Replacing derivation with gimmicks, the PG-rated Amityville 3-D finds director Richard Fleisher, a pioneer of the 1950s-originated optical illusion technique, trying to generate terror from cheesy three-dimensional effects involving a flying Frisbee, an airborne stuffed swordfish, and the house’s trademark buzzing flies. MGM’s DVD unfortunately doesn’t provide the film (the first series entry not based on “real events”) in actual 3-D, but it’s difficult to imagine such tricks—which also include a climactic “scare” in which the house’s spirit anthropomorphizes into a fire-belching variation of the Creature from the Black Lagoon—being less laughable with the use of red-and-blue glasses. An opening scene featuring charlatans trying to swindle people into believing the house is haunted, and new owner John Baxter’s (Tony Roberts) denunciations of otherworldly phenomenon as merely the “exploitation of the fear of death,” hint at Fleischer and screenwriters David Ambrose and William Wales’s desire to dive into meta territory. And Meg Ryan, in an early-career appearance as the best friend of Baxter’s daughter Susan (Lori Loughlin), briefly touches upon the sexual nature of demonic possession (as well as delivers the film’s lamest line) by asking, “Do you know you could have sex with a ghost?” Even considering Robert Joy’s supremely moronic performance as stuffy ghost investigator Elliot West, Amityville 3-D—one-dimensional in every way but its hokey visuals—is too poorly written, awkwardly staged, and pathologically stupid to register as campy fun. But at least it confirms that, if you’re a resident of the Devil’s earthbound vacation home, you can expect paranormal harassment even when riding in faraway office building elevators.
- 93 min
- Tommy Lee Wallace
- David Ambrose, William Wales
- Tony Roberts, Tess Harper, Robert Joy, Candy Clark, John Beal, Leora Dana, John Harkins, Lori Loughlin, Meg Ryan
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