THE AMITYVILLE HARVEST (2020)

Amityville Harvest.jpg

Studio:      Lionsgate
Director:    Thomas J. Churchill
Writer:      Thomas J. Churchill
Producer:  Steven Louis Goldenberg, Thomas J. Churchill, Phillip B. Goldfine
Stars:     Kyle Lowder, Sadie Katz, Brandon Alan Smith, Alex Pellerin, Johanna Rae, Michael Cervantes, Eva Ceja, George W. Scott, Keavy Bradley, Yan Birch, Eileen Dietz

Review Score:

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Summary:

An investigative news team experiences haunting phenomena while interviewing a mesmeric man with a dark connection to The Civil War.


Synopsis:     

Review:

I¡¯ve been asked before, why would I willingly watch any movie with the word ¡®Amityville¡¯ in its title? It¡¯s a fair question. We¡¯re all painfully aware that in 21st-century fright film terms, ¡®Amityville¡¯ is shorthand for ¡°cheap homemade schlock.¡± All I can say is every horror fan/critic has a personal brand, e.g. a particular series they are known for championing or a certain subgenre they are often immersed in. I definitely didn¡¯t set out for this to happen, yet somehow DTV Amityville flicks became a ¡®thing¡¯ I¡¯m kind of known for, so that albatross continues decaying on my neck with a pungent odor that apparently overwhelms common sense.

A better question would be, why do I choose to watch some Amityville films but not others? There¡¯s never a ¡°good¡± reason, although some little factoid or pinch of morbid curiosity is usually to blame. The premise of ¡°Amityville Island¡± (review here) and its CGI shark seemed so ridiculously awful, I had to give that one a throwaway whirl. ¡°Amityville Clownhouse¡± (review here) was such a cluster*ck of barely-related prequels and retitling shenanigans, I was interested in digging into that distribution farce.

But why, for instance, ¡°The Amityville Harvest¡± and not ¡°Witches of Amityville Academy,¡± two titles that released within weeks of each other? Well, ¡°The Amityville Harvest¡± bore a Lionsgate banner. Now, it¡¯s not like Lionsgate is known for consistently excellent horror output. But they¡¯re still a big name, so their association with Amityville isn¡¯t an automatic write-off like it is for, let¡¯s say, Wild Eye Releasing or Uncork¡¯d Entertainment.

¡°The Amityville Harvest¡± also had enough heft that its press releases resulted in two exclusives on a major horror website. I probably could have watched a trailer and instantly known the project was doomed anyway. But I thought there was just enough noise that the movie could be worth a ¡°why not?¡±

Based on its title, I also thought ¡°The Amityville Harvest¡± might be a farm-themed ¡°Children of the Corn¡± type of thriller. That would certainly be new ground for the town. It turns out ¡°The Amityville Harvest¡± is no such thing. The only thing being harvested here is more DIY drivel no different from any other horrible piece of Amityville hooey.

As has become tradition with these D-movies, ¡°The Amityville Harvest¡± has nothing to do with Amityville. No one ever even says the name. After the title screen, you only see the word ¡®Amityville¡¯ on bus depot signage. For all I know, somebody took a ¡°what do we do with this?¡± vampire movie, jammed in some quick cutaways to set it in Long Island, and renamed it ¡°The Amityville Harvest.¡± ¡°The Amityville Vampire¡± makes for a more sensible title, but I suppose it¡¯s like rearranging deck chairs on the Titanic to pick nits about what the movie is called.

As is also par for the course in this low-rent neighborhood, ¡°The Amityville Harvest¡± stars a roster of greenhorn no-names you¡¯ve never seen before and never will again. One of the women looks like ¡°Boy Meets World¡¯s¡± Danielle Fishel, which is the closet thing to a compliment I can offer the cast.

The film isn¡¯t ¡°found footage,¡± but features a documentary team interviewing a mysteriously mesmeric man, Vincent Miller, who claims he can reveal a hitherto unknown secret about the conspiracy that killed Abraham Lincoln. Talk about hot gossip. Vincent owns a nearby funeral home too, although his personal house and the parlor seem to morph into the same location as the movie rolls on. The nonsensical plot, which involves vampire Vincent, his mutant mortician assistant, and assorted ghouls merely murdering everyone, commits its own killing by strangling logic at every turn. Why a funeral home factors in at all, why a vampire allows journalists into his secret lair, why a random greaser and his goth girlfriend want to have sex in the building¡¯s boring basement, and why additional demonic entities get in on Vincent¡¯s ghoulishness are just some of the many things that make no sense, so don¡¯t even try figuring out how anything fits together.

The actor plays Vincent like he¡¯s made out of ice. He stands stiffly, speaks strangely, and behaves like he has no idea how to interact with humans despite having been around them for hundreds of years. This brand of robotic bloodsucker went out of fashion forty years ago. Also out of fashion? Hands on shoulders, nightmare sequences, flashlights that don¡¯t work, and other moldy movie clich¨¦s that are older than the vampire.

The house looks good and is decorated to be eye-catching, so the production did that much right. The same can¡¯t be said of whoever shot the B-roll. I had to laugh when the camera cut to tennis balls on the legs of Eileen Dietz¡¯s walker. Like, who thought that was an essential insert worth putting the camera on the ground for? Establishing shots of the town include the camera tilting down to frame a ¡®No Left Turn¡¯ sign. I¡¯m trying to imagine the conversation with the cinematographer on that one. ¡°Hey, we need some unique color of the area for scene changes. How about that common street sign over there?¡±

Yeah, these dinky Amityville movies always turn out to be wastes of time. But you know what? I¡¯m less concerned about the 90 minutes wasted watching the movie than I am about the additional time wasted writing about it. At least I can clip my toenails or do something productive while a video plays. Typing requires a modicum of brainpower, something ¡°The Amityville Harvest¡± doesn¡¯t do, and something it doesn¡¯t deserve either.

Review Score: 30