Film Review: Amityville Poltergeist

STUDIO: Breaking Glass | DIRECTOR: Calvin Morie McCarthy | CAST: Parris Bates, Sydney Winbush, Conor Austin, Jesse Sass, Airisa Durand, Jon Hall
SPECS: NR | 90 min. | Horror

RATINGS (out of 5 dishes): Movie  1/2

It’s rare but sometimes a lack of budget or experience can actually help a movie—especially a horror movie. Would such films as The Blair Witch Project, Cabin Fever or The Evil Dead have even become such attention-getters if they had professional casts, veteran filmmakers or more production money to work with? Probably not.

Amityville Poltergeist sounds like it could be a horror spoof, what with a title that seems like it was borrowed from The Asylum, the film company that gave us such wonders as Alien Predator, Snakes on a Train and the ever-popular Sharknado series.

But it’s actually a straightforward horror yarn shot in Oregon that was entitled Don’t Sleep when it went into production. As it stands, the film has little to do with any of the Amityville Horror series and, other than cribbing some scare tactics from the Steven Spielberg-produced haunted house classic, nothing remotely involved with Poltergeist.

In Amityville Poltergeist, a teenager named Jim (Parris Bates, Fencesitters) snags a weekend babysitting job for an unstable middle-aged woman (Rebecca Kimble) suffering from hallucinations. In very little time, Jim begins experiencing disturbing visions himself, and soon can’t tell what’s real or not. Inviting his friends over for comfort, to smoke weed and, hopefully, to have sex with his friend’s girlfriend (Sydney Winbush, Father Africa), Jim hopes to get over his fears. Of course, things get even worse.

A similar plot was most recently used in Keith Thomas’s very original recent shocker The Vigil but, unfortunately, Amityville Poltergeist is a more by-the-numbers affair and isn’t helped by using its rather bland home setting with no sense of place to add oomph to its generic premise. But, surprise!: Writer-director Calvin Morie McCarthy, whose filmography includes such titles as Mutant Vampires from the Planet Neptune and Jesus I Was Evil, has a way of delivering some unnerving jump scares (a few of them rendered in the familiar television set-popping style of Poltergeist).

The makeup department sure seems to have worked overtime in order to get their job done well, painting ghoulish faces on the performers for maximum jolts. This likely appears in lieu of the resources needed for decent special effects.

McCarthy, who also co-wrote film’s script and plays a pizza guy here, has cranked out a batch of micro-budgeted horror features and shorts in the Pacific Northwest over the last decade. He deserves credit for being prolific and resilient.

Hey, even George A. Romero, Sam Raimi and Steven Spielberg had to start somewhere, right?

Buy or Rent Amityville Poltergeist

About Irv

Irv Slifkin has been reviewing movies since before he got kicked off of his high school radio station for panning The Towering Inferno in 1974. He has written the books VideoHound’s Groovy Movies: Far-Out Films of the Psychedelic Era and Filmadelphia: A Celebration of a City’s Movies, and has contributed film reportage and reviews to such outlets as Entertainment Weekly, The Hollywood Reporter, Video Business magazine and National Public Radio.