Back in 2005, MGM issued a DVD box set of the three films in the orig­i­nal Amityville series.  While it was nice to get anamor­phic trans­fers of the­se films, the extras were a dis­ap­point­ment: only the first film had a real set of extras, with just a trail­er includ­ed for the oth­er two titles.  Thankfully, the rise of blu-ray has made it pos­si­ble for the­se films to be revis­it­ed, this time by Scream Factory in their new box set The Amityville Horror Trilogy.  The end result is an improve­ment in both A/V qual­i­ty and extras, par­tic­u­lar­ly for the fan-favorite sec­ond film.

Transfers look good on all three films, with Amityville II: The Possession get­ting the biggest boost from the high-def treat­ment: the flashier nature of the cin­e­matog­ra­phy ben­e­fits from the clar­i­ty it gets here.  The Amityville Horror has always had a sub­dued visu­al palet­te but it has a new bump in depth dur­ing the shad­owy sce­nes and stronger col­ors in the day­time exte­ri­ors.  Amityville 3-D looks a lit­tle soft around the edges of the frame but this has more to do with the nature of ear­ly 80’s 3-D cam­eras rather than the trans­fer itself.  Those with 3-D capa­bil­i­ty in their home the­ater setups will be hap­py to hear that the third film also sports a new 3-D trans­fer.

5.1 stereo and 2.0 loss­less tracks (the lat­ter are mono for the first two films and stereo for the third) are offered for all films: the 5.1 remix­es were uti­lized for this review and each does a decent a job rework­ing vin­tage audio mate­ri­als in a way that adds dimen­sion with­out sound­ing forced.  They aren’t flashy sound­ing mix­es, which is appro­pri­ate given the old­er nature of the films, but they add some extra dimen­sion to the sound for home the­ater setups, par­tic­u­lar­ly in their use of music.  Amityville II prob­a­bly fares the best of the trio.

There are two com­men­tary tracks includ­ed.  The first is for The Amityville Horror and fea­tures Dr. Hans Holzer, a para­psy­chol­o­gist and writer who inves­ti­gat­ed the case that inspired the film.  It’s an inter­est­ing lis­ten for any­one curi­ous about the real case: he offers a thumb­nail his­to­ry of the strange occur­rences at the house’s loca­tion, lays out his the­o­ry about what hap­pened to the Lutz fam­i­ly, talks about the orig­in of the book and cri­tiques the film (some­times heck­ling it) for the many lib­er­ties it takes with the real events.  He starts to run out of steam in the last 20 min­utes or so but the bulk of his com­ments are inter­est­ing to hear, even if you aren’t inclined to take para­psy­chol­o­gy seri­ous­ly.

The sec­ond com­men­tary was record­ed for this box set: it appears on the Amityville II: The Possession disc and fea­tures Alexandra Holzer, daugh­ter of Hans Holzer, who is con­tin­u­ing her late father’s work.  Sadly, her com­men­tary style is a bit awk­ward: instead of pro­vid­ing a run­ning stream of com­ments, she instead speaks inter­mit­tent­ly as the events onscreen inter­est her — mean­ing there are fre­quent, often mul­ti-minute gaps between com­ments.  If you can be patient with this approach, she does reveal some inter­est­ing mate­ri­al about the DeFeo mur­der case and where the film devi­ates from the events chron­i­cled in her father’s book, Murder In Amityville.  She also chal­lenges the Lutz family’s sto­ry near the end of the com­men­tary.

The disc for The Amityville Horror also includes two fea­turettes.  The first is “Get Out,” which orig­i­nat­ed with the MGM 2005 spe­cial edi­tion DVD.  It’s a ret­ro­spec­tive inter­view piece that fea­tures Margot Kidder and James Brolin (sep­a­rate­ly) dis­cussing their mem­o­ries of and opin­ions on the film.  “Haunted Melodies” was made for this set and offers a brief inter­view with com­poser Lalo Schifrin.  He dis­cuss­es how a child­hood expe­ri­ence with opera gave him an appre­ci­a­tion for scary music and offers com­men­tary about the nature of his score, includ­ing some sur­pris­ing details about the voic­es used for its lul­laby motif.

The Amityville Horror disc is round­ed out by a small col­lec­tion of pro­mo mate­ri­als.  There is a trail­er and a t.v. spot, both of which sell it as a shock­er.  There’s also a set of sev­en radio spots, all of which trum­pet the fact it was based on a hit book and make great use of the “GET OUT!!!” sound clip from the film.  There’s also a pret­ty com­pre­hen­sive image gallery with all man­ner of stills, ad mats and pub­lic­i­ty pho­tos.

The disc for Amityville II: The Possession boasts a bumper crop of fea­turettes that will thrill fans of this under­rat­ed shock­er. They start with “The Possession of Damiani,” a six-min­ute chat with direc­tor Damiano Damiani.  He reveals how he was essen­tial­ly a gun-for-hire on this project, tak­ing on the project as a crafts­man (and also to enjoy more time in the U.S.).  Though he is not a hor­ror fan, he’s proud of his work on the film.  “Adapting Amityville” focus­es on screen­writer Tommy Lee Wallace, who is frank about his dis­like for the first Amityville film but speaks glow­ing­ly of pro­duc­er Dino De Laurentiis and his kind treat­ment of writ­ers.  In a nice touch, he thanks hor­ror fans for let­ting him know of their love for his work and inspir­ing him to do more.

There are also three fea­turettes that focus on cast mem­bers. “A Mother’s Burden” offers a chat with Rutanya Alda, who tells some fun tales about work­ing with Damiani and the cast’s lodg­ing in Mexico as well as some reveal­ing com­men­tary on how gru­el­ing it was to shoot one par­tic­u­lar stunt.  “Father Tom’s Memories” is a brief (under four min­utes) bit with Andrew Prine, who gives quick, fond appraisals of his cast mem­bers and direc­tor.  The best of the trio is “Family Matters,” an inter­view with Diane Franklin.  She’s very fond of her expe­ri­ences on the film, speak­ing glow­ing­ly of her cast mates and offer­ing a sur­pris­ing­ly thought­ful and nuanced defense of her character’s behav­ior in the film’s con­tro­ver­sial incest sub­plot.

The last of the fea­turettes is “Continuing The Hunt,” a near­ly half-hour inter­view with Alexandra Holzer about her father’s work in con­nec­tion to Amityville II (his book on the DeFeo case was adapt­ed for this film).  She’s much more com­fort­able here than she is on the com­men­tary and answers a vari­ety of ques­tions about the book, her father’s reac­tion to the film, his less than favor­able opin­ion of the Amityville Horror book and what it was like to grow up as the daugh­ter of a para­psy­chol­o­gist.  A few pro­mo­tion­al items round this disc out, includ­ing a the­atri­cal trail­er pre­sent­ed in both English and French plus a gallery of pho­tos and posters that also includes an ad for the Holzer book.

Extras are at their slimmest on the Amityville 3-D disc, per­haps because it has to accom­mo­date both 2-D and 3-D trans­fers of the film.  That said, they still find time for a teaser trail­er, a brief col­lec­tion of stills and poster art and, best of all, a ten-min­ute chat with actress Candy Clark enti­tled “A Chilly Reception.”  She is in a relaxed and jovial mood here, speak­ing fond­ly of direc­tor of Richard Fleischer and telling great sto­ries about the chal­lenges of shoot­ing her effects-ori­ent­ed sce­nes, an injury pri­or to the first shoot and how she mys­te­ri­ous­ly “lost” some cloth­ing and shoes from her lug­gage in the Mexican airport’s cus­tom depart­ment.

In short, The Amityville Horror Trilogy is a worth­while box set for blu-ray hor­ror col­lec­tors, doing well by the films with qual­i­ty trans­fers and a bevy of extras new and old.  If you’re fond of this series and blu-ray capa­ble, this is a worth­while buy.

To read Schlockmania’s film review of The Amityville Horror (1979), click here.

To read Schlockmania’s film review of Amityville II: The Possession, click here.

To read Schlockmania’s film review of Amityville 3-D, click here.