The Amityville Curse

Oct 21, 2022
Web Exclusive

By Austin Trunick


Five friends who fancy themselves amateur house-flippers buy up a spooky old mansion in, of all places, Amityville, New York, and head out on the Long Island Expressway to spend a week together cleaning the place up. Eerie misfortunes befall them from the get-go, but the quintet remains skeptical—ignoring both the townies who try to warn them about their neighborhood’s sordid past, and their roommate’s ghastly, psychic visions of ghouls and murder. There’s a reason why the house was so cheap, but will our boneheaded bunch be able to figure that out before it’s too late?

Shot in Canada as a direct-to-video release, The Amityville Curse (1990) may be the fifth official film in the series but only has the loosest connections to the ones that came before it. See, this isn’t the same haunted house from the first film, but another cursed one on the other side of town. (A side of town that’s remote, rural, and clearly in Canada.) There’s a bit of chatter at a bar about the events from earlier movies, but that’s about as close the link goes. However, if you’re able to go into Curse without trying too hard to link it back to The Amityville Horror (1979)—the newly-released Amityville in Space may honestly fit better into the chronology—you’ll find an old-fashioned, haunted house b-movie that feels about as cozy as one of the many oversized sweaters worn by its cast.

One of the most reliable saving graces of a cheesy movie is an actor who commits to their role 1000% percent, even when it’s obvious that the material and budget they’re working within won’t rise up to match their performance. (This is why there’s never been an unwatchable Wings Hauser flick.) The Amityville Curse has a few of those, with a special award going to Dawna Wightman, who gives such a delightful, hyper-paranoid “I may be acting crazy, but I’m not crazy!” performance as the heroine plagued with psychic visions. Second place goes to a shockingly young, clean-cut Kim Coates, who plays the group’s creepiest housemate.

The Amityville Curse is pretty buttoned-up for a late ‘80s horror sequel, with relatively little in terms of blood and guts and only suggested nudity. (The gore effects are sparse, but well-done.) The measured pacing makes it feel more like something from the ‘50s or ‘60s than the ‘80s, up until its over-the-top finale. While it’s very predictable and unlikely to scare many dedicated horror fans, The Amityville Curse is fun for what it is.

The participants interview on Canadian International Pictures’ new Blu-ray release are pretty frank and good-humored while talking about the movie—this was shot on the cheap to make a buck, and they seem to have had fun within those parameters. Director Tom Berry talks about the film’s origins and prolonged court battle with the author of its tenuous source material; Dawna Wightman shares stories about her castmates and talks about how Amityville Curse helped her as a Canadian stage actor; and cinematographer Rodney Gibbons talks about shooting Curse and where it fits in his prolific career. Other extras include a commentary by film historians and Canuxploitation experts Paul Corupe and Jason Pichonsky, and a booklet containing a comic strip and a Q&A with the daughter of the Amityville Curse novel.

The Amityville Curse gets a bad rap as one of the least-loved “official” Amityville movies—and to be fair, you can barely call it a sequel—but that doesn’t mean it’s a bad movie. The love that went into this Blu-ray release is admirable, and if you can ignore the “Amityville” part of the title, it’s worth another look.

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