Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Amityville II: The Possession; Pryor, Oklahoma; 1982

In 1983 I did something terrifying that haunted me for months: I watched Amityville II: The Possession. I didn't just watch it during normal hours of the night or with a group of friends either. No, I stayed up past midnight to watched it in a house that was completely empty. And I was fourteen years old.

One of the benefits of growing up in rural Oklahoma was we only got a single channel from an old fashioned antenna attached to the house. In the early 1980s we bought a gigantic dish and placed it in the back yard. The dish not only had a remote control that allowed us to switch from transponder to transponder from inside (some dishes had a hand crank on it that required you to leave the house if you wanted to watch a channel not on that particular transponder) but it came with a state of the art descrambler (which was illegal!). This descrambler allowed us to get practically every channel floating back to earth from circling satellites. We got legitimate channels, wild feeds of sporting or news feeds and the east and west coast feeds of EVERY movie channel in America.

From the age of thirteen on I was a kid in heaven every single day and night and I took advantage of it. Because of the dish I had sudden access to a lot of stuff I probably shouldn't have been watching. With parents away at work a lot, it was free reign at my house for every R rated film out there. I gorged on every genre from horror to ribald comedies. If it was on our TV, I tried to watch it, no matter if it was good or horrible. On this particular night my parents and younger brother were spending the night some place else and I was going it alone in our house way out in the country. I'm not sure that it was a wise choice with a film about demonic possession in the middle of the night but at the time, it seemed like the perfect opportunity to watch a horror film I'd heard was worth seeing.

Amityville II: The Possession was devastating to me on three levels: I was fourteen years old, I watched it alone in an empty house in rural Oklahoma in the middle of the night and its story concerned a demonic possession. Growing up attending a Southern Baptist church every week, we were frequently told that possession by Satan was a real possibility if you lived a sinful existence. The devil was everywhere. Even a horror film might cause an unknown evil spirit to check in and punish me. This movie felt 100%  plausible to me and that made it more terrorizing. I haven't seen it since 1983 and it doesn't have a good reputation but it left an impression on me, hence this post.

One reason I wanted to watch the movie was that Diane Franklin was in the cast. I had recently watched Franklin in The Last American Virgin (another R rated film from 1982 I was too young to be watching!) and had developed a sizable crush on her. Somehow I'd heard that Franklin was doing more nudity in Amityville II and I was willing to risk my own battle with demonic spirits to glimpse Franklin undressed. I was not disappointed in that regard as there is an infamous incest scene that involves Franklin's character and her on-screen brother. Franklin later showed up in two great comedies by the way--Better Off Dead and Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventure.

I watched the movie. When it ended I was frozen to my bed, paralyzed by fear. Every shift or creak in the house, every noise of nature outside, every dark fantasy my imagination concocted screamed one thing: Satan was coming to possess me and cause me to slaughter my family when they got home the next day!

I slept very little the rest of the night. I'm happy to report that I was not possessed and I didn't kill my family. The film slowly lost its power over me. While it didn't feel like it in 1983, this was ultimately a favorite movie watching memory of my childhood--the night I took on Beelzebub and Amityville II: The Possession all alone and lived to tell about it.


Guy Gadbois said...

I did the same thing (teenager, home alone) & watched The Exorcist III. Scared the bejesus out of me.

Also funny: I had another friend who developed a crush on Ms. Franklin due to her nudity in TLAV.

Eva said...

I did the same thing with "Carrie" with one friend when we were eleven. We were thrilled at first, but really regretted it once she has the blood all over herself - it required several minutes of both of us holding a broomstick at its very tip together, being as far from the TV as possible, trying to hit the off button with the broom. We thought we had gone through hell, but we never even managed the hand ending. There is a crucifix in the little room in which Carrie is locked by her mother, and in my bedroom there was one, too. I thought its eyes would glow and kill me. But what could I do - remove the crucifix?

Joshua Blevins Peck said...

This should be one of those common events of a lot of our childhoods: watching something you know you shouldn't watch. Yet, watching it anyway and regretting it. Yet, remembering it for a long, long time.

I actually have a few more of these I think.