The Bonus Disc:
With a big-budget remake of The Amityville Horror due soon, this seemed like a good opportunity to promote things with a bunch of DVDs. In addition to a new special edition of the first flick, we got sequels Amityville II: The Possession and Amityville 3-D on DVD for the first time. For full information on the individual movies, please consult my separate reviews via the links above. Please note that the picture and sound grades found at the top of this article represent an average for the three movies.
Though this article covers the Amityville Horror Collection boxed set as a whole - which is the only possible way to purchase this bonus disc – here I want to concentrate mainly on the package’s fourth DVD. Called “Amityville Confidential”, this platter includes a mix of related information.
We start with a documentary entitled Amityville: Horror or Hoax?. This 42-minute and 38-second History Channel program presents archival materials and comments from alleged haunting victims George and Kathy Lutz, author/paranormal expert Joel Martin, attorney William Weber, The Amityville Horror Conspiracy co-author Roxanne Salch Kaplan, researcher/reporter Laura DiDio, psychic researcher/clairvoyant Lorraine Warren, New England Society for Psychical Research director Ed Warren, newscaster Marvin Scott, author/parapsychologist Professor Hans Holzer, and Montaukett Tribe of Long Island Chief Straight Arrow.
The show goes through the history of the events at the Amityville house. These include the DeFeo murders and what the Lutzes claim happened to them, subsequent publicity about those events. From there we go through allegations about a hoax and why the Lutzes might do that, various investigations and debates between the two sides, theories about the source of the alleged hauntings. Things wrap up with the burgeoning popularity of the story and the success of the book and movie, inconsistencies in the claims, problems encountered by subsequent owners of the house, and continued issues.
Do I believe that anything supernatural occurred at the Amityville house? No, but this program does a poor job of supporting the naysaying side of things. The folks who claim a hoax occurred present awfully weak cases and can easily be undermined. Arguments for the validity of the events - or at least arguments that the Lutzes didn’t stage a planned hoax - make a lot more sense here. “Hoax” is an interesting look at the two sides, though it doesn’t present a terribly coherent discussion of things. We see some fairly intriguing stuff, but the program fails to give us a tight examination of the elements and a strong explanation of either side. At the very least, it’d be nice to get an explanation of why George Lutz hasn’t changed his dorky haircut for the last 30-plus years.
Next comes the 42-minute and nine-second Amityville: The Haunting. Another show in the History’s Mysteries series from the History Channel, we find remarks from George and Kathy Lutz, Chief Straight Arrow, Weber, Holzer, Martin, Ed Warren, and High Hopes: The Amityville Murders co-author Harvey Aronson. This episode looks at the history of Amityville and particulars around the Ocean Avenue property, the DeFeo family, their experiences, and their murders, controversies related to the killings, the choice of the Lutzes to live in the house and what happened to them, and the legacy of those events.
Much more interesting than the muddled “Hoax”, “Haunting” works largely because it explores the facts behind the DeFeo family. Not only is this information we don’t hear much about elsewhere, but also it gets into more clearly developed facts. Of course, there’s still a lot of controversy due to the discussion of supernatural elements, but it doesn’t rely on arguments ala “Hoax” as it mainly sticks to real events. In addition, it mainly focuses on notes not heard in the other documentary, though some repetition occurs. In any case, the show summarizes events quite well and creates a compelling program.
Finally, the DVD ends with a featurette called On Location: The Amityville Horror (2005). In this five-minute and 32-second piece, we see movie snippets, behind the scenes material, and sound bites. The latter feature producers Brad Fuller and Andrew Form along with actors Ryan Reynolds and Melissa George. We get general story and character notes along with some comparisons to the original movie. Though clearly promotional in nature, we get some cool shots from the set, and those help make this a reasonably informative little piece.
As movies, the first three Amityville Horror efforts range from bad to terrible. As DVDs, they mostly look and sound quite solid. All three exhibit solid visuals, and the first two flicks demonstrate acceptable audio; only the third flick suffers from decidedly flawed sound. Not a ton of extras show up, but we get a moderately interesting audio commentary for the first movie along with a few reasonably informative documentaries. Fans of the Amityville series should be happy with this package, as it gives us nice renditions of the flicks at a reasonable price.