Franchise Review: Amityville Dollhouse

A children’s doll house, which is a miniature of the infamous haunted Long Island house, is given to a young girl where the demonic evil soon comes out to cause more terror.

Just when you thought the franchise had died, it carried on.

The theme of creepy haunted furniture is once again used here, this time it’s a miniature Amityville house, hence the films name. I know it It sounds stupid but I was really surprised by this film. The feature manages to bring the creep factor back and for the eighth film in the series it impresses.

The film sticks with the supernatural theme but it finally starts to take it that few steps further which is what it what was desperately needed. I have to say that he acting is also a-lot better than what we’ve been subjected to in the last few films too. The film is an improvement all round really.

Director Steve White does a fantastic job with this film, he delivers a highly entertaining TV movie, so much so that you forget its made for TV. It’s a shame this would be the only film he would direct in his career as he showed a true talent for it but he forged a successful career as a producer.

Many thought this would be the last film in the series (well, if we’re honest, you’d have thought they’d have stopped a lot sooner) and if it was true then it would have actually ended on something of a high note. I mean the cow had certainly been milked dry beyond belief at this point.

“Amityville: Dollhouse” is a fun and entertaining flick that certainly wouldn’t go amiss on a Sunday afternoon.

Miscellaneous facts about the film:

On the original poster art, and the UK cover art, the scene is more from Amityville Horror: The Evil Escapes (1989). You can tell because the lamp from the fourth movie is in front of the girl on the floor, and it’s clear that she’s in the attic from the fourth movie. Also, the girl in the poster is not Rachel Duncan (Jessica), but instead Brandy Gold from the fourth movie.

Although there are various “easter eggs” referencing earlier Amityville films, and the design of the dollhouse is based on the house from The Amityville Horror (1979), this movie has no apparent story connection to any of the other movies or the actual town of Amityville. In fact, the word “Amityville” is not said once in the entire movie.

Lisa Robin Kelly’s burn makeup took about two and a half hours to apply.

According to Steve White, Clayton Murray remained in-character as the undead specter of Jimmy’s father whenever he had the makeup on, even when the cameras were not rolling. He would crack various dark jokes around the set, and White compared him to “an early version of Deadpool.”

For the 360-degree rotating shot of the family eating breakfast at the kitchen table, a hole was cut in the center of the table so that a periscope lens could be stuck through it. Cinematographer Thomas L. Callaway sat under the table, surrounded by the actors’ legs, and manually rotated it as he shot, becoming tangled in wires as he did so. He was only able to shoot two or three takes.

Contrary to some plot summaries, director/producer Steve White says the movie is not meant to take place on the grounds of the original house in Amityville. The only connection is that the dollhouse replica of the house had presumably been in the home in Amityville at some point, and was infested with its evil, though he admits this was not explained in the film itself.

The budget for the film was meant to be $1 million, but production ultimately went over-budget. As a result, Steve White forfeited his director’s fee.

Two of the dollhouses were built so that the crew could shoot more than one take of its climactic destruction. Similarly, two miniature models of the family’s home were built in order to be blown up.

The trio of demons in the climax were made by mixing and matching various pieces of props, costumes, and makeup that S.O.T.A. FX had already created for earlier projects and still had lying around. Due to budgetary constraints, the original plan had been to simply use static cardboard cutouts shot in silhouette.

Steve White, who had a long career as a producer but no directing experience, left much of the technical work to cinematographer Thomas L. Callaway. Callaway made the shot lists and handled the blocking, camera placement and such himself.

Much of the film was shot on location at a real newly-constructed house in Santa Clarita, which the owners had not yet moved into. According to cinematographer Thomas L. Callaway, although the house was very large, all of the bedrooms were inexplicably tiny, which made shooting in them very difficult. Where the script required larger interior rooms for effects sequences, they were built on a studio stage.

Shooting the explosion of the house proved challenging as the production could only afford one high-speed camera needed to shoot the miniature effect in slow motion. Shots with this camera were done at 800 frames per second (rougly a 33x slow-down), while the normal cameras that had to be mixed in only shot at 120 (5x slow). Cinematographer Thomas L. Callaway feels that the 120fps footage looks “pretty silly” and reveals the true scale of the miniature.

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