Franchise Review: Amityville 4 – The Evil Escapes

When a widow and her three children move into her mother’s house, they come into contact with a supernatural force.

Remember when I said it was a shame there were no further “Amityville Horror” cinema releases, yeah, well forget that.

I hope you’re ready for this, because this is where things start to get weird. In this movie we see the spirit that has haunted the house for many years finally get exorcised… And trapped inside a lamp. Yes a lamp, after all these years the demon that has tormented families is now trapped inside an electrical appliance.

What happened here was the film series went from cinematic releases to made-for-tv features, the equivalent of a straight to DVD release, or actually would that be a straight to VOD? Anyway, one thing that is clear is that this is a downfall in quality and I mean that in every single way possible.

From the acting, to the production, it’s just not very good. I mean for a made for tv film it could’ve been alright. My big problem here is that this film felt like it just had an Amityville link thrown into someone else’s story, which if true really wouldn’t of surprised me at all.

This feature was released six years after it’s predecessor, six years and this is all they could come up with?! The only thing I found entertaining was a certain chainsaw scene (if you’ve seen it, you know). I think I might’ve enjoyed it more on its own without that “Amityville” tie in.

“Amityville 4: The Evil Escapes” is a perfect example of a company milking a franchise for all it’s worth.

Miscellaneous facts about the film:

The film opens with a yard sale. George Lutz, the owner of the house who abandoned with his family after 28 days, has said that friends eventually disposed of his family’s property by holding a yard sale.

Sandor Stern penned the script for the original The Amityville Horror (1979).

While the credits suggest the film is based on John G. Jones’ book of the same name, the book is actually a collection of short stories, and none of the stories were adapted for the film. Instead, a new story with similar elements to those in the book was created.

A TV movie made for the NBC network.

The main house in the film is supposed to be at the top of an ocean bluff, but the house they actually filmed at was simply on top of a hill. The shots showing the house from behind on top of the bluff were actually filmed at a seaside trailer park with a specially-constructed house facade.

During the house blessing in the opening and closing scenes, the priests recite part of the actual Latin Rite of Exorcism.

Director Sandor Stern has no recollection of shooting the bloody scenes present in the R-rated home video version of the film. Because it was an NBC television production from the very beginning, and the network would not allow such content to be shown, he believes they may have been shot afterward by someone else specifically for the video release.

When attempting to obtain permission to shoot at the main house used in the movie, the filmmakers were initially turned down. The woman who owned the house had previously allowed another movie to shoot there and been quite upset when the crew trampled her rose gardens. She ultimately allowed her house to be used with production designer Kandy Stern’s promise the roses would be carefully avoided. However, producer Barry Bernardi, who had also produced the prior film shot there, was not allowed on location so as not to upset the homeowner.

Executive producer Steve White, who had worked with Sandor Stern before, sought him out to write and direct because he had written the script for The Amityville Horror (1979). White sent Stern a copy of the book ‘Amityville: The Evil Escapes’ to see if he would be interested in adapting it. Stern did not care for the book, but loved the title, so suggested using the title and general concept without adapting any of the actual stories. This is why the Writers Guild awarded Stern a credit not just for the teleplay but also a “television story by” credit.

Cinematographer Tom Richmond had never shot a TV movie before and didn’t understand a lot of the production methodology and stylistic rules for shooting television productions, while director Sandor Stern had an extensive TV résumé. Partially because of this, Stern and camera operator Michael Lund made most of the decisions regarding framing and camera placement. Richmond claims he “sort of felt like the lighting manager as opposed to the director of photography.”

The film was a family affair for writer-director Sandor Stern. His wife Kandy Stern was the production designer, and three of his sons were also involved – Mark Stern as art director, Shawn Stern as a post-production assistant, and Jamie Stern as the actor who played Danny.

The song that’s playing in the kitchen radio is Captain&Tennille’s version of Disney Girls.

First Amityville sequel to be released onto DVD in the United States.

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