Do you really need us
to tell you this lamp is evil?
To this point, the Amityville films have all been about a certain haunted house in (duh) Amityville, in which Ronald de Feo (or Sonny Montelli, depending upon which film you're watching) killed his family. After the murders, no one has been able to live in the house without witnessing strange events which start out small and eventually increase until the inhabitants are driven out into the night, screaming like banshees.
Well, it looks like someone finally called the homeowners' association, because Amityville 4 opens with the arrival of the God Squad, who are ready to bring the house up to code. A team of Catholic priests burst in the door, waving their crosses and splashing their holy water about until the Ultimate Evil flees the house.
Or does it?
Well, in a sense, it does. It seems that one of the priests cornered the Ultimate Evil, and it ducked into a handy (and ugly) lamp to hide out.* Too bad for Evil that the church decides to hold a yard sale to get rid of the contents of the house. (Excuse us -- didn't that stuff belong to someone?) The lamp is purchased by an older woman, who sends it to her sister Alice in California as a joke.
Because Ralph Macchio wasn't available...
Moving into Alice's house at the same time as the lamp is Nancy, Alice's daughter. Nancy's husband just died and now Nancy (Patty Duke -- yes, that Patty Duke) needs some place to keep her three kids until she can start a new job and get back on her feet again. Grandma Alice isn't too thrilled at the prospect of children in the house again, but that's only because she doesn't know that Ultimate Evil is moving in too.
As in all of the previous Amityville installments, the Evil begins its work slowly, starting at the level of Ultimate Annoyance. It turns lights on and off, turns on a chainsaw in the hands of Nancy's son (Aron Eisenberg), and even manages to trap Alice's pet bird in the toaster oven, where it meets its golden brown fate. Tensions between the family members build until they are as dysfunctional as the Montellis and Lutzes ever were.
Shortly thereafter, the house really begins its work, maiming and killing the repair people who come to figure out what's wrong with the house. A young electrician who looks to be the eldest daughter's love interest experiences a nasty encounter with a kitchen food disposal (for God's sake, don't put your hands down in there!), and a plumber finds that his destiny is to become part of the house's foundation. The house even drives the plumber's van away!
Polly wants an english muffin.
Things come to a head when Nancy finds her youngest daughter Jessica (Brandy Gold, joining her sisters Missy and Tracy in show biz) talking to the lamp as if it were her deceased father. Father Kibbler, the priest who originally forced the Evil into the lamp, arrives to warn the family that Evil has come to town, and it all results in a final showdown in the house's attic.
That Patty Duke appeared in a TV movie of this caliber should be of no surprise to anyone; a quick glance at her career after 1970 reveals that Ms. Duke was something of a glutton for punishment when it came to accepting roles for TV movies. Nor was she a stranger to horror films; her acting experience in The Swarm (1978) and Look What's Happened to Rosemary's Baby (1976) must have served her well, because we really believed that she was terrified of that lamp.
Come to think of it, most of the cast is pretty high-profile for a dumb little made-for-tv franchise film. Aron Eisenberg went on to be a beloved (if unattractive) member of the Star Trek: Deep Space Nine cast. Jane Wyatt is one of those instantly recognizable actresses from her numerous films and television shows (including her own Trek credits as Spock's mother), and even Zoe Trilling (credited here as Geri Betzler) has had a fairly active career in the horror genre, rubbing elbows with Tobe Hooper and Roger Corman.
None of this changes the fact, however, that Amityville 4 is a stupid little flick that works much like the other members of the Amityville family, but without even the benefit of the Amityville house. Sadly, the house doesn't reappear in any of the sequels after this, unless you include its miniature version in the eighth and final film, Amityville Dollhouse. To our minds, the original horror (if any) was bound to the house, and without those signature eye-shaped windows and chimney, there's just nothing scary going on.
Proof that you shouldn't make a phone
out of ice cream. (Ultimate Evil continues its
unholy relationship with Ma Bell.)