Say what you will about The Amityville Horror and Amityville II: The Possession but at least they could lay claim to being inspired by true sto­ries. No mat­ter how far they strayed from the facts, they were lit up by a cer­tain tawdry thrill of exploit­ing real events. Amityville 3-D can make no such claim, as they’d run out of real events to pil­lage by that time. Instead, the film­mak­ers threw togeth­er a flim­sy batch of haunt­ed house tropes and hoped they could cov­er the seams by paper­ing over them with 3-D effects. The results are eas­i­ly the nadir of the the­atri­cal Amityville tril­o­gy.

The plot gets rolling with the hoari­est of haunt­ed house flick clich­es, “the skep­tic who buys a haunt­ed house to dis­prove it is haunt­ed.” In this case, John Baxter (Tony Roberts) is a jour­nal­ist who has made a career of debunk­ing para­nor­mal phe­nom­e­na. After bust­ing up a fake haunt­ing in the Amityville house, he picks it up on the cheap to use as a base of oper­a­tions while he pens his first book.

In short order, the house begins play its spooky tricks on Baxter’s friends and fam­i­ly, includ­ing his daugh­ter Susan (Lori Laughlin), bit­ter ex-wife Nancy (Tess Harper) and his pho­tog­ra­pher co-work­er Melanie (Candy Clark). When the strange activ­i­ty moves into lethal ter­ri­to­ry, Baxter teams up with para­nor­mal spe­cial­ist Elliott West (Robert Joy) to use sci­ence to com­bat the mys­te­ri­ous hap­pen­ings, prompt­ing a super­nat­u­ral free-for-all for the film’s 3-D effects design­ers.

As hack­neyed as the plot might sound, the result­ing film is even worse. Amityville 3-D is a tired, des­per­ate affair. After a mod­est­ly amus­ing open­ing where a fake spook-show gets bust­ed up, William Wales’ script becomes con­tent to toss out one cliché after anoth­er: the doubt­ing Thomas hero, a pho­tog­ra­pher who sees super­nat­u­ral effects pop up in her pho­tos à la The Omen, a Ouija game gone wrong, Poltergeist-inspired para­nor­mal sci­en­tists study­ing the house, etc. There’s noth­ing here sto­ry-wise that you haven’t seen done sev­er­al times already, even if you are only a mild fan of hor­ror.

To make mat­ters worse, the direc­tion from vet­er­an film­mak­er Richard Fleischer is per­func­to­ry and indif­fer­ent. He musters up some decent atmos­phere in spots but fluffs a lot of the film’s big shocks and uses the 3-D aspect of the film in the tack­i­est, most laugh-induc­ing way. It doesn’t help that said 3-D effects often look like cheap spook-show attrac­tions, par­tic­u­lar­ly if you see the film in 2-D. The film doesn’t real­ly come to life until its final reel — and that part’s fre­net­ic, “throw every­thing at the cam­era” vibe is more laugh­able than it is scary.

The one decent asset of the film is a solid cast of char­ac­tor actors but even their efforts get wast­ed. Roberts is miscast and looks lost most of the time, Harper sleep­walks through her per­for­mance and Clark takes over­act­ing into over­drive when she gets tar­get­ed by the spooks. Laughlin gives the best, most con­vinc­ing per­for­mance but the scene-steal­ers are Joy as the para­nor­mal inves­ti­ga­tor (he’s endear­ing­ly man­ic once he gets cut loose on the house’s phe­nom­e­na) and a young Meg Ryan as Laughlin’s friend, who gives a goofy comic per­for­mance that sug­gests she real­ized how ridicu­lous this film is.

In oth­er words, Amityville 3-D ends this the­atri­cal tril­o­gy with a whim­per instead of a bang. It’s lit­tle more than a cash-grab designed to squeeze the last few dol­lars out of an exploitable name — and it doesn’t deliv­er much in exchange for the price of admis­sion.