Horror Club: The Amityville Murders
The Amityville murder case has always held a special place in my heart considering the fact that from my front door to the front door of 112 Ocean Avenue in Amityville, New York is literally a fifteen minute drive. Growing up and living so close to the most famous haunted house in the entire world is an honor, but it has certainly made me grow up appreciating the story just that much more. It is because of this that I always try and check out any new horror that involves the Amityville case (there's now 20+), so of coarse The Amityville Murders was a must-see for a true crime fan like myself. The Amityville Murders was released back in October 2018, and it advertises its self as telling the story before the murders that took place on November 13, 1974. So many of the Amityville-based horror movies revolve around the house post-murders, so it was a no-brainer to check out this flick when it hit streaming services. Does the film do justice to the story it tells? Unfortunately, it just seems to miss the mark and while its got its good points, the bad outweighs the good, leaving the movie with more to be desired.
We all know the story of Ronald "Butch" DeFeo Jr - on that dreadful November night in 1974, he took a shotgun and murdered his father, mother, two sisters and two brothers while they were all asleep in their beds. He pled insanity during his trial, claiming that voices in his head told him to do it. The Amityville Murders paints a picture of the weeks that led up to the night of the murders, and while it started off really strong and had a ton of potential, the film takes a very strange supernatural twist and - at some points - even becomes quite ridiculous. Without giving too much away, essentially, Butch (John Robinson) and his sister Dawn (Chelsea Ricketts) opened up a portal in a closet in the house using some loose form of witchcraft, and while the "spirits" were helpful and friendly to them as kids, as they conjure them all these years later, turns out they're not so friendly anymore. They begin to run the house amok, striking fear into the hearts of the family and controlling the thoughts of Butch. Fast forward through some strange sequences (like the spirits making pennies fly around the room and Butch seeing his sisters face on his girlfriend who's giving him oral while he's on acid) and some pretty terrible acting, and eventually the film makes it to the night of the murders, and those scenes are actually quite alright; it's just all the nonsense leading up to it that just fails to be enjoyable.
I think my biggest issue with The Amityville Murders was that I just couldn't figure out if the movie was trying to be a tacky/lame film, or if it just ended up being a tacky/lame film. From the trailer, I obviously knew the movie was going to be a supernatural/paranormal flick, so I didn't go into it expecting the movie to be super serious or anything like that. But there's just something about the paranormal elements in this movie that just made the movie sour. The idea of having the children mess with witchcraft in the house was pretty cool, but the way they went about portraying it just felt lame, and I can't help but feel like it was trying to be lame. Lord knows I love a good cheesy horror, but this one just wasn't doing it for me. The real saving grace for The Amityville Murders is definitely Chelsea Ricketts and her portrayal of Dawn, as well as John Robinson's portrayal of Butch. As Butch becomes overtaken by the spirits who are commanding him to do the crimes, Robinson delivers this gnarly acting as you can see his sense of humanity leave his face; you can see him losing touch with his human side and the madness setting in. Robinson does an awesome job at becomes the madman and his emotionless face as he walks from room to room slaughtering his family totally makes the movie worth it. Even when he's locked away in his room, verbally communicating with "whoever" is in his head, Robinson totally convinces you that he's losing it.
Unfortunately, his acting isn't enough to save The Amityville Murders from being doomed. There's these weird premonitions from the family that their death is imminent; the mother makes a comment along the lines of "I can see the end coming, but it's a beautiful end because we are all at peace together here in the house." Who in the fuck just blurts something like that out and then goes about their day like it's not a weird thing to say? The mother (played by Diane Franklin) is by far the worst and most annoying character in the movie; for some reason I feel like every time she talked I cringed a little. Which makes me go back to the point from earlier... was this intentional? Or was the writing of her part actually that cringey? Regardless, she isn't the main reason this film just didn't do it for me. It honestly was just a mixture of no-good from across the board. As much as I wanted to love this movie, The Amityville Murders is a hard pass for fans of the horror genre; if you're looking for an Amityville-based horror to scratch that itch, choose any of the other two dozen Amityville horror flicks out there.