Boy howdy, there sure are a lot of Amityville flicks, aren’t there? I don’t know what kind of sadistic contest they’re in with the Witchcraft series, but I’m assuming regardless of the outcome, we the viewer loses. To each their own (I’ve never even seen the Witchcraft films), but I think it’s safe to say at this point in time that the word “Amityville” has lost all meaning far beyond its original IP (which is to say, you can’t use the word “horror”after it – otherwise, have at ‘er!). But there was a time, long ago when I had more hair and less belly, that the original Amityville series was an ongoing concern.
The ’79 original was a massive hit in theatres, the allegedly true book it was based on was still selling like hotcakes (it scared me, a lot), the ’82 sequel scrapped mostly everything for Italian based lunacy (which was a blessing because it is easily the best one), and ‘83s 3D romp was laughable, to put it charitably. So where to next? TV naturally, and after a six year cooling off period for audiences we tuned into Amityville: The Evil Escapes (1989), a fun and silly romp where the demon is outsourced to *checks notes* a lamp. That’s right.
Originally airing on NBC Friday Night at the Movies, Escapes was up against ABC’s Mr. Belvedere/Perfect Strangers/Just the Ten of Us/20/20 lineup, while CBS had their own Friday movie. But for fans of horror clamoring for more Amityville hijinks, who could resist?
Let’s open up our (hopefully) non-possessed TV GUIDE and see what chills await:
AMITYVILLE: THE EVIL ESCAPES (Friday, 9pm, NBC)
The haunted house transfers its power to a lamp, which is sent to a family in California. Patty Duke, Jane Wyatt star.
After yet another spiritual cleansing the contents of the Amityville house are thrown out on the lawn for a yard sale, and a woman sends a hideous, limb-ridden floor lamp to her sister (Wyatt - Star Trek IV) in California as a joke. Shortly after the lamp arrives so does her daughter (Duke – Valley of the Dolls) and three kids, as the father of the clan has just unexpectedly passed.
Tensions are already high with the uncomfortable accommodations; but they get a lot worse as the lamp, stored and unplugged in the attic, starts to spread the bad vibes around – a Garburator mishap here, a plumbing problem there, a runaway chainsaw, a stabby levitating girl to the left and approaching fast – before the Catholic Cavalry arrives. Can Father Kibbler (Fredric Lehne – Supernatural) rid their home of the unfashionable, demonic light source?
The Evil Escapes isn’t particularly good, but it is entertaining; writer/director Sandor Stern (PIN) penned the OG flick too, so he knows his way around this hooha as well as anybody. And it is hooha; debunked and debased, the Lutz events were allegedly made up, leaving filmmakers free to tell their own tales. But hold up, it turns out this one is based on another book of the same name, but now labeled a “novel”, because, well.
We don’t need or come to horror tales for facts, anyway; we come because we want a yarn spun in a pleasing matter. While it doesn’t have any new tricks up its sleeve, The Evil Escapes manages to shovel in enough creative deaths to pass the time in humorous ways. You will be amused when the chainsaw starts up and drags the son around the basement, I promise. Probably not what Stern had in mind, but fun is fun in my books; the same goes for the lamp’s plug, which waits ready to strike like a Cobra manufactured by GE. You can’t help but smile.
Increasing the enjoyment factor is the cast’s noble ability to keep a straight face, especially Duke; she’s going full in for those Miracle Worker accolades even though they never come, but man she seems very concerned about her clan. And I’m glad she is – the more earnest the players react to the ridiculousness around them, the better the story works.
Trust me, The Evil Escapes is wallpapered with ridiculousness; and at this point in the series, why shouldn’t it? Stern brings a level of competence to the proceedings (no, it’s nowhere near PIN) that makes it definitely watchable, and if one is attuned to its goofy charms, a more than pleasant stay. I think they should have for true evil though and used The Clapper.Next: Class of 1989: Different Suits, Same SOCIETY: The Shunting Influence