It’s a miracle. An absolute miracle. After having suffered through so many terrible Amityville sequels and spinoffs, we have here the 21st Amityville movie and the first in a long time that actually directly relates to the infamous house. However, unlike most of the films, this one chooses to focus on the true horror that took place in the house. You can read our definitive list of the series so far here.
Ronald ‘Butch’ DeFeo, Jr. murdered his entire family (mother, father, two brothers and two sisters) in 1974. After attempting to cover it up as a mob-style hit his story fell apart under close scrutiny & he admitted to killing them all. His defence was that he had heard voices urging him to kill them as they were plotting against him. The insanity plea was rejected & he was found guilty on all counts.
The Amityville Murders tells this story while adding in subtle nods to the potential supernatural elements that have defined the infamous house. This film isn’t offering anything new or fresh in regards to the DeFeo story but what it does is take everything known and combines it to create an interesting look at a horrific crime.
The DeFeo family are not a happy unit. Ronnie DeFeo (Paul Ben-Victor) rules his family with an iron fist and it is Ronald Jr. (John Robinson) that suffers the wrath of his cruel father the most. Desperate to leave, he constantly talks with his sister Dawn (Chelsea Ricketts) about getting away but he has little options. Even less when he gets rejected for college.
Depressed and a little too reliant on drugs, Ronald Jr. sinks into himself and at a party, shows off to her friends that the house might have spirits. Ronald and Dawn have done this many times before and seem to share a connection over it. One of the few times the film hints at their deeper relationship.
After running afoul of their father again, Ronald finds a bag of money that his father had hidden and takes it. Now while it is not explicitly stated that this is mob money, the film hints heavily towards it with Ronnie. His stressing over the missing money makes him even more dangerous leading towards his wife, Louise (Diane Franklin) deciding to leave him.
She fears for the family but mostly Ronald Jr. who has been getting sicker and sicker as the days go by. He stays in his room, isn’t eating properly and keeps waking up at 3:15am. A time that is linked heavily with the Amityville story and legend.
We all know how this story ends…
On a stormy night, November 13th 1974, Ronald DeFeo Jr. takes his father’s gun and kills everyone in their beds.
As the final victim is killed, Ronald Jr. seems to come to his senses suggesting that he may have been possessed or had just realised what he had done. The film leaves it open for debate and that is something that is appreciated. The Amityville Murders doesn’t swing in either direction. It carefully layers the possibility of supernatural elements throughout while also hinting that this is nothing more then murder by a mentally ill man.
Fans of the series and of the true story will find many, many subtle nods placed throughout that makes this one of the finer Amityville films to date.
A lot of that can be put down to the calibre of acting too. John Robinson is fantastic making Ronald Jr. a slightly sympathetic but callous and chilling in how detached he becomes. The same can be said for Paul-Ben Victor who makes his Ronnie a hateful and cruel man while Diane Franklin is wonderful as the matriarch of the family. Interestingly enough this is not her first role in an Amityville movie either, she played Amityville II: The Possession’s Patricia Montelli who was based on Dawn DeFeo!
It was that film that also tried to tell the true DeFeo story (although with way more focus on the supernatural) and it was great to see Burt Young pop up briefly here too. He played the father, Anthony Montelli in the 1982 film.
Little touches like that are purely fan service but we deserve it considering how much rubbish we’ve had to wade through to get here. The Amityville Murders is a great movie, a great and respectful look at one of the most infamous crimes ever. The final 5 minutes is simply outstanding as it uses real footage of Ronald DeFeo Jr’s arrest and trial. All while an emotionally affecting piece of music plays over it. Those who remember the original Dead Island trailer will recognise it instantly.
The film ends with a slow shot of the interior of the house, the door opens and a voice welcomes ‘the Lutz family’ to their new home before fading on a shot of the infamous windows. Outstanding.
If you’ve been turned off Amityville because of the terrible number of sequels and spinoffs go watch this film. It will renew your faith and serves as a reminder that the TRUE horror of 112 Ocean Avenue should never be forgotten.
The Amityville Murders