In 1974, Ronald DeFeo Jr. killed six members of his immediate family in their home in Amityville. A year later, George and Kathy Lutz and their three children moved into the DeFeo house only to abruptly move out after less than a month, claiming they’d been driven away by paranormal forces. These are historical facts, which means they can’t be copyrighted or trademarked, and no one has sole ownership over their depiction in movies or other media.
Why does that matter? Because in 1977 author Jay Anson published the best-selling book The Amityville Horror, and in 1979 it was adapted into a hit movie starring James Brolin and Margot Kidder. That movie spawned a long-running horror franchise with seven semi-official sequels released (by different producers, studios, and distributors with distinct source materials and conflicting takes on the DeFeo and Lutz cases) between 1982 and 1996. A remake based on Anson’s original book, starring Ryan Reynolds and Melissa George, was released in 2005.
But that’s nothing compared with the deluge of Amityville-branded movies that have been released, mostly straight to DVD and VOD, since 2011, when the mock-buster maestros at the Asylum made The Amityville Haunting. While these movies started out as fairly straightforward haunted-house exercises, they’ve since grown to encompass seemingly the entirety of micro-budget horror, including vampires, werewolves, zombies, witches, and aliens. As opportunistic indie filmmakers including Thomas J. Churchill, Dustin Ferguson, and Mark Polonia (all of whom have made multiple Amityville movies) have discovered that slapping the name “Amityville” on their movies guarantees extra attention, the premises have grown increasingly absurd and the connections to the actual Amityville events have often faded away entirely.
There have been 12 Amityville movies released in the past two years alone, including Polonia’s Amityville in Space, out July 19. Director Shawn C. Phillips is set to combine two low-hanging viral trends with his Amityville Karen, out on September 13, and titles in production or development include Amityville Shark House, Amityville Thanksgiving, and Amityville Bigfoot. In the midst of this deluge, we’re breaking down some of the best and worst Amityville spinoffs released in recent years. To be included on this list, movies must not be part of the original Amityville series, they must feature the name “Amityville” in the title, and they must be ridiculous. That last part is subjective, of course, but when it comes to Amityville movies, there’s no shortage of ridiculousness.
Amityville in the Hood (2021)
Dustin Ferguson’s third Amityville movie (directed under the pseudonym Dark Infinity) is easily his worst. It’s a loose sequel to his two previous Amityville movies, though you don’t have to worry if you haven’t seen those because Ferguson inserts a full 15 minutes of clips as “flashbacks,” recounted by a character who wasn’t even there. The main plot is completely incoherent, a combination of offensive “urban” clichés and filler shots of characters driving around L.A. “Aw, hell, no!” says a gang member when faced with the prospect of entering the Amityville house to retrieve a crop of possessed marijuana that is growing there for some reason. That’s a proper response from prospective viewers too.
Amityville Clownhouse (2017)
Ferguson’s second Amityville movie is only slightly more watchable than Amityville in the Hood, though it, too, is padded out with clips from Ferguson’s previous installment (just 10 minutes this time). Despite the title and the plot device of a cursed clown painting from the original Amityville house, Clownhouse only features a clown in its opening segment, which has essentially no connection to the rest of the disjointed movie. The sound mix is so bad that the music often drowns out the characters speaking, and Ferguson is so desperate to extend the running time that he includes a scene of a character painstakingly drawing the Amityville house, depicting every step of shading and crosshatching. It’s not literally watching paint dry, but it comes close.
Amityville Cult (2021)
The main character of writer-director Trey Murphy’s movie is named Stan DeFeo, but his backstory has nothing to do with the actual DeFeo murders. Instead, he comes to Amityville after inheriting a house from his grandmother, which he enters via the world’s creakiest door. He finds a diary that leads to extended flashbacks of his grandmother’s seduction by a sinister man named Asmodeus. While Stan researches his family history, the movie is at least 80 percent exposition, including multiple instances of characters describing terrifying experiences that are never shown. Murphy even puts a recap of the film in the middle of the film, as Stan passes out and envisions a bunch of clips of earlier scenes. Even he seems bored by his own movie.
The Amityville Playhouse (2015)
A teenager inherits an old abandoned theater in Amityville after her parents die in a mysterious accident, so naturally she and her friends decide to spend the weekend there. The main character’s boyfriend is a douchebag jock who makes nonstop homophobic jokes, so it’s frustrating that it takes so long for people to start getting killed. Writer-director John R. Walker gives himself a role in a pointless subplot as the teens’ teacher, painstakingly depicting every step of his effort to research Amityville’s dark history, including a scene of an entire train passing while he waits at a railroad crossing. He discovers some vaguely racist-sounding secrets about ancient Native American rituals, but nothing he does as a character — or a filmmaker — has much impact.
An Amityville Poltergeist (2020)
There are no Amityville references whatsoever in writer-director Calvin Morie McCarthy’s soporific ghost story, though there’s nothing to indicate it doesn’t take place in Amityville, either. Star Parris Bates mumbles his way through his performance as an aimless stoner who takes a job house-sitting for a disturbed old lady. McCarthy’s style leans more toward J-horror, with a stringy-haired, bone-cracking female apparition reaching out through the static on TV, à la The Ring. There’s no real explanation for the ghost’s presence, and McCarthy seems more interested in the tedious love triangle among the main character, his best friend, and his best friend’s girlfriend. Bates approaches the relationship drama and the supernatural terror with the same lack of affect.
The Amityville Asylum (2013)
Writer-director Andrew Jones tries his best to connect his movie to the original story, opening with his own take on the DeFeo murders. The main plot takes place at a mental institution that has been built on the grounds where the Amityville house once stood, which seems like not the best idea. Protagonist Lisa Templeton (Sophia Del Pizzo) gets hired as a night janitor, but she’s soon drawn in to the dangers of the conveniently named Ward X, which houses the criminally insane inmates including the so-called Long Island Cannibal. The slow-paced movie is poorly lit and atrociously scored, with often barely audible dialogue, which the cast of British actors deliver in less-than-convincing American accents.
Amityville Vampire (2021)
Underground-comics artist Tim Vigil (Faust: Love of the Damned) makes an inauspicious directorial debut with this bizarre, stilted quasi anthology. There are separate credits for the “additional footage” tacked on to give the movie an Amityville connection, but the bulk of the story is set at a place called Red Moon Lake. A skeezy music producer tells his girlfriend legends about the area, which are presented as their own vignettes featuring fetish model Jin N. Tonic as a vampire named Lilith. Vigil seems to be aiming for an homage to 1970s lesbian-vampire B-movies, but he doesn’t have the filmmaking skills to pull it off. At least he has a personal vision, which is more than can be said for most of these mercenary projects.
Amityville Exorcism (2017)
Mark Polonia’s second Amityville movie lacks the unhinged wackiness of his later entries but isn’t competent enough to be taken seriously. A priest (Jeff Kirkendall) is determined to track down every last vestige of the original Amityville house, including some leftover wood that was taken by a contractor after a construction job. So, yes, this is a movie about cursed lumber, which eventually possesses the contractor’s “teenage” daughter (Marie DeLorenzo), who looks like she’s at least a decade past her teen years. The actual exorcism doesn’t occur until more than an hour into the 77-minute movie, and before that the demon mostly just hangs out, wearing a red plastic mask that looks as if it came from a party store.
Amityville Death House (2015)
Polonia’s first Amityville movie is his most serious, largely to its detriment. A group of college students returning from a charity trip decide to make a pit stop in Amityville to check on one student’s grandmother. They’re then caught up in the curse of a witch who was killed 300 years earlier and has returned to take revenge on the descendants of her murderers. It’s not clear why Polonia bothered to cast recognizable star (and B-movie staple) Eric Roberts only to cover his face with a mask for the entire movie, but Roberts does what he can to make his character’s invocations sound menacing. Any potentially scary moments, including a character sprouting spider legs, are undermined by the cut-rate effects and the awkward acting.
Amityville Island (2020)
Polonia finds his sweet spot with his third Amityville movie, a gleefully dumb mash-up of creature feature and possession thriller. A single mom makes an ill-advised purchase from a yard sale at the Amityville house, and soon she’s off to death row for killing her kids. Lucky for her, the prison funnels its inmates to a secret research facility where mad scientists need women to incubate their genetically engineered superhumans. The Amityville demon jumps from the single mom into (stock footage of) a bear, a stiff-looking CGI shark, and the internet, always jumping back to its host. The plot makes no sense, the acting is terrible, and the “mutant” masks on the failed experiments are clearly about to fall off, but at least it’s not boring.
The Amityville Harvest (2020)
The harvest in writer-director Thomas J. Churchill’s first Amityville movie is a blood harvest, courtesy of vampire Vincent Miller (Kyle Lowder). A documentary crew travels to Vincent’s house in Amityville to interview him about his family’s Civil War history, but instead they get picked off one by one. Churchill attempts some Dracula parallels with Vincent’s treatment of his houseguests, but the vampire mythology is muddled, and Vincent’s Confederate background is a baffling choice for the character. A pair of ghostly Confederate soldiers shows up briefly to murder the movie’s only Black character, but it’s unclear what if any social commentary Churchill means to convey. He fares better with the gothic atmosphere, along with some appealingly gruesome moments, though the haphazard plot never comes to a satisfying resolution.
Amityville in Space (2022)
Jason Voorhees, Pinhead, and the Leprechaun have all gone to space, so why not the Amityville house? Polonia brings back Kirkendall’s priest character from Amityville Exorcism for this exercise in lo-fi sci-fi, which begins with the priest praying so hard that he sends the possessed house rocketing away from Earth. Cut to the year 3015, when a deep-space vessel discovers the house floating in space next to a black hole. Polonia makes no effort to create a credible spaceship environment, giving the characters old computers to use and possibly reusing some silver wall coverings from Amityville Island. His green-screen technology can’t even believably depict someone walking down a corridor, but the movie is so unabashedly silly that it’s hard not to be amused.
Amityville Toybox (2016)
Dustin Ferguson’s first Amityville movie (co-directed with Mike Johnson) is surprisingly tolerable. It’s still packed with unnecessary filler, but the central plot about a cursed toy monkey from the original Amityville house plays out with some genuine creepiness. The toy monkey makes its way to Nebraska when a woman buys it as a birthday present for her dad, and once it claps its cymbals a single time, Dad is possessed. He slowly takes out the family members gathered for his birthday but not before recreating the Ryan Reynolds shirtless wood-chopping scene from the 2005 Amityville Horror remake. Some twisted kinky moments (“Stop me, Daddy,” his various adult children plead as they engage in deviant sexual activity) liven up the rote killing spree.
Amityville Cop (2021)
Star Jason Toler seems to think he’s starring in the next Rush Hour or Ride Along, dropping terrible one-liners and misogynistic come-ons as if they’re comedy gold. That at least lends some energy to this threadbare production, mostly set in an understaffed police station in a city that is definitely not Amityville. There’s a demonic cop on the loose, who likes to say “You have the right to remain silent” before slashing people’s throats, and he’s coming for the precinct’s captain. Eventual flashbacks fill in the details about why this cop is possessed, but it doesn’t really matter either to the characters or to the audience. The rampant sexual harassment gets tiresome, and the nasty kills don’t quite make up for it. Lesson: ACAB (Amityville Cops Are Bastards).
The Amityville Moon (2021)
Churchill switches from vampires to werewolves for his second Amityville movie, which is a marginal improvement. He more firmly places the movie in Amityville, with multiple establishing shots of the actual town, and he creates an intriguing setting in a Catholic halfway house for paroled female convicts. This isn’t quite a women-in-prison exploitation movie, but the characters are entertainingly sleazy, even as they fear for their lives from the monster that is stalking their hallways. A loose-cannon detective discovers more than he expected when he’s assigned to track down two women who’ve gone missing from the facility. Churchill delivers on the gore when he finally gets to it, including a fairly impressive werewolf transformation, and he even stages a decent fight scene in a bar.
Amityville Scarecrow (2021)
Is there an Amityville in the U.K.? Director Jack Peter Mundy says yes, which solves the problem of British actors straining to sound American. This Amityville is a remote campground that was once the site of some gruesome murders. A pair of estranged sisters inherit the land, and Mundy spends way too much time on their family melodrama. The movie opens strongly with the imposing, well-designed title character murdering a pair of lovers with a sickle, but it slows down for quite a while to get through the family squabbles. Once the kills start back up, it’s a solid little slasher movie, and it’s no surprise there’s a sequel in the works. This movie may be dull, but the villain deserves the chance to kill again.
Amityville Prison (2017)
Also released under the title Against the Night (because it has nothing to do with Amityville), writer-director Brian Cavallaro’s film benefits from a top-notch location in Philadelphia’s decommissioned Holmesburg Prison, where a group of drunk, obnoxious friends break in to shoot a ghost-hunting video. The characters are annoying and hard to tell apart, but that’s not such a big deal when they’re all running in terror down spooky cell blocks and occasionally getting naked for their cameras. There’s also talk about the prison’s design making it a “hot spot” for alien activity — another alternate title for this movie could be Amityville Ancient Aliens. Frank Whaley makes the most of his brief paycheck-cashing appearance as a weary detective trying to sort through the aftermath.
Amityville Uprising (2022)
Churchill goes for some kind of trifecta by focusing his third Amityville movie on zombies. An explosion at a military-research facility releases a toxic chemical that descends on Amityville in the form of rain that zombifies people on contact. It’s a reasonably clever take on the zombie formula, and all Churchill has to do is apply a red filter to his exterior shots. Almost all of the movie takes place inside an Amityville police station in the process of being shut down as the undead slowly take over. There’s some surprisingly strong acting, along with classic genre influences from Assault on Precinct 13 to Night of the Living Dead. Once again, Churchill showcases some gnarly gore, leading up to an admirably bleak ending.
Witches of Amityville (2020)
There’s an infectious sense of fun to this story of good witches versus evil witches in the Amityville woods, where apparently a magical academy has stood for centuries. The Amityville Academy has been taken over by the delightfully devious Dominique (Amanda-Jade Tyler), who says things like “Fail me again, and I will pull your heart out and feed it to the maggots!” She’s planning to summon a fearsome demon, and she needs the power of unwitting young witch Jessica (Sarah T. Cohen) to do it. Jessica teams up with a trio of witch sisters to oppose Dominique, which involves making lots of constipated-looking “magic spell” faces. It’s all quite goofy, but it moves along nicely, and it cheerily sets up a potential sequel in which the witches travel to Salem.
Amityville Vibrator (2020)
Is there any other possible choice to top this list? This is both the most ridiculous Amityville rip-off and the best, “a stupid piece of Satanic trash,” as the hand-written opening credits call it, from writer-director-star Nathan Rumler. Rumler embraces the inherent idiocy of these movies, positing that a vibrator is just as valid a cursed Amityville object as anything else. Main character Cathy (Corella Waring) shrugs off living in the Amityville house and seems eager to be corrupted by the possessed vibrator. Rumler owes more to early John Waters than he does to any horror tradition, and he fills the movie with unsimulated masturbation and copious graphic nudity. It’s defiantly gross and self-indulgent but also quite funny at times, like when characters make sex puns out of the titles of other Amityville movies during a mutual-masturbation session. It’s certainly not for everyone, but the people it’s for will love it.