The awkwardly titled eighth film (!) in the AMITYVILLE series has its moments but adds little to the franchise or the horror genre in general.
Architect Bill Martin (Robin Thomas) moves with his teenage son Todd (Allen Cutler), young daughter Jessica (Rachel Duncan), new wife Claire (Starr Andreeff), and her son Jimmy (Jarrett Lennon) into a house he's just finished building. In an adjoining shed, Bill finds a large dollhouse modeled on
the haunted Amityville house and gives it to Jessica as a birthday present. It's not long before strange events occur that exacerbate tensions in the family, culminating with Jimmy being visited by the ghost of his dead father (Clayton Murray), who urges the boy to kill Bill. It is revealed that
their house stands on a lot previously razed by arson, and that Bill's parents died in a fire he dreamed of beforehand.
Todd's girlfriend, Dana (Lisa Robin Kelly), is badly burned while visiting the house, and when Bill's occultist sister, Marla (Lenore Kasdorf), conducts a ritual with her husband, Tobias (Franc Ross), using a doll from the dollhouse, they're assaulted by supernatural forces. Jimmy's father appears
again and attacks Bill and is destroyed when Jimmy throws another doll into the fireplace. Bill and Tobias leap into the fireplace and end up in the hellish realm from Bill's dreams; Tobias is killed, but Bill escapes, burns the dollhouse and flees with his family as the house goes up in flames.
With only a tenuous link to the other AMITYVILLE films--the town's name barely, if ever, comes up--this series entry has a promisingly busy start. Creating a family of step-siblings gives scriptwriter Joshua Michael Stern plenty of interpersonal situations to exploit, and a lot more goes on in the
early scenes than is usual for a horror sequel. Some of the resulting set pieces are genuinely startling, as when a toy spider Todd places in a pinata becomes a real tarantula that falls on arachnophobic Jimmy's head, while others are effective dark comedy: Jimmy's pet mouse crawls through the
dollhouse, and a giant rodent invades his bedroom; Claire gets the hots for Todd, to the extent that during her sexual encounter with Bill, Todd's face grows increasingly larger in a framed photo.
Ultimately, though, Stern and director Steve White tackle more material than one film can effectively handle, and the movie loses steam by the halfway point. It becomes one of those films where because supernatural forces are at work, anything can happen, and the nature of the story's evil becomes
muddled, with a climax that fails to adequately tie up all the narrative threads. And as always, the characters are unbelievably slow to pick up on the early warning signs of the threatening evil--when Marla becomes suspicious of the dollhouse, she doesn't suggest the family get rid of it, but
simply has Jessica keep a list of "weird stuff" it does. (Graphic violence, nudity, sexual situations, profanity.)
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- Released: 1997
- Rating: R
- Review: The awkwardly titled eighth film (!) in the AMITYVILLE series has its moments but adds little to the franchise or the horror genre in general. Architect Bill Martin (Robin Thomas) moves with his teenage son Todd (Allen Cutler), young daughter Jessica (Rac… (more)