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Amityville 4
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Amityville: The Evil Escapes
cast: Patty Duke, Jane Wyatt, Frederic Lehne, Lou Hancock, and Norman Lloyd

writer and director: Sandor Stern

96 minutes (18) 1989
Fremantle DVD Region 2 retail
[released 17 October]

RATING: 5/10
reviewed by Tony Lee
Made 10 years after the original movie first haunted our cinema screens, this TV chiller (actually the fourth movie in the franchise), is written and directed by the man responsible (though some might say to blame for) The Amityville Horror's screenplay, as adapted from Jay Anson's book. It follows Amityville II: The Possession (1982), a terrific prequel to the 1979 horror, and Amityville 3-D (1983), a rather clumsy entry in that video-boom decade's brief flirtation with offbeat cinematic spectacle.

In the movie's strong opening, a team of exorcists clean out the old house, but we see that a grotesque standard lamp has somehow become the repository of all the 'satanic' forces. After a routine 'yard' sale, the lamp ends up in California (where else?), at the home of Alice Leacock (Jane Wyatt), sent to her as a white elephant from her loving sister.

The old lady's daughter Nancy and three grandchildren come to stay for a while, and they arrive about the same time as the aforementioned gift. Un-crated and left unattended, the lamp plugs itself in and begins to play havoc with the house's power supply. When everyone grows tired of seeing the antique monstrosity, the busy housekeeper stows it away in the attic, out of sight but not out of mind, as it begins to exert a malevolent influence over the residence. Repairmen called in to fix apparently faulty appliances get attacked, and the youngest kid starts talking to the lamp, claiming it to be her dead father.

All the familiar old ghost story clichés receive a fresh airing here and, along with some mildly frenetic 'eville' deadly camerawork, and a good solid cast (which includes veteran Norman Lloyd as Father Manfred), there are several effective sequences to make this a surprisingly entertaining hour and a half. In particular, the sheer ugliness of the well-sculpted standard lamp and the various angles used to shoot it, easily maintains its creepy presence throughout the melodramatics and the predictable yet nonetheless gruesome set pieces. Unlike the vast majority of generic made-for-TV product churned out during the 1980s, this peculiarly yet courageously restrained offering has aged quite gracefully, and demonstrates how overwrought with confusingly fast 'n' furious editing, sophomorically humourless image-theft and ridiculously self-serving 'homages', and routinely crammed with pointless technical gimmickry many of today's horror flicks really are. Here, the filmmaker's leisurely approach to careful pacing and generating eerie atmosphere makes a little go a long way, and Amityville: The Evil Escapes is certainly all the better for it.

After this, the sequels continued with The Amityville Curse (1990), derived from a book by Hans Holzer; Tony Randel's amusing B-movie Amityville 1992: It's About Time, which sees a mantelpiece clock become the focus of evil powers; and John Murlowski's underrated Amityville: A New Generation (1993), with its demonic mirror causing madness and suicide in an artist's loft.

Following the successful Amityville Horror remake, and the welcome special edition DVD of the original, this curious property is back on the market, and prospective buyers are advised to check with your local vendors of spooky assets for viewing availability.

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