A film called Amityville Exorcism was just about inevitable, and the only surprise is that it took until January 2017 for somebody to release it. Time alone will tell how long we have to wait for Amityville Halloween and The Amityville Chainsaw Massacre - the heaving glut of microbudget Amitvyilles has slowed down at the time of this writing; my guess is that failure of Amityville: The Awakening to open according to schedule five times in a row has left the rip-off artists feeling a bit annoyed. But I live in hope.

Anyway, in Amityville, New York, there are demons, and and they do need some exorcising. This is not the first Amityville film to have an exorcism; it's not even the first where that exorcism rips off the evergreen 1973 classic The Exorcist this baldly and ineptly (that bridge was crossed almost at the very start, with Amityville II: The Possession). And there's a certain comforting classicism in how Amityville Exorcism screenwriter Billy D'Amato goes about the business of constructing his plot: this could very easily have slotted into that early-'90s wave of Amityvillania, when every new movie was about how some artifact from the house at 112 Ocean Avenue caused a different family to go through an awfully similar haunting to the original one from 1974. I think, though, that Amityville Exorcism takes the grand prize for being the most aggressively stupid in it choice of haunted object. Would you believe... demonically possessed scrap lumber?!?! I would, anyway, at this stage in the game. Why the hell not demonically possessed scrap lumber, says I.

We start, anyway, with a man named Charles Humes (Ken Vansant) brutally murdering his wife (Yolie Canales) and daughters (Claire Young and Samantha Young) with a hammer, in a scene that very quickly establishes the level of artistry we get to expect for the next 77 minutes (while Amityville Exorcism commits any number of sins, it is at least blessedly free from the impulse to fuck around wasting time). The editing is self-evidently disinterested in providing any sort of clarity: we see fragmentary shots of the hammer, shots of the women looking aghast, weirdly color-balanced flashes, and we hear scratching noises on the soundtrack that would not in any way suggestΒ  "murderous hammer blows" without context. And it's cross-cut with a scene of the killer confessing before his death that reveals the shocking abyss that will be the acting in the rest of the film. And also the set decoration: Humes wears a prison number that was obviously printed on a laser jet printer and pinned to his shirt.

So we learn, I forget when, that Humes was a contractor who worked on the 112 Ocean Avenue house once, and kept all the spare wood for his future projects. One of the most significantly-impacted victims, upon learning this, sagely notes that, welp, lumber is hard to come by. Which, I am sorry, it is not. All you have to do to know that is visit a Home Depot, where you might very well have run into the Amityville Exorcism crew buying set decoration objects, which very fucking obviously were all bought on one shopping trip that first went to a big-box hardware store and then went to one of those twee-kitschy gift shops where you can buy wooden signs with faux hand-lettered inspiration quotes. And that is how a bitter alcoholic and his resentful daughter can have a kitchen in which there is absolutely nothing to look at other than a sign merrily promising "You can eat off my kitchen floor - there are crumbs everywhere".

Complaining about cheap production design in a cheap horror movie is a low blow, I agree. But when it takes you out of the film as thoroughly as every aspect of the interiors in Amityville Exorcism do, failing in any way to adhere to the kinds of characters these are (a Catholic priest reads intently from the King James Version of the Bible in one scene, and if I knew that was bullshit...) it must be done.

Alright, so there's this priest, Father Benna (Jeff Kirkendall), whose been sullen ever since another priest, Father Jonas (Steve Diasparra) was killed by a demon that he bravely tried to exorcise, over Benna's weak-kneed objections on procedural grounds. They call each other "brother" in flashbacks; I don't know if this is actual sons-of-the-same-mother brotherhood, or aΒ  "brothers in Christ" thing, but either way, Benna's looking for a chance to redeem himself, and one comes along in the form of the Dukane house in Amityville, where Humes used some of his evil, tainted wood, apparently just propping it up in the basement for some reason. The Dukanes are a miserable pair: father Jeremy (James Carolus) is a mean alcoholic (who we'll be asked to sympathise with for no reason about halfway through), and daughter Amy (Marie DeLorenzo), is desperate for a way out, now that her mother died in a horrible accident. They in no way, physically or emotionally, resemble people who share any ancestry or have ever lived together, but by the time the movie is over, that's practically no problem at all. Amy, in the course of things, is the one who gets consumed by the evil power of the wood, which manifests as a man in a bright red hooded robe, wearing a plastic mask that has been spray-painted with glossy red, and it looks like he was receiving a spa facial treatment of some sort when he was called away to torment to soul of the young woman (the actor playing the demon escaped without credit, to his good fortune).

Short and fast as the film is, it's still an enormously draining slog to follow: the film's plot is so intensely familiar from every other exorcism movie ever made, it never contains anything like a surprise. And the acting is next-level terrible: Kirkendall has a sleepy, gaping facial quality, DeLorenzo moves like she's under water (which at least works, kind of, when she's actually possessed), and nobody has any clue how to recite a line of dialogue. Which is fine, because they're all terrible, but some effort would have been nice.

I have till now been wholly unfamiliar with the work of Mark Polonia, who I gather is some kind of iconically bad microbudget horror director (I only follow bad low- and medium-budget horror, sad to say). He is, impressively, the first person to direct two Amityville films, the first being 2015's Amityville Death House; this did not manifest in any excess talent for putting one together. Most of the alleged scares in Amityville Exorcismare quite impressively awful, usually at least in part because something horrible is going on in post-production, involving sound design or in-shot speed changes, or the like. When Benna sees possessed Amy for the first time, the shock of it throws him into a photographic negative.

When it becomes an unambiguous, full-on Exorcist clone, it at least scrambles up to vaguely functional badness: there's no inspiration, and the acting still sucks, but at least Polonia is copying a reliable model. Prior to that, though, this is sheer gibberish: ugly, tacky, boring, lifeless. In other words, the perfect embodiment of the Amityville experience writ large.

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)