Plot: John Baxter (Tony Roberts) is a reporter who loves to investigate the supernatural and those who claim to be experts in the field, which has led to his work exposing one set of frauds after another. His latest operation involved a couple who were exploiting the history of the Amityville house and legend, to bilk unsuspecting people out of piles of hard earned cash. But even after his assignment was completed, he finds himself drawn to the house and when the chance to purchase the property comes up, he jumps at the chance, since the price is so low. Of course, the reputation of the home has kept most potential buyers at a distance, but Baxter has no concerns about spirits or the other side, so he moves right in. Soon after however, some odd things begin to happen around the house and while some close to him become worried, he dismisses the incidents as coincidence. But are these events just a series of unlikely coincidences or will Baxter find himself confronting the supernatural first hand?
Entertainment Value: After the outlandish Amityville II: The Possession, the bar for haunted house mayhem was set high and as such, this third trip to 112 Ocean Drive isn’t able to live up to that craziness. But it is still a solid watch and has some fun elements involved, especially at the start and again in the final act, with a rather run of the mill middle between. The narrative is interesting, with not just a skeptic, but an active debunker moved into the Amityville house, but once the premise is established, the movie turns into the usual haunted house experience. So some missed opportunities to be sure, but as a haunted house picture, Amityville 3-D has some wild moments and a memorable conclusion. I love the concept, especially the early scenes where Baxter exposes the hoax artists and I wish his doubt was used a little more creatively, instead of making him look like an idiot. I also like the wackier scenes here, such as the crispy car ride, the ominous shower curtain, the strange elevator ride, and of course, the endless bursts of unexpected cold weather. The final act is fun to watch as well, I just wish more time was taken to pep up the middle stretches of the movie, rather than lean on the same old haunted house tropes we’ve seen a million times. Even so, I still think Amityville 3-D has more than enough entertainment value to earn a recommendation, especially for fans already invested in the series.
One of the reasons I appreciate this sequel is the character of Baxter, played in dramatic fashion by Tony Roberts. As I said above, the premise of a skeptic in a haunted house is one that has a lot of potential, but because the script doesn’t utilize that concept, Baxter just comes off like an oblivious idiot at times. No matter how outrageous or obvious the supernatural elements are that happen around him, Baxter is able to wave them off as if they’re not even there. Even as people are killed in mysterious ways, Baxter shows no signs of concern whatsoever. That tends to lessen the scariness of the movie, since he is such a foolish person throughout, but I think it also adds some unintentional humor, which raises the b movie vibes. Roberts plays it all dead serious and sincere, which only serves to make those moments even more ridiculous. There’s just something fun about watching otherwise smart characters ignore parades of red flags, so I think Roberts’ turn as Baxter brings a lot to the table here. Also of note are early appearances from Lori Loughlin and Meg Ryan, who have smaller, but still fairly prominent roles for their fans to bask in. The cast also includes Tess Harper, Candy Clark, and John Harkins, while Richard Fleischer directs.