Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (April 1, 2005)
Boy, was I glad to see the short-lived 3-D revival of the early Eighties die! Filmmakers loved to make the third flicks in various series into 3-D offerings, which meant Jaws 3 and Friday the 13th Part 3 both went along that path.
Although few liked them, at least those two maintain some notoriety. On the other hand, 1983’s Amityville 3-D goes almost totally forgotten. The third entry in a weak series, 3-D starts with a séance, as Melanie (Candy Clark) seeks to establish contact with her dead son Ricky. Or maybe not - it turns out the “distraught mother” and her associate John Baxter (Tony Roberts) faked all this to expose the charlatans who use the spooky old Amityville house as their base.
Confronted with a steal of a deal, John decides to buy the house. This occurs in the midst of his divorce to Nancy (Tess Harper), as he wants to uproot and change his life. He promises a room for teen daughter Susan (Lori Loughlin).
The house is up to its old tricks, however. When real estate agent Clifford Sanders (John Harkins) comes to meet with John, he gets attacked by the place’s usual glut of flies and dies. This doesn’t really seem to mean much to John, and he also remains unconcerned when Melanie shows him some bizarre photos.
Despite John’s staunch refusal to believe in “superstition”, the house has other ideas. Melanie gets stuck in it when doors won’t open, and John encounters a runaway elevator in an office building. Other problems confront Melanie, and she flees the house despite John’s arguments that there’s nothing wrong.
She’s not the only one with concerns about the edifice. Nancy thinks there’re problems there, and she hates the idea that Susan will return there. John won’t hear of it, though, so he and Nancy butt heads even after more tragedies occur. The rest of the movie follows all the spooky events that seem to connect to the house.
Unfortunately, the DVD of Amityville 3-D fails to present the movie in that manner. We get a firmly two-dimensional version of the flick. As with Friday the 13th Part 3, this robs the movie of any even slight possibility at entertainment. At least the cheap 3-D gags can provoke minor enjoyment.
Instead, here we’re stuck with the cheesy “I’m poking a stick at the camera” movement so often found in 3-D movies with none of the visual impact. This opens with the credits as the letters move toward us, and it continues with insects that fly out of the screen and poles that shoot at us. Stripped of the dimensionality, they look especially cheesy.
Man, the filmmakers couldn’t have meant anyone to take this sucker seriously, could they? From the opening séance sequence to fly attacks to runaway elevators, there’s not a single moment in 3-D that doesn’t quickly turn laughable. Granted, some of it’s played for camp - like the séance - but I think we’re supposed to be more scared than amused.
That doesn’t happen, and this leaves only one notable aspect of 3-D: its cast. With Roberts, Harper, Clark and Loughlin, we get a lot of semi-notables on display, and that list omits an actress cast in a small supporting role as Susan’s friend. None other than Meg Ryan pops up in that part. It’s a grand tradition for actors to cut their teeth with roles in bad horror movies, so it’s fun to see Ryan in this brief turn.
Too bad there’s nothing else about 3-D that makes it memorable. I didn’t like the original movie, but at least it boasted a good story at its core. No, the flick did nothing good with it, but it could have been something interesting. The first sequel also enjoyed an intriguing tale at its core, even if it displayed similarly squandered potential.
No such lost opportunities occur with 3-D. It uses the Amityville background as nothing more than the setting for a standard haunted house nonsense. That’s one of the worst parts about 3-D: it’s so damned generic. Yeah, it involves the original house, and it sure makes a lot of use of the flies that popped up in prior efforts.
Otherwise, there’s not a whole lot to make this feel like an Amityville story. 3-D never creates its own identity, and it also fails to deliver anything that would seem competent. Eventually, it turns into a rip-off of Poltergeist. It boasts a surprisingly strong roster of actors, but they all look pretty embarrassed to be there. I can’t blame them - Amityville 3-D is a simply atrocious attempt at a horror movie.