Wicked Wednesday: Amityville Dollhouse (1996)

I have quite the confession to make: I don’t watch horror movie franchises. This is sort of happened organically instead of intentionally. But something I’m slightly embarrassed about nevertheless.

One of my goals for this year (because in 2021 we no longer believe in resolutions) is to watch at least one franchise in its entirety. For example, there are 12 movies in the Friday the 13th series. I could watch one a month!

But I wasn’t expecting to get a start on this goal with Amityville Dollhouse. To be completely honest, I had no idea what I was getting myself into when I chose this to watch. It wasn’t until I started reading up on the movie that I learned that this was just one in a series of movies not based on the Lutz family’s experiences or the DeFeo murders, but rather haunted objects linked to the house.

While they’re certainly stand-alone stories, this still felt like being dropped into the deep end of a cold pool.

Amityville Dollhouse follows newlyweds Bill and Claire as they move into a new home that Bill built in the desert. Their children and stepchildren are all reluctant about their new home and families. Strained relationships abound from the start.

A series of unexplained experiences begin for the Martin family when Bill finds a dollhouse in a shed on the lot. Bill and Claire decide to give the dollhouse (an exact replica of 112 Ocean Avenue) to the young kid, Jessica, for her birthday.

Once the dollhouse makes its home in Jessica’s room, she begins to notice strange things about it. Her aunt Marla, a New Age hippie of sorts, makes Jessica take notes about everything that happens. Marla and her husband, Tobias, both have suspicions about the house, particularly the house’s creepy dolls.

And suspicious they should be. The dollhouse is up to something, and it certainly isn’t nice.

I think a large part of why I felt so confused was that much of the “whys” and “hows” here aren’t explained. The family see visions, have awful dreams, are visited by decomposing husbands. It’s all linked to the dollhouse, but we’re never really sure how. Demons? Why not! And why is no one recognise that this dollhouse looks just like one of the most famous murder houses in American history? I don’t demand everything make sense in my horror movies, but a line or two of guidance would be nice!

Putting my thoughts together for this one is difficult. Learning that it was the eighth (and final) in the original series sort of messed with my perception of the film. That begs the question: does someone need to watch all seven previous movies in order to have an opinion on something?

There are some really cool moments in this movie. It looks great in parts. It even gets a bit twisted in a V.C. Andrews sort of way. And yet, I found it impossible to engage with. I might have even dozed off for a minute (though that says more about my sleeping habits than the film) judging by the fact that when I rewatched the trailer, I didn’t recognise some of the footage from the movie.

Are people fans of the Amityville franchise? Is it worth revisiting the other six I’ve missed in order to appreciate this one? Or is it really the film’s fault for just this once? I can’t even recall the 1979 movie and Margot Kidder was in that one for goodness’ sake!

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