Every few decades Hollywood decides that moviegoers need a gimmick to get them to the theatres, and the most popular gimmick has been 3D. Technology has advanced quite a bit, and the current version, which seems to be here to stay, is quite different from the blue and red plastic in paper glasses of the past. Usage is also, mostly, different. Almost every film that is either shot or rendered to be shown in 3D can also be seen in 2D (thank god), while the films of the “fad” eras (early 1950s, early 1980s and the early iterations of the current system) used to have scenes that were in-your-face, literally. Imagine someone yo-yoing straight at you, that’s what I’m referring to. Since these films are probably not in 3D when you watch them at home, these scenes have aged badly—to say the least.
Most of the 3D films released during the 1981-1983 3D fad are forgotten (when was the last time you watched Spacehunter: Adventures in the Forbidden Zone (1983)?), but the three survivors are all the third instalments of horror franchises: Jaws 3-D (1983), Friday the 13th: Part III (1982) and Amityville 3-D (1983). These films were shot in 3D, using 1980s 3D technology on film. That means that even now, remastered on Blu-ray, they might look like shit. Jaws 3D is, of course, famous for having some of the worst special effects ever caught on film, but Amityville 3-D looks like the film was stripped into its three-color channels (Red, Green, Blue) and Vaseline was used to create a vignette on the red and blue ones. The center of the screen is mostly crisp, but as we go outwards blurry yellow and blue ghosts bleed out of every object and character. It isn’t pleasant to look at.
So, the film looks like crap, but the important thing is how it continues the marvelous saga of the Amityville Horror. Well, technically it isn’t a sequel, since the Lutzes and the producer couldn’t agree on what it should be based on, but of course it is a sequel. Here, a skeptic, John Baxter, moves into the haunted house to prove it’s all fake. The film begins with a good scene where he is at a sayons in the house and he and his colleague out them as frauds. He brings his daughter to live with him, played by famed prisoner Lori Laughlin, and she brings her girlfriend around, who is portrayed by none other than Meg Ryan—who outacts everyone in the film.
The house doesn’t mess about in this one and I love that. It kills a realtor by making him choke on 3D houseflies, it tries to kill Baxter in an elevator and there are more 3D related deaths and near deaths that I won’t spoil. It doesn’t help that Meg Ryan is a bit rambunctious and brings boys to the house (sexual energy is like crack for ghosts) and they all play on a homemade Ouija board. Everybody knows that leads to nothing but trouble, even in a house that isn’t haunted.
While Amityville II: The Possession (1982) was a mix of The Amityville Horror (1979) and The Exorcist (1973), this one turns into Poltergeist (1982) about midway through. Well, if Poltergeist had a fire spitting demon that melts the face of Zelda Rubinstein and she gives out one of the most epic screams in motion picture history. I don’t mind it at all. It’s fun to see “experts” with their gear in a house, trying to capture something spooky on tape.
Amityville 3-D looks like shit and the number of in-your-face 3D shots borderlines on being annoying, but both things have their charm. It’s a reminder of what happens when terrible technology is used unsparingly and gives a bit of nostalgia—it looks like when you were a kid watching a 28” tube television and the antenna was a bit off on a windy day. A third Amityville film wasn’t made to win Oscars, it was made to give you entertainment, a couple of scares and then you forget about it, and it succeeds on all three for me.