Saturday, October 1, 2016

THE AMITYVILLE HORROR COLLECTION (1979-1983) (Blu-ray Review)

THE AMITYVILLE HORROR COLLECTION (1979-1983) 

Label: Via Vision Entertainment 
Release Date: September 28th 2016
Region Code: Region-FREE
Rating: R I R I PG
Duration: 411 Minutes
Audio: English DTS-HD MA 2.0, DTS-HD MA 5.1 with Optional English Subtitles 
Video: 1080p HD Widescreen 
Directors: Stuart Rosenberg I Damiano Damiani I Richard Fleischer
Cast: Margot Kidder, Rod Steiger, James Brolin I  Burt Young, Jack Magner, Rutanya Alda, Andrew Prine, James Olson I Tess Harper, Meg Ryan, Tony Roberts, Robert Joy

Synopsis: Blood drips from the walls. A terrifying chill permeates through the rooms. Menacing eyes glow from the upstairs window and inside this charming Long Island home, an unspeakable evil lurks the halls, waiting to torment all who dare enter. Experience the ultimate in haunted house film trilogy…and delve deeper into the history of the films with vintage special features and all-new extras in a deluxe collector’s boxed set.

DISC 1: THE AMITYVILLE HORROR (1979)

Rating: R
Duration: 119 Minutes
Audio: English DTS-HD MA 2.0, English DTS-HD MA 5.1 with Optional English Subtitles 
Video: 1080p HD Widescreen (1.85:1) 
Director: Stuart Rosenberg

Cast: Margot Kidder, Rod Steiger, James Brolin

Synopsis: In the first of a series of Amityville films, George (James Brolin) and Kathy Lutz (Margot Kidder), plus their cute kids, move into a riverfront home in the small town of Amityville. The house is a seemingly tranquil retreat except for one minor detail: The man who lived there prior to the Lutz family brutally killed his wife and children. Even with this knowledge, George and Kathy decide to purchase the house. As they begin unpacking their belongings, strange things start happening to them—odd nightmares, voices in the hall, and a feeling of madness that will drive them to the brink of sanity. It appears that the Lutzes are not alone inside the Amityville house, and whatever else is living with them wants them out…or dead!

Here we have the first classic entry in the now sprawling Amityville franchise, which includes no less than ten sequels and a re-boot. but this is the one that started it all, the one that scared the shit out of me as a kid watching it on TV with my mom.  James Brolin as the 70s dad who slowly becomes possessed by the presence inhabiting the house is good stuff, the movie contains most of the usual haunted house tropes but is still effective, accentuated by a great atmospheric score from Lalo Schifrin who also wrote the original, unused score for The Exorcist. Another highlight for me is Rod Steiger's unhinged performance as the priest which is is the cherry on top of this 70s possessed house chiller. 

Special Features: 
- Haunted Melodies with Composer Lalo Schifrin (10 Mins) HD 
- "For God's Sake, Get Out!" Documentary with actors James Brolin and Margot Kidder (22 Mins) 
- Audio Commentary by Dr. Hans Holzer, PH.D. in Parapsychology (author of Murder In Amityville)
- Original Theatrical Trailer and TV Spot (2 Mins) HD 
- Radio Spots (4 Mins) HD 
- Still Gallery (8 Mins) HD 

DISC 2: AMITYVILLE II: THE POSSESSION (1982) 

Rating: R
Duration: 104 Minutes
Audio: English DTS-HD MA 2.0, English DTS-HD MA 5.1 with Optional English Subtitles 
Video: 1080p HD Widescreen (1.78:1) 
Director: Damiano Damiani

Cast: Burt Young, Jack Magner, Rutanya Alda, Andrew Prine, James Olson

Synopsis: This second installment in the Amityville series is a “prequel” which traces the events leading up to The Amityville Horror. In Amityville II: The Possession, the Montelli family moves into the Amityville house replete with its demonic windows. The family’s patriarch, Anthony (Burt Young), is a brutish father with a timid wife, Dolores (Rutanya Alda), two small children, and two teenagers, Patricia (Diane Franklin) and Sonny (Jack Magner). After only a few days in their new home, strange occurrences take root; the cellar produces a nasty amount of flies and feces. Malevolent voices reverberate through the halls. And most disturbing, Sonny begins to have visions of murdering his entire family. The events that follow produce a battle between good and evil that ultimately paves the way to one of the greatest horrors Amityville has ever experienced.

Amityville II: The Possession (1982) is a prequel and was directed by Italian Damiano Damiani who also directed the Spaghetti western A Bullet for the General  (1966). The prequel  is a funhouse chiller for sure with some awesome atmospheric and gruesome sequences. I do love the prequel premise and Burt Young (Rocky) as the abusive and overbearing Italian father is great stuff, plus we have some weird incestuous tones going on here, really weird stuff that will make you uncomfortable. A real ghostly atmosphere and demented sense of perversion saturates the film,, plus we have the shocking deaths of children. Fittingly directed by an Italian the film sort of feels like one of the Exorcist knock-offs Italians were so fond of at the time, but I love it and actually enjoy it more than the first entry, this is stylish, spooky and a little bit sleazy, too.

Special Features: 

- The Possession of Damiani - Interview with Director Damiano Damiani (8 Mins) HD 
- Adapting Amityville – New Interview with Screenwriter Tommy Lee Wallace (12 Mins) HD 
- Family Matters – New Interview with Actress Diane Franklin (14 Mins) HD 
- A Mother’s Burden – New Interview with Actress Rutanya Alda (14 Mins) HD 
- Father Tom’s Memories – New Interview with Actor Andrew Prine (4 Mins) HD 
- Interview with ghost hunter/author Alexandra Holzer (Growing Up Haunted: A Ghostly Memoir) (29 Mins) HD 
- Audio Commentary with ghost hunter/author Alexandra Holzer (Growing Up Haunted: A Ghostly Memoir)
- Trailers (3 Mins) HD 
- Still Gallery (4 Mins) HD 

DISC 3: AMITYVILLE 3-D (AMITYVILLE III: THE DEMON) (1983) 

Rating: PG
Duration: 93 Minutes 
Audio: English DTS-HD MA 2.0, English DTS-HD MA 5.1 with Optional English Subtitles 
Video: 1080p HD Widescreen (2.35:1) 
Director: Richard Fleischer
Cast: Tess Harper, Meg Ryan, Tony Roberts, Robert Joy

Synopsis: In the third installment of the Amityville Horror series, the terror is not only real…it’s coming to you in three dimensions! John Baxter (Tony Roberts) is a psychic investigator who spends his time debunking phony so-called “experts” of the occult. John and his wife, Nancy (Tess Harper), are recently separated with a young daughter, Susan (Lori Loughlin). John haphazardly decides to purchase the infamous Amityville house and moves in, unaware of the horrible dangers that lie inside. As John spends more and more time inside the house, he begins to endanger not only himself but also his family, friends and coworkers. It’s three times the terror in Amityville 3-D!

Amityville 3-D (1983) is the last sequel in the franchise I can safely say is worth a watch, it most certainly not a good movie but it's goddamn entertaining right from the start! Paranormal investigators Melanie and John (Candy Clark, Tony Roberts) expose a pair of con artists during a seance at the now empty Amityville house, it's a great set-up and the reveal and ensuing confrontation are great. Afterward the realtor explains to John that because of the famous history of the home he just cannot sell it, which enables skeptic John to purchase the infamous house for a song. He moves in with his daughter and things just start going wrong all around him, though he seems blind to the supernatural happenings until tragedy strikes close to home. Because this was a staple on cable TV in the 80's I've seen it more than any other entry, again, it is not a good movie but I loved it and some of the special effects work on the movie are pretty great including a bizarre car incineration and a demon that appears in the last few minutes, rising up from a well in the basement long enough to burn off someone's face which is just awesome. As was the craze at this time in the eighties the movie was shot in 3D and like Scream Factory before them Via Vision have given this disc a Blu-ray 3D option for those with 3D TV's. 

Special Features: 
- 2D and Blu-ray 3D presentation of the film for the first time!
- A Chilly Reception – New Interview with Actress Candy Clark (9:46)
- Original Theatrical Trailer (1:32) 

BONUS DISC: THE AMITYVILLE CONFIDENTIAL (2005) / MY AMITYVILLE HORROR (2012) 

As a bonus DVD disc on the set Via Vision have included the Amityville Confidential : The History Channel Documentary (2005), which includes two 42-minute History Channel explorations of the Amityville case which came out around the time of the remake. The disc also includes a brief promotional bit about the remake. 

The bonus disc also includes the  Eric Walter directed documentary My Amityville Horror (89 Mins) featuring the actual Daniel Lutz who recounts his version of the infamous Amityville haunting that terrified his family in 1975. While Via Vision seem to have licensed the extras on the disc from Scream Factory, mirroring both menus and extras, they've gone beyond that Scream Factory release with the inclusion of these cool extras, which make this the more definitive version of the trilogy, and I have confirmed that the set is Region A compatible!

Audio/Video: This four-disc set from Australia's Via Vision Entertainment includes the first three movies in the series which I say are the movies in the franchise worth owning. It looks like Via Vision have licensed the extras on the first three movie right from Shout! Factory, as the disc have the same Red Shirt Films produced bonus content, commentaries and menu design, the HD transfers and audio options also appear to be identical.

All four discs come housed in a Blu-ray quad case within a slipcase, the discs look and sound great on 1080p HD, with the slight exception of Amityville 3-D which has some softness and an odd red and blue shading anomaly which I suspect comes from the original 3D conversion process and not from any fault of the transfer. Via Vision have also included a bonus DVD disc, which includes the Amityville Confidential and My Amityville Horror docs, which is a nice add-on for Amityville completists. The discs are loaded with special features, including audio commentaries on the first two films, a vintage documentary with James Brolin and Margo Kidder, an interview with director Damiano Damiani plus newer interviews with actors Andrew Prine, Diane Franklin, Candy Clark, Rutanya Alda and ghost hunter/author Alexandra Holzera, whose father does the commentary for the first movie. As stated before the extras on the first three discs have appeared on the Scream Factory three-disc set, but Via Vision go one-step above with the inclusion of the History Channel documentary and the Daniel Lutz doc, making this the more definitive version of the original trilogy on Blu-ray. 

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