With no job or regular income, too scared of needles to sell his blood for cash and not cut out to be a drug dealer – possibly because his best friend Collin’s profound lack of self-control would consume his entire supply before it hit the streets – Jim is forced to consider other options to make ends meet, finding a housesitting opportunity for $100 a night while the elderly owner and her son are out of town for a few days, the daughter who normally takes care of such things having wisely absented herself.
Mrs Eunice Marina somewhat eccentric, out of earshot of her son she claims to be not as senile as he thinks she is, but offers Jim a warning in addition to her son’s insistence that neither he nor any of his friends be smoking any weed on the premises: “I’m not afraid of someone breaking in to the house. I’m afraid of what’s already in the house. And if you stay here, you’ll hear it too.”
And hear it Jim does, banging up the stairs, disturbing his sleep, entering his nightmares and making it difficult to discern between what is real and what is not, the woman whose shadow he sees on the upstairs window, with the lank hair and the white eyes who screams and howls through the night…
Directed by Calvin Morie McCarthy with a disinclination towards atmosphere or style, the film whose main titles now credit it as An Amityville Poltergeist was previously titled No Sleep then Don’t Sleep, commands perhaps necessary for a viewer about to undergo an experience which could induce narcolepsy, unnatural conversations held between characters frozen in unbroken master shots sat on ugly sofas against bare white walls, the lack of exterior establishing shots or views out of any windows leaving story and setting floating in limbo, absent of context or connection.
With Parris Bates’ fragile Jim barely able to grow a moustache let alone carry a ninety-minute feature film, in fairness to the inexperienced actor the script co-written by McCarthy and Jon Ashley Hall asks him to do little more than look pained and uncertain, while Conor Austin’s tiresome Collin serves no purpose other than to humanise Jim by being so obnoxious, leaving Sydney Winbush’s Alyson to bravely shoulder far more than her share of the admittedly light burden of emotion as well as a vastly disproportionate amount of screaming and disrobing.
Attempting to cash in on the inexplicably long-lived Amityville horror sequence, long since gone astray, filmed in the suburbs of Portland, Oregon, Amityville Poltergeist has no reference to that leafy coastal village in New York State, has no poltergeist activity, and is promoted with a poster which features a house and a sinister demonic presence which make no appearance, promises made which the actual film has no intention of keeping.
Amityville Poltergeist is available on digital download from Tuesday 18th May