A “prequel” to the 1979 hit finds another family – the Montelli’s – falling prey to supernatural forces at the infamous Long Island home.
The Montelli family is dysfunctional from the start. Dad Anthony (Burt Young) is an authoritarian brute while mother Dolores (Rutanya Alda) is a cowed peacekeeper.
Sonny’s (Jack Magner) signs of rebellion are only skin deep, and Daughter Patricia (Diane Franklin) mirrors her mother while seeming unnaturally close to Sonny before his possession.
A concerned priest Father Adamsky (James Olsen) attempts to intervene with an exorcism – having observed the dysfunctional behaviour and taken a confession from Patricia that suggests things worse than telekinesis – and meets resistance from the church bureaucracy (Leonardo Cimino) who are concerned about the image of the church in modern times with exorcism seeming medieval and superstitious.
But he is too late, and the recreation of the real-life murders that took place in the house at 112 Ocean Avenue, Amityville on New York’s Long Island (when 23-year-old Ronald DeFeo Jr killed his parents, two brothers and two sisters after claiming he heard spirit voices) – while technically inaccurate and sidestepping one of the real story’s unanswered questions – is quite brutal in its mercilessness. The shot of a possessed Sonny aiming his rifle at his younger brother who thinks he’s hiding in a safe place is chilling.
Fortunately, the single courtroom scene is dealt with quickly so Father Adamsky can get Sonny back to the house for the film’s exorcism which features some impressive make-up effects work by John Caglione Jr. The ending feels just as anti-climactic as the first film despite a not-so-surprising shock ending.
It’s a patchy, somewhat tiresome, reworking of the same haunted house theme that served the initial outing. There are some effective chilling moments, but the story does not hold up for a satisfying conclusion.