Director: Sandor Stern
Writers: John G. Jones, Sandor Stern
Starring: Patty Duke, Jane Wyatt, Fredric Lehne, Lou Hancock, Brandy Gold, Zoe Trilling, Aron Eisenberg, Norman Lloyd, Robert Alan Browne, Gloria Cromwell, Jamie Stern, Peggy McCay, Warren Munson, Alex Rebar, Jack Radar, John De Bello, David Elliot
R | 1h 35min | Horror |
What makes a great horror villain?
A good backstory helps, perhaps an incident in a monster’s life that made them a monster, that motivates them to keep on killing year after year, sequel after sequel. Jason Voorhees, for example, was left to drown by negligent camp councillors before magically resurfacing and wreaking bloody vengeance on generations of teens at the infamous Camp Crystal Lake. Other contributing factors are a villain’s appearance (Michael Myers’ iconic mask); an interesting gimmick (Krueger’s dream world omnipotence), or the fact that the movie’s plot, however loosely, is tied to real-life events (The Texas Chainsaw Massacre).
Back in 1979, The Amityville Horror got most of those elements down to a tee, although this time the villain in question was a seemingly inanimate object. The movie was based on the supposedly real-life experience of the Lutz family, who spent a total of 28 days in what has been dubbed ‘America’s most haunted house’, a time when they claimed they were tormented by a malevolent spirit beset on banishing them from the property. 13 months earlier, the house in Long Island, New York had been the site of a mass murder, and as well as oozing walls and a hidden red room in the basement, the family’s priest claimed he was ordered from the house by a mysterious voice telling him to ‘Get out!’.
The evil house concept proved extremely popular, and the fact that the building’s design almost resembled a face with glowing windows for eyes lent the concept a physical presence beyond flying objects and fly infestations. This would lead to a seemingly endless series of sequels and remakes of ever-decreasing value, Amityville 2: The Possession proving the most memorable of a pathetic bunch. Roger Ebert and Gene Siskel were reduced to tears of laughter while reviewing the practical effects failure Amityville 3-D, a spectacle that threatened to derail an already flailing franchise.
That would prove to be the case in the theatrical market, but in the world of TV Movies the madness was only just beginning. And so we come to 1989’s farcical NBC feature Amityville 4: The Evil Escapes, which continues the inanimate possession gimmick by transferring Amityville’s long-standing evil into an everyday household lamp, one that almost resembles a human body, with stalk-like arms and little hands and a globe shaped head which glows whenever residents turn their backs. So powerful is the lamp’s electrical-induced malevolence that it is even able to project a quite laughable instance of SFX.
The plot is a simple one: following a seemingly successful group exorcism, the newly transferred evil ends up at garage sale where an elderly woman spies the lamp and ships it off to her sister Alice (Jane Wyatt) in California. This unexpected gesture happens to coincide with the recent death of Alice’s son-in-law, leading her estranged daughter and two children to move back in with her as they attempt to readjust, which as you can imagine plays right into the lamp’s hands (it has them, remember).
From there things get a little bit kooky as youngest granddaughter Jessica (Brandy Gold) begins to form a poltergeist-esque relationship with the lamp, believing that the object is actually her father thanks to a second, even crappier facial projection, as chainsaws run riot and our inanimate beast, shot with the erotic hypermasculinity of a bulging Schwarzenegger, figures out how to disconnect its electrical cord and use it as a noose for unsuspecting victims.
So ridiculous is the notion of a murderous lamp that the movie becomes progressively ludicrous the more urgent and suspenseful it attempts to become, particularly when the vile object begins a sliding retreat under the threat of Holy Water. The fact that this movie wasn’t conceived as a spoof is just incredible.
In the end, it is up to the once cowardly Father Kibbler (Fredric Lehne) to face the lamp that once sent him packing and banish its evil to the confines of an even lamer carriage.
After sliding under the crawlspace of Alice’s newly possessed home, a local plumber investigates the reason why a local teenager’s hand was turned to pâté by a garbage disposal with a mind of its own. While down there, he is drowned in a deluge of gunk after the kid’s hand – for some reason cleanly severed and whole – lands on his unsuspecting face. The lamp is then able to communicate with the plumber’s van and drive it back to the depot, swiftly hiding the evidence.
Is there no end to the wickedness?
Most Underwhelming Made-for-TV Death
You know a lamp is pure evil when it immediately goes after the family paraquat. But how did our inanimate object kill this helpless bird exactly? Let us analyse the evidence: Alice’s douchebag grandson finds it dead in the grill. Is it burnt? No. Charred? No. A little too warm than it should be? It doesn’t seem so. It is just dead. As perfect as taxidermy. The family are shocked and horrified, but not enough to question how it actually got there.
Most Absurd Dialogue
Following the disturbing lamp-related shenanigans at the old Amityville house, the cowardly Father Kibbler consults with his mentor as to its whereabouts.
Father Manfred: It’s possible this woman is on vacation somewhere.
Father Kibbler: Well, I hope to God she is, and that lamp is sitting in a warehouse somewhere. But what if it isn’t? What if that woman is in grave danger right this minute.
Father Manfred: We could contact the police, have them vist the house.
Father Kibbler: On what basis? A satanic force has taken possession of a lamp?
One of the silliest and most rewarding made-for-TV endeavours I have ever had the pleasure of experiencing, Amityville 4: The Evil Escapes is the most redundant barrel of accidental laughter to ever leave me drunk with perplexity. My only hope is that you are able to find it.
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