It is only in relationship to Amityville 4: The Evil Escapes and The Amityville Curse that what I'm about to say is true in even the most relative sense, but: Amityville 1992: It's About Time is... not the worst thing? The film (which has since been rebranded without that "1992", and why not? It didn't even make sense to include it in the title then. Still, the title card looks like there's a big four-digit chunk of text missing, so C- for effort) is a ridiculous piece of shit, no two ways about it. But, we are compelled to note, it's a ridiculous piece of shit that's been blessed with an at least somewhat capable director. Tony Randel's career as a whole isn't going to set anybody's hair on fire, but at the time he oversaw It's About Time, the surprisingly good-and-at-times-great Hellbound: Hellraiser II was only four years in his past. There was, of course, no hope at all for a direct-to-video, in-name-only sequel coming anywhere close to that level of achievement, and I'm sure that holds true even if you think much less of Hellbound than I do. And yet, It's About Time isn't nearly as shitty as it could be. I think that's a compliment.

Mind you, that still leaves room to be very shitty indeed, and It's About Time isn't holding very much back. Hiding in the end credits is this nasty little trip-mine: "Inspired by the book Amityville: The Evil Escapes by John G. Jones". And my word, but wasn't that same book the basis for Amityville 4: The Evil Escapes? A film that was all of three whole years old when It's About Time came out? Yes, and as it just so happens, the new film bears a rather striking number of similarities to its predecessors. The most important for us right now is that an artifact from (presumably) the destroyed house at 112 Ocean Ave. in Amityville, NY has found its way to California. The second most important is that it ends up in a house where there's already some bad psychic juju, and it has the effect of intensifying the bad feelings within the household until finally violence erupts. The third most important is that the sentence I just wrote turns out to be a euphemism for "domestic drama centered around characters not remotely interesting to be anything but cannon fodder in a supernatural horror movie", and we've got a long way to go until the evil finally starts throwing its weight around.

The haunted object this time is at least a fraction less awful than the hilariously over-designed lamp of The Evil Escapes: this time, it's a clock. The clock was found by the distinctly smug architect Jacob Sterling (Stephen Macht), who was in New York trying to finish up a deal to built a tract housing development on the site of some older houses. The clock was, wouldn't you know, just sitting there waiting to be picked up by some timepiece connoisseur. And that's almost the entirety of what we get to connect this to the Amityville franchise writ large. I don't even think I remember the word "Amityville" being said aloud, though you'd be able to call me a damned liar if I said that I was attentively hanging on every last word of dialogue.

The home Jacob returns to is a curious one: his teenage son Rusty (Damon Martin) and his teenage-to-the-point-of-nearly-being-a-legal-adult daughter Lisa (Megan Ward) are there, and somehow they still needed a babysitter, so they got one in the form of Jacob's ex-girlfriend Andrea Livingston (Shawn Weatherly), whom he is still clearly hung up on. And she's evidently hung up on him too, though the writers Christopher DeFaria & Antonio Toro never quite make up their mind how much. She puts up a good front, and Weatherly (giving what is by quite a margin the film's best performance) foregrounds all of the mistrust and hurt and frustration Andrea feels to the helpless manchild she has been lucky enough to escape. And still, one of the first things she does is readily jump into bed with him to have what I'd characterise as obligatory sex, the kind that happens when producers understand that the reason audiences in 1992 watch a direct-to-video horror picture is with the exception of seeing at least one naked breast. And that happens to be the exact number offered up by It's About Time.

Anyway, Jacob proudly displays the clock on the mantel, and we get the second and last reason to believe that this is an Amityville picture, as we cut to an exterior shot of the Sterlings' ugly, squat, cubic house, and for just the span of a lightning strike, it's covered by a superimposition of the house, its angry quarter-moon eyes vaguely mimicked by square windows symmetrically placed just off-center above the door. From there, of course, it's just a waiting game, though the wait is a little less painful than it was in The Evil Escapes, and nowhere even slightly near as painful as The Amityville Curse. For one thing, Andrea mostly works as a character. For another, the manifestations are a little bit different and a little bit neater than the norm (the clock can manipulate time, which gets used for a couple nifty "wha?" moments). Rusty keeps seeing visions of the living room replaced by a torture chamber, starting on the first night, and the not-quite regular ticking of the clock is loud enough to keep everybody awake.

Long story short, Andrea ends up obliged to stay and tend to a very sick Jacob - possessed dog bite, that old chestnut - while Jacob and Lisa begin to lose their identities to the clock's foul machinations. Rusty is clever enough to start piecing things together, largely with the help of neighbor Iris Wheeler (Nita Talbot). She's the one who eventually figures out that the clock was none other than famous 15th Century French general and Satanist Gilles de Rais's old clock, and-

...

...

Gilles de Rais? Was he, like, the demon haunting the Lutzes then? Is that what's been going on? Alright, whatever.

Randel has away with the camera, and he almost even figures out angles that make the clock look actually threatening, but turning It's About Time into a legitimate piece of horror cinema was probably never a realistic goal. It's too damn cheap, mostly. There's only so far that anybody can take the flat overlighting of early '90s video, and Randel really doesn't even get that far. He's also got to answer for three of the most amazingly dumb death scenes in that era of American horror: the one in which a victim is impaled by a plaster stork falling off of haunted diaper delivery truck is, impressively, the most sedate and reasonable. We've also got the horny teen boy who melts into a basement floor while Lisa sits atop a model train set cooing at him, and whose death is achieved by a combination of a colorful but enormously unconvincing facial prosthetic, and a camera pointing straight at the ground and spinning around very quickly, as he goes down the drain. It's inept enough to be legitimately charming. The third I will not spoil; it's too good for that. It involves death through the power of electric guitar, and the greater power of having absolutely no fucking clue how electric guitars work.

It is, obviously, quite a pile of trash, and unbelievably stupid in the bargain. If anything even remotely salvages it, other than Randel's stolid attempts to treat this all with some measure of sober terror, it's that three of the four leads are reasonably well-written (Rusty is a lost cause, a rebellious metalhead teen as written by people who clearly had no idea what teenagers are), and the fraught relationship between Andrea and Jacob has a sharp edge that drives even the non-scary parts of the movie (and culminates in a fucking horrible closing pun). Otherwise, it's bargain-basement haunted house effects all the way down, dashed-off & textureless lighting, and perilously dumb writing - I will not say "even for video horror in the '90s", because that is a bottomless pit indeed. It's smart enough to know who Gilles de Rais was, after all. Just not smart enough to avoid plopping him into the script. At any rate, it paints a relatively persuasive picture of passive-aggressive adult behavior, in between the thoroughly unfrightening scare scenes, and that's kind of unusual and neat to have in your schlocky horror movie. About as useful as a gold-plated tuna fish sandwich, but neat.

Reviews in this series
The Amityville Horror (Rosenberg, 1979)
Amityville II: The Possession (Damiani, 1982)
Amityville 3-D (Fleischer, 1983)
Amityville 4: The Evil Escapes (Stern, 1989)
The Amityville Curse (Berry, 1990)
Amityville 1992: It's About Time (Randel, 1992)
Amityville: A New Generation (Murlowski, 1993)
Amityville Dollhouse (White, 1996)
The Amityville Horror (Douglas, 2005)
The Amityville Haunting (Meed, 2011)
My Amityville Horror (Walter, 2012)
The Amityville Asylum (Jones, 2013)
The Amityville Playhouse (Walker, 2015)
Amityville: Vanishing Point (Greenberg, 2016)
The Amityville Terror (Angelo, 2016)
Amityville: No Escape (Couto, 2016)
Amityville Exorcism (Polonia, 2017)

Not reviewed at this time
Amityville Death House (Polonia, 2015)
The Amityville Legacy (Ferguson and Johnson, 2016)
Amityville: The Awakening (Khalfoun, 2017)
Amityville: Evil Never Dies (Ferguson, 2017)