The scariest thing about Amityville 3-D is that you could get the mistaken impression that it was preceded by six films: Amityville Horror, Amityville II, Amityville 3, Amityville 3-A, Amityville 3-B, and Amityville 3-C. Star Trek fans make this mistake a lot. No, the 3-D in the title refers to the short lived three-dimensional movie craze, which ruled genre films in 1982 and 1983. Moviegoers attending these films were given a pair of cardboard glasses, and once the audience put them on it would result in an amazing effect, namely that the audience would look extremely silly.
Actually, it was supposed to make the movies' images seem to have depth. But that hardly matters, because you're only going to see Amityville 3-D on tape, and it's not presented in 3-D. No cardboard glasses are available to help up the entertainment value on this one.
John Baxter (Tony Roberts, the other Ron Perlman) is a reporter with a decidedly skeptical outlook. In a rather amusing first scene, Baxter and his spunky photographer Melanie (Candy Clark) expose some con artists using the mystique of the Amityville house to run a "contact your dead relatives" seance scam. Baxter then strikes up a conversation with the house's real estate agent, and pretty soon Baxter has bought the house for a deep discount.
"But I won't have to marry Bily Crystal, will I?"
Baxter is sure that the whole curse thing is bunk, even though he did find a bottomless Hell pit in the basement. He announces to his ex-wife Nancy (Tess Harper, who is scary in any dimension) and his daughter Susan (Lori Loughlin) that he's going to move in. Nancy even picks the room with the creepy eye-like windows as her own when she visits dear old Dad. But darn it all, wouldn't you know it, weird things start happening.
Because this movie was filmed in 3-D, the one thing you can be sure of is that when anyone dies, they will probably do so with one extremity reaching directly into the camera. Our first victim is the real estate agent, who is attacked by flies (Ultimate Evil loves flies!), and dies of a heart attack on the stairs. Then Melanie is killed in a fiery car wreck, and in the aftermath her charred skeleton lurches towards the camera. The accident takes place nowhere near the house, and it's unclear why her charred skeleton would be mobile at all, but what do we know? We're not Ultimate Evil.*
Must.. resist temptation...
to make... X-Files joke!
One of the greatest pleasures of the film is that Susan's best friend Lisa is played by a teenaged Meg Ryan. We know Lisa is a rebellious, adventuresome teenager because she wears a jeans jacket. Meanwhile Susan, being a good girl, wears a sweater. Weren't the Eighties grand?
Lisa is intrigued by the house's legend, and spends about ten minutes playing "Exposition Girl" for newcomers who don't know the history of the house. She is so absorbed in the legend that she organizes her own seance with Susan, a couple of boys, and a home-made Ouija board in attendance. The house answers Lisa's question ("Will one of us die in the next year?") with a definite yes before ending the game by tossing the pointer (a drinking glass) into the wall. Deprived of their supernatural entertainment, the group of kids decide to go boating.
Yes, boating -- because that's what you want to do right after being told by the Amityville house that one of you will die in the next year. Whose boat it is or why they steal it from a nearby dock isn't explained, but shortly thereafter one of the kids drowns, so Baxter and his parapsychologist buddy, Eliot West (Robert Joy) must rescue the teenager's soul from the demon who inhabits the basement Hell pit.*
Amityville 3-D is by far the most entertaining entry in the Amityville series, mostly because it has a fairly straightforward plot and doesn't waste a lot of time. Roberts is always fun to watch, especially with his history as a Woody Allen regular, and the "before they were stars" factor (Loughlin later went on to play John Stamos' wife on the tv series "Full House") really amps up the laugh factor. Also keeping things lively is the fact that all of those extended shots of objects thrust into the foreground (flashlights, boom mikes, even a fly -- because Ultimate Evil loves flies!) make it apparent that the producers of the movie felt the film's success was riding on the 3-D process. Perhaps they were right: without it, this is just another goofy horror flick that happens to have some future big-name talent.
* Which they attempt to do with a bunch of goofy-looking scientific equipment that makes the Ghostbusters look downright competent. You get no credit for guessing that the light-gun will eventually be thrust into the camera.Go back!