Amityville horror franchise gets another sequel, from an unusual source

Review by C.J. Bunce

I usually skip reviewing a bland and boring adaptation of a genre work.  But I’m making an exception for The Amityville Curse because it’s such an oddity.  Sometime after the early 1970s era of cheap horror movies that gave us Rosemary’s Baby, Trilogy of Terror, and The Exorcist, the John Carpenter era began and the genre really kicked in with Halloween.  But also in the 1970s there was there Jay Anson’s paperback bestseller The Amityville Horror and its adaptation starring James Brolin and Margot Kidder.  It was a horror phenomenon.  Only because of nostalgia prompted by the success of other franchises, and the desire to jump on the bandwagon of horror sequels led by Halloween, that unique Amityville house would go on to net more than 55 “sequels,” some tie-ins, some canon and some non-canon films, mostly unwatchable drivel.  The latest movie is similarly not worth watching, but it’s something new–it’s a Tubi TV original production.

Owned by Fox, Tubi TV is the free streaming channel that has all kinds of channels and even more on-demand movies and series.  You might not know Tubi has released 100 original programming films since 2021 (not one most people would find worth their time), but The Amityville Curse is the first that ties into a franchise like this.  Tubi is getting closer to making real TV, but it’s not there yet.

Not to be confused with the 1990 novel adaptation of the same name, The Amityville Curse could be a direct sequel to the original novel and movie.  It follows a group of friends in contemporary times who buy the Amityville house to renovate and flip it–that same creepy house where a man killed his family as depicted in the 1977 novel (and the one on the cover of all of those movie adaptations).  The problem is the friends move in.  One by one the evil spirit of the house pushes them into self-doubt and death–primarily by suicide.

This movie had promise on paper.  You have a vintage 1980s horror font, which indicates the marketers know what audience they are aiming for.  You have that instantly recognizable house, with all its striking exterior design architecture.  You have the beginnings of the scares that made the Final Destination franchise successful (the first half hour would make anyone think the house is going to be doing its bidding Rube Goldberg style).  You also have frequent genre TV actor Ennis Esmer (The Flash, Private Eyes, Wynonna Earp, Lost Girl) bringing some acting street cred, and Dennis Heaton (The Imperfects, The Order) bringing the writing cred.

Unfortunately Esmer, who plays a preacher brought in for help, is basically a cameo, despite a good performance that conjures Hal Holbrook’s similar preacher in The Fog.  You’ll also get the feeling that screenwriter Heaton, adapting the Hans Holzer 1981 novel of the same name, either wrote a quick, too-literal adaptation or director Eric Tessier didn’t know how to handle the material.  A bit of style, better cinematography and mood, music–any of the above would have helped.

The film direction is unintentionally funny in the first half.  It’s difficult to know whether it’s meant to be serious or not.  The funniest is the whispered voice of the house, whose key job is to whisper each character’s failings into their ears at just the “right” low moment, like a supernatural “pusher.”  But the effect lands like the Scary Movie franchise.  The characters aren’t developed enough, and viewers don’t have enough time with them, so if you showed this movie to a friend and told them it was a spoof, they’d believe you.  The casting is also quirky.  Every unknown actor in the movie looks like someone you’d recognize in other genre movies (two women leads look like Ellen Page, a third woman looks like Jodie Comer, one actor looks like Freddie Prinze Jr., and another like Ludacris).  By the hour mark, if you stayed that long, you’d find a story unworthy of being a B-movie, a cold slasher horror with no messaging, purpose, or entertainment value.  It’s also not scary.

Could this story have been salvaged?  Sure.  The novel didn’t get translated to the 21st century very well, and instead Dennis Heaton stuck to a flat adaptation of the original.  Too much has changed since Hans Holzer wrote the story in 1981.  Too much time in the movie was spent with couples arguing, which, even if in the original novel, should have been cut and swapped for some gotchas, like better Final Destination hijinks, a musical score with some excitement, and something better than 1980s film school special effects.  Horror often fails at the basics, with characters doing stupid things.  Even with the novel, that’s the starting point.

Tubi TV has a long way to go to compete in the marketplace.  The Amityville Curse doesn’t make the cut, but branching into franchises, even low-hanging fruit like Amityville horror, shows the streaming provider is taking its first step.  You can watch The Amityville Curse anytime, streaming on the free channel Tubi TV.

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