The Amityville Horror infamously remains one of the most famous (and prolific) of all the horror franchises. There have been countless debates over whether the 1979 or 2005 version is better (check out our full comparison here).
To date, it has close to 20 sequels, remakes and spinoffs, which we vow to one day watch every single one and rank them. But an often overlooked entry was the very first sequel (which is technically a prequel), Amityville II: The Possession.
In many ways, it’s far more extreme, disturbing, bizarre, and controversial than the original ever was.
Based on the “Original” Story
Serving as more of a prequel to the original film, Amityville II: The Possession recounts the tragic story of the family that was murdered in that house a year before the Lutz family was able to purchase the house so cheaply.
However for (most likely) legal and ethical purposes, the name of the family is changed from DeFeo to Montelli, and their character traits and personalities are highly fictionalized. Essentially the only thing it has in common with the true story is the eventual murder of the entire family at the hands of their young adult son.
For some, featuring this storyline at all was far more exploitative than the original, since it deals with a real life tragedy in which six people (including children) died.
However, one could also argue that because the characters and story beats are heavily fictionalized, it’s actually less exploitative than the original Amityville Horror, which used the names DeFeo and Lutz, and purported itself to be an entirely true story.
But it wasn’t just the real life story that caused controversy around this movie. In an odd creative choice, there’s an incestuous subplot in which Sonny is infatuated with his teenage sister Patricia.
Things don’t get too physical, but they go way further than is comfortable for most audiences. Given that the whole plot of the movie is Sonny slowly being possessed by the evil spirits that haunt the house, it does explain his behavior from a plot perspective.
But that doesn’t make the storyline any less shocking, even for 1982 audiences. Given some of the more bizarre details of this sequel/prequel, it’s surprising that it isn’t better remembered among general audiences, especially when the original is so popular. Then again, this movie feels much more cult/exploitation while the original was very mainstream.
Better Than the Original?
There’s no denying that the 1979 Amityville Horror is a classic of the genre. It remains a quintessential entry in the haunted house subgenre. However its scares are pretty straightforward, and it seems more interested in being a chronicle of the “true” events as told by Jay Anson’s novel.
Amityville II: The Possession fictionalizes itself enough that it has more freedom to be creative and explore different ideas. Sure it’s cheesy at times, runs about 20 minutes too long, and goes for some very taboo subject matter. But it accurately captures the dreary and dark tone that comes with a haunting.
The family is already dysfunctional from the start with an abusive father (played brilliantly by Burt Young aka “Paulie” from the Rocky franchise), and the possession happens gradually and in a really disturbing manner.
It really holds nothing back, especially with the aforementioned storylines that are meant to make the audience uncomfortable. The conflict feels far more raw, brutal, and realistic in an unsettling manner. It certainly leaves its viewers feeling “icky” in a way that the original movie never did, but that’s very much the point.
Without the controversy of the real life tragedy, or the shameless name recognition of “Amityville”, it probably would have been better remembered as its own self-contained horror film.
Either way, it remains a largely forgotten entry in a franchise that’s gone on way too long. But if you’ve never seen it, or if it’s been a while, it’s definitely worth revisiting!