AUTHOR, JOURNALIST, TV PERSONALITY
Amityville 4: The Evil Escapes reared its head in May 1989, debuting on NBC to a lukewarm reception. While the fourth film in the popular franchise went to great lengths to rectify the misguided third entry, Amityville 3-D, by taking creativity from the fourth instalment in the equally long running paperback series by John G. Jones, the film’s creative licence struggled to convey its overall structure and the film collapsed into obscurity upon its release.
The Evil Escapes, adapted and directed by Sandor Stern (A Mother’s Secret), picks up shortly after Amityville 3-D without giving any explanation of why 112 Ocean Ave is still standing. The film’s premise begins with six priests performing an exorcism in 112 Ocean Ave. As the priests attempt to rid the home of all evil a glowing brass floor lamp produces a burst of energy that comes from its outlet through its cord, and as soon as the surge reaches the lamp itself a demonic face appears in the large round bulb, reminding viewers that the evil is still very much present and has now transmigrated from the property into the furniture. The film then shifts its focus to the Lutz (The Amityville Horror) family’s belongings being sold in a yard sale by the real estate broker in charge of selling the haunted property. All the items are at salivating prices and the locals feel they are too good to pass up. Helen Royce (Peggy McCay) is one of the unlucky buyers, who eagerly parts with $100 for an unusual looking lamp that had borne witness to the long list of atrocities and ships it off to her sister, Alice (Jane Wyatt), in California for her birthday.
This is when we are finally introduced to the film’s main family, Alice Leacock, Helen’s sister, Nancy Evans (Patty Duke), Alice’s daughter and her three children Amanda (Zoe Trilling), Brian (Aron Eisenberg) and the youngest child, Jessica (Brandy Gold). Hereon in we are given a slow build with ample character development, which was absent from the third entry. Stern’s direction is competent enough to create an arc that can hold the viewers’ attention while the lamp, now in
the attic, begins to manipulate electrical devices around the house and performs seemingly impossible deeds, like killing the family parrot, turning on the kitchen sink’s garbage disposal, cutting Amanda’s boyfriend’s hand off, and vandalizing the youngsters’ bedroom.
All this ridiculous insanity involving the lamp does manage some unintentional hilarity, which is a great shame considering how hard the production company behind The Evil Escapes worked to distance it from the headache-inducing third film, but The Evil Escapes still manages to outdo the Meg Ryan vehicle by leaps and bounds. Its major problems, however, stem primarily from its budget restrictions. When compared to the earlier entries’ FX design The Evil Escapes lacks imagination and execution when it comes to the nightmarish visuals. The appearance of the lamp certainly holds its own but its threatening actions generally come across as hokey, stretching any believability to breaking point and rendering the made-for-cable movie less scary than an episode of Goosebumps.
Overall, the fourth film’s concept set-up is mildly interesting, but this is abandoned in the fifth film (The Amityville Curse), only to return in Amityville: It’s About Time, released in 1992. Casting is above average, although none of the cast was ever going to win any awards. Amityville 4: The Evil Escapes is what it is, and exists purely because of the financial implications offered by the brand. There is fun to be had even with its exhausted opportunities for action, but if you’re expecting a return to form you will be dearly disappointed.
Amityville 4: The Evil Escapes is available on VOD and DVD now.
Amityville 4: The Evil Escapes says good-bye to Long Island and hello to California in the made-for-TV movie that features a demonic lamp filled with unrest and evil.
National Broadcasting Company (NBC)
Amityville: The Evil Escapes
12 May 1989
Review / Published 27 August 2018 @ 20:00 PM
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