First things first, Amityville Poltergeist (2021) has nothing to do with the Amityville home where Ronald DeFeo Jr. murdered his family in the 1970s. While the true story has spawned numerous films, the only similarity here is that it features a house and a haunting.
The plotline is fairly simple and certainly familiar: a young man (Jim, played by Parris Bates) desperate for cash agrees to housesit for a few days while the owner, an elderly woman (Eunice, played by Rebecca Kimble), is away. For $100 a night, the man jumps at the chance, finding himself even more curious after the woman warns him that the place is haunted. Predictably, once the narrative begins to unfold, we learn that Jim is grieving over his mother’s sudden death and wrestling with the guilt he feels over abandoning his father and siblings. But is this weekend away going to help him process his trauma?
Amityville Poltergeist doesn’t waste time getting to the spooks, as the film takes place over the short series of days in which Jim is housesitting. Each day a timestamp with the date and time is issued, producing a countdown-like effect that imbues the film with a sense of urgency. There are a number of aspects that make the film enjoyable. The score is subtle yet evocative and continually keeps the suspense alive. And, while the special effects are very old school (e.g. blue fog underneath a door, a hand reaching out of a television, shaky camera recording, etc.), they come across as loving homages to the horror genre.
The main scares center around the stairwell, and I don’t care how tough you are, someone slowly walking up the staircase in your home is terrifying. And it’s this type of anticipation that drives the movie. That said, this also leads to some of my critiques. The lady in the stairwell, who sneaks around doors and in dreams…just who is she? How did she come to haunt the house? What is her connection to Eunice? Amityville Poltergeist is not a film interested in the narrative. It’s all about the jump scares, and honestly, I’m okay with it because it’s apparent from the first few minutes that this is a film focused on frights rather than story.
My biggest critique of the film is the acting. Fortunately, the main character Jim is the one exception. Parris Bates does an incredible job, especially for an actor that’s more or less brand new to the world of film. After this film, I will definitely be following his career. To be honest, he’s the only one who keeps me in the movie. Jim’s two friends, Alyson (Sydney Winbush) and Collin (Conor Austin), have their moments, but for the most part they play stock-like characters, and we only really see them when recreational drugs and sexual tension are involved. In general, the other acting immediately takes me out of the film: I realize I’m watching a film, and an amateur production at best. Part of that might also be due to the way the voices sound, and I don’t know if that’s due to the audio or the acting or perhaps a bit of both.
That said, if you’re looking for a fun, fright-filled flick, overlook (or perhaps admire?) the cheesy cover art and tagline (“Hell has come TO FEED”), and give Amityville Poltergeist a try.
The film arrives on DVD and VOD from Breaking Glass Pictures May 18, 2021.
ANOTHER AMITYVILLE-ESQUE FILM6.0/10
OLD SCHOOL SPECIAL EFFECTS7.0/10
PARRIS BATES'S ACTING10.0/10
THE REST OF THE ACTING5.0/10
- Director: Calvin Morie McCarthy
- Writers: Calvin Morie McCarthy, Jon Ashley Hall
- Producers: Calvin Morie McCarthy, Josh Dietrich, Airisa Durand,
- Cinematographer, Film Editor: Calvin Morie McCarthy
- Musician: Joel Whited
- Special Effects, Makeup Department Head: Zach Smith
- Sound Department Head: Michael Gibson
- Lighting Technician: Tim Coyle
- Camera Assistant: Josh Dietrich
- Stars: Parris Bates, Conor Austin, Sydney Winbush, Rebecca Kimble, Airisa Durand, Jon Ashley Hall