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The F*cking Black Sheep: Amityville II: The Possession (1982)

THE BLACK SHEEP is an ongoing column featuring different takes on films that either the writer HATED, but that the majority of film fans LOVED, or that the writer LOVED, but that most others LOATH. We’re hoping this column will promote constructive and geek fueled discussion. Dig in!

AMITYVILLE II: THE POSSESSION (1982)

DIRECTED BY DAMIANO DAMIANI

Of all the AMITYVILLE iterations, which one is your favorite? Spill some blood on the matter below!

Of course, we only ask because we’re only a week out from the release of THE AMITYVILLE MURDERS, the latest in the long lineage of movies based on the infamous DeFeo family case of demonic house-haunting horror. But back to the OG question. If you were to ask me, I’d be hard-pressed to deflect away from the original as my favorite, but then again, I actually think the veritable F*cking Black Sheep of the entire franchise – AMITYVILLE II: THE POSSESSION – is on par with and perhaps even superior in some regards to the 1979 original. Many reasons account for this feeling, just as many reasons account for why the movie underperformed at the box-office and underwhelmed critics of the day. We’ll dice up the particulars below and present why we believe AMITYVILLE II: THE POSSESSION is not only a F*cking Black Sheep, but in many respects the best AMITYVILLE HORROR movie to date!

One of the most appreciated aspects of AMITYVILLE II is how Italian director Damiano Damiani (THE WITCH) immediately jumps right into the story. There’s no lame preamble, unneeded flashbacks, or bogged down exposition, etc., the flick begins with the Montelli family moving into the newly bought abode on 112 Ocean Avenue, Amityville (the actual house was not used in this film or the original, but was shot in a replica built in Toms River, New Jersey). In fact, debate still rages on as to whether the film is a prequel, as posited by the poster below, or a sequel as evidenced by the 1982 anachornisms (cars, walkmans, etc). Written by Tommy Lee Wallace (HALLOWEEN III: SEASON OF THE WITCH) in his first produced screenplay Papa Anthony (Burt Young) and his wife Delores (Rutanya Alda) and their four children Sonny (Jack Magner), Patricia (Diane Franklin), Jan and Mark (real life siblings Emma and Brent Katz) move into the house and instantly sense something malevolently amiss. Delores turns on a faucet and sees blood red water pour out before filtering out and turning transparent. When a mirror mysteriously breaks, Anthony turns into an obstreperous letch who abuses his wife and children. We instantly loathe Anthony, which in turn banks direct empathy for his children, Patricia in particular, who has such a lovely innocence and demure demeanor throughout the film that we can't help but root for her all the way to the end.

Of course, the titular possession comes from a demon trapped in the walls of the basement, one that soon sets its sinister sights on teenage Sonny. As Sonny is slowly possessed, the demon points its lusty horns at Patricia, setting up a deeply disturbing incestuous subplot that surely turned many viewers away when the film was released in 1982. Of course, this was precisely the point as designed by Damiani, who reportedly added the scene because he really wanted to upset viewers. In fact, the sequence was originally far more sexually graphic, but the MPAA forced Damiani to excise disturbing footage from this scene and another where Anthony anally rapes Delores. Seriously, this Damiani f*cker is a maniac! I understand how appalling these subplots are for viewers, equally disgusting as they are drastically distasteful, but I also think there are very few things as frightening as a having one of your siblings demonically possessed to the point of trying to impregnate you. That shite's the worst! That’s an absolutely mortifying thought, and despite being so grossly taboo a topic, actually makes the movie as perversely macabre and lewdly menacing as it is. The deeply daring territory Damiani was willingly to till ought to be commended not condemned!

Another standout part of the flick is the possession sequence itself. Good god! When Sonny is finally subsumed by the demanding demon, the makeup by Joe Cuervo (C.H.U.D., BAD LIEUTENANT) and SFX work by Glen Robinson (LOGAN’S RUN, KING KONG) really shines here, as Sonny writhes and wriggles while his abdomen undulates, caves in like Bale in THE MACHINIST, and pounds and pulsates into a purple bruised and veiny bubble of pulsating viscera. Shite’s so gnarly! But even more alarming than that is what transpires next. In full demonic possession mode, Sonny picks up one of his father’s rifles and proceeds to waltz through the house looking to blast anything that moves. Patricia maneuvers her way out of danger, but soon Sonny gorily explodes Anthony’s chest with a 12-gauge round before turning the gun on Sonny’s poor, begging mother. Left to die in cold blood, the demonic Sonny then chases after little Mark and Jan. One escapes, but the other isn’t so lucky, and again, Damiani delivers us a major horror film taboo-no-no in showing the death of innocent child. Damiani pushes the material much further than anyone could have expected.

To wit, the demonic expulsion scene is just as terrifying. After a rather torpid sequence at the jail and courtroom, one that slows the pace of the film considerably, Father Adamsky (James Olson) returns to the accursed abode and tries to exorcise the demon out of Sonny’s body. After much negotiation, Father Adamsky succeeds, but at the highest cost imaginable. The unhappy, downer ending of the flick, in which Father Adam delivers Sonny from evil, only to discover that the demon has transferred to his body as a result, again is a very bold and brazen way to end the film. The priest saves the boy’s soul at the cost of his own eternal damnation, which is a hell of a way to end the flick. Add to this sequence the jaw-dropping demonic expulsion scene, where Sonny’s body is cracked apart to reveal a foully revolting, skin-melting, green-eyed ghoul underneath – and we’ve got one hell of a f*cked up finale.

And even aside from the unsettling subject matter, mention must be made of the overall production design, cinematography and musical score – all of which add a sensorial richness to the overall atmosphere of the flick. Art director Pier Luigi Basile (DUNE, LEVIATHAN) really nails the atmospheric terror of the titular manse...both the foreboding exterior and Gothic interiors. DP Franco Di Giacomo (FOUR FLIES ON GREY VELVET, WHO SAW HER DIE?) uses light, color, shadow, rain, snow and violent lightning with such aplomb that it makes the viewer feel as if the outside of the house is as dangerous as the inside, if not more, suggesting there is nowhere to escape to. The Italian pedigree shines through in particular during Sonny’s possession, where he’s left bathed in a sickly green diffusion of light that calls to mind the best of Fulci, Bava and Argento (indeed, longtime Giallo writer Dardano Sacchetti did uncredited work on the script). And last but certainly not least is the unnerving score by hall of fame composer Lalo Schiffrin (COOL HAND LUKE, BULLITT) really drives home the evil underscores and overtones of the film. One second the sounds are sweet and safe, and the next second they’re eerily mangled to create a sense of unease. Schiffrin also scored the original film, but here it seems more rounded out and employed to greater effect.

Look, we’ve laid out the case why AMITYVILLE II: THE POSSESSION is better than people remembered it for, but that doesn’t account for why it was dismissed in the first place. Well, in addition to the taboo incest subplot mentioned above, which surely drove viewers away, one must consider the fact that another haunted house film was released the same year. And not just any haunted house film, but perhaps the single greatest one ever assembled in POLTERGEIST. Indeed, POLTERGEIST came out three months before AMITYVILLE II, all but leaving it dusted in its qualitative wake. Between that and the voracious accusation that THE POSSESSION is merely a weak EXORCIST knockoff rather than an organic prequel/sequel to THE AMITYVILLE HORROR, THE POSSESSION was dogged by a certain built-in expectation from jump-street. As a result, it failed to recoup it's $5 million budget on opening weekend at the U.S box-office. F*ck all that Jack, AMITYVILLE II is not only a very fine, freaky and frightening standalone horror flick, unfortunately, it’s also the biggest F*cking Black Sheep of the entire AMITYVILLE franchise!

STREAM AMITYVILLE II: THE POSSESSION HERE

GET AMITYVILLE II: THE POSSESSION ON DVD HERE

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