those super frustrating ones that sucks too much to work as a film, but isn’t awful enough to enjoy. If you REALLY want a laugh, try the next Amityville. I’m probably going to review that here pretty soon (just watched it yesterday). Preview: the villain is a piece of furniture. Comedy gold.

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