A family of six arrive at their new house in Amityville to move in. The father, Anthony Montelli (Burt Young) is a strict disciplinarian and is not happy when his son, Sonny (Jack Magner) drives up in his car later than everyone else after he told him to stick with his mother to show her the way. All that is forgotten when they enter the house and begin to look around, although they find all the windows have been nailed shut for some reason. When the mother, Dolores (Rutanya Alda) goes down into the basement where one of the removal men is, they discover what looks like a secret room, but it is dripping with damp and filthy with mud and worse. Is there something in there? Something waiting to come out?
Written by Tommy Lee Wallace, this prequel to the hit chiller The Amityville Horror supposedly illustrates the events that happened in the dreaded house before the Lutzes moved in and were terrorised by evil spirits, although it is never explicit about this. As there really was a multiple killing in real life, you could accuse this film, which presumes that there was a supernatural force for wickedness behind the murders, of poor judgement at best, and bad taste at worst, but the whole thing has a sleazy approach anyway. It also has the problem of everyone in its audience, even those who never saw the first film, knowing about the slaughter which is going to happen, a problem it never solves.
After things like Dolores being frightened out of her wits by an unseen thing in the basement and the mirror in the dining room falling off the wall when the family attempts to say grace at dinner, you might have thought it would dawn on them that all was not right here. And when an argument ends with a force drawing on the walls in paint and generally messing up the two youngest kids' bedroom, you might have thought it was time to get the hell out of there pretty sharpish. However, there wouldn't be much of a film if they did that, not that there's much of a film when they don't, and before long Sonny is receiving sinister messages through the headphones of his Walkman.
It's Sonny who is inflicted with the titular possession, which results in an aversion to the local priest, Father Adamsky (James Olson), bad skin, a lump on his neck and an incestuous attraction to his sister Patricia (Diane Franklin). Another problem with the storyline is that there isn't a main character: are we supposed to sympathise with the afflicted Sonny? Or his sister, who seems to know where all this is heading? Or, finally, Father Adamsky who sees it as his duty to purge the unfortunate but unsympathetic Sonny of evil? As for the other side, here is an abundance of swooping camera movement to suggest a malevolent presence, but any personality behind the haunting is nebulous.
Perhaps realising that they couldn't drag the Montelli plot out much further than an hour, the filmmakers get it over with with forty minutes of movie to go in an admittedly grim sequence where Sonny takes a shotgun to wipe out his family, although its grim quality is more down to its subject matter than its enactment. What we're left with is the priest taking centre stage to battle with the church about whether to perform an execution on Sonny or not, and being literally haunted by his decision to go fishing instead of checking out the house on the night of the murders. All this leads to a straight lift from The Exorcist, complete with exorcism and "take me!" shenanigans. The best you can say for Amityville II: The Posssession is that it goes way over the top in its efforts to find something to do with its predictable narrative, but not much more than that, although it has a couple more unsettling moments than the first film which gives it the advantage. Music by Lalo Schifrin.