The true story of a family murdered in 1974 and would later become known as an influence for a classic horror tale comes to life with riveting performances by the cast in this indie thriller.
On November 13, 1974, Ronald “Butch” DeFeo Jr. had killed his entire family in their home at 112 Ocean Avenue in Amityville, New York. Before the murders had occurred, Butch was a young man who was under constant abuse from his father, who felt he was a good for nothing. His mother, Louise, always babied Butch as a means to see the positive in him. However, under constant berating and beatings from his father force Butch to find solace in his sister Dawn, who begins to influence Butch in performance strange enchantments.
Slowly, Butch begins to envision strange occurrences in the house and slowly begins to hear voices. He finds himself isolated from everyone around him. When his controlling father begins to go after Dawn for some of her recent behavior, Butch finds himself attempting to stop his father from doing any more damage and despite pleas from Dawn towards Louise to leave him to escape the abuse, Louise refuses. However, when Dawn stays at her grandmother’s house on the night of November 13, she senses something terribly wrong and she couldn’t be more right as that is the day that changes the life of the DeFeo family forever.
For those familiar with The Amityville Horror, one of the greatest haunted house classics of all time, this film can be said to be a prequel of sorts to that film. The reason? It was a year before the events of that film, that a series of murders in which one man massacred his entire family occurred in the property of 112 Ocean Avenue in Amityville, Long Island, New York. What is interesting for this film is the series of events that lead up to the vicious crime as we see the lead character of Butch as a man who has literally gone through hell and back in both a metaphorical and literal sense.
The film is a welcome turn for John Robinson, who wowed audiences with his portrayal of another real-life person, skater Stacy Peralta, in Lords of Dogtown. In that film, Robinson played Peralta as a happy go lucky type who had gone through ups and down wherein this film, he plays a man who is under constant attack by his father, played in a powerful performance by Paul-Ben Victor. 80’s icon Diane Franklin provides great support in the role of matriarch Louise, who finds herself at times conflicted between her husband’s control of the house and her love for her children, complete with New York accent and all.
Chelsea Ricketts also brings great support as Dawn, who seems to be Butch’s only reliable person in his life. Like her brother, Dawn also endures the abuse of their father over the issues that plague teen girls then and now. It is she who introduces Butch to the world of the supernatural, which she soon learns to regret when Butch slowly undergoes his “transformation”. What is interesting here is the sporadic amount of horror that delves into the film. The film plays out more as a tense drama that just happens to have horror elements spread out throughout the course of the film, until the final twenty minutes of the film, where it all goes down.
A truly terrifying film whose events are almost just as horrific, The Amityville Murders is truly a tour de force for lead actor John Robinson, who gets amazing support from Paul-Ben Victor and Diane Franklin as his parents and Chelsea Ricketts as his sister. Look for the epilogue where the classic Amityville Horror tale is even given a mention!
WFG RATING: A-
Skyline Entertainment and CineTel Films presents an ETA Films production in association with Green Light Pictures. Director: Daniel Farrands. Producers: Eric Brenner, Daniel Farrands, and Lucas Jarach. Writer: Daniel Farrands. Cinematography: Carlo Rinaldi. Editing: Dan Riddle.
Cast: John Robinson, Chelsea Ricketts, Paul-Ben Victor, Diane Franklin, Lainie Kazan, Burt Young, Noa Brenner, Zane Austin, Kue Lawrence, Rebekah Graf, Sky Liam Patterson, Steve Trszaka.