Amityville, Hollywood: Looking Back at the ‘Amityville’ Franchise | Part 3

By Sara Century

Amityville movies covered in Part 3: Amityville: It’s About Time (1992). You can purchase the Blu-Ray release of this film from Vinegar Syndrome via Diabolik DVD.

So far, the Amityville horror franchise has run the horror gamut, jumping from trend to trope and back again, delving into 3-D, moving away from the “original” house and into haunted objects, and so on. By 1992, this was a franchise hanging on by a thread with multiple sequels having put significant weight on an already sparse concept.

Then there was It’s About Time.

It’s About Time is barely connected to the rest of the franchise, and it brings in a completely new family, now in California rather than the East Coast. The haunting revolves around a clock, which patriarch Jacob (Stephen Macht) buys after signing an illustrious business deal to design a “timeless” concept for a new neighborhood.

Tony Randel (R) directing Doug Bradley (L) as Pinhead on the set of ‘Hellbound: Hellraiser II’ (1988).
L: Original poster for the film before ‘1992’ was omitted from subsequent releases. | R: The infamous clock in the film.

Tony Randel has a fairly limited resume as a director, but he’s got an eye for low-budget horror, having directed the delightfully disturbing Hellbound: Hellraiser II (1988) before delivering the equally offbeat Children of the Night (1991) and then, of course, It’s About Time (1992). These films are all considered B-Movies or cult status at best, but there is a genuine flair for compelling characterization and striking visuals that sets them apart. There were no less than three screenwriters for the film (Antonio Toro, Christopher DeFaria, and John G. Jones), all of whom worked on at least one other Amityville film. Like most Amityville movies, this was a direct-to-video release.

As it stands, this might be the best of the series, or at least it’s the one that succeeds the most in combining gore and supernatural into a definitive vision while eschewing the baggage of the previous films. As with Randel’s other works, the emphasis on gooey, brutal death sequences is strong, but there are some truly strange cosmic horror undercurrents, and the film becomes almost Lovecraftian by its end. Anyone who watched Hellraiser II knows that trying to make three different ideas into a single film is a theme for Randel but going high on concept, while never failing to provide no-holds-barred Cronenbergian body horror, is what makes It’s About Time work as well as it does.

Stephen Macht as Jacob, Damon Martin as Rusty, Shawn Weatherly as Andrea, and Megan Ward as Lisa in ‘Amityville: It’s About Time’ (1992).

The film begins with widower Jacob returning home to his ex-girlfriend Andrea (Shawn Weatherly) and his two highly ’90s teenage children, Rusty and Lisa (Damon Martin and Megan Ward). Though Andrea has ended her relationship with Jacob, the two continue to have a codependent connection, and she agrees to stay the night with him when he asks her to. The next day, Jacob is attacked by a German Shepard, and his wounds are serious enough that Andrea is talked into staying until he’s well enough to care for his children again.

Rusty skips school to hang out with his neighbor Iris (Nita Talbot). He tells her about the night before when the living room seemed to change time periods. Iris tells him that there is an evil object attempting to create a new home for itself (definitely the haunted clock his dad just brought home). Rusty and Andrea attempt to speak to the owner of the dog that attacked Jacob, but the woman has no clue what they’re talking about.

Jacob becomes so lost in designing his new, original-Amityville-House-inspired neighborhood that he refuses to clean his wounds or listen to Andrea when she tries to tell him something is very wrong. Rusty lands himself in trouble with the police while Lisa “becomes evil and sexy” after having a truly weird (mostly allegorical) masturbation scene while looking at herself in the mirror, after which she murders her boyfriend by turning him into a pile of goo. One need not stretch too far to find the metaphors at play there, but while they don’t totally land, these sequences still manage to up the creepy factor by about ten notches.

Stephen Macht and Shawn Weatherly as Jacob and Andrea, respectively.

Time hijinks increase as Andrea’s new boyfriend (Jonathan Penner) comes over to hang out with her and she tries to keep the family from absolutely imploding. Her lover quickly comes to regret it when time slows to a stop in the kitchen, Jacob pulls a gun on him, and he finds himself bathing in weird black goo. Everyone else becomes basically useless, so Andrea and Rusty are forced to fight the house alone.

There is a strange politicism behind It’s About Time, with an ingrained distrust of authority figures played out mostly through Rusty’s constant interactions with the police. Rusty is inclined towards guitars and black band t-shirts, but he has a close friendship with the occultist Iris, an elderly woman that most disregard as being a bit of a kook. Rusty is kind to the women in his life, which makes him one of the more likable teen boys of horror. Most films would have leaned into making him edgier, but it’s his sincerity that makes him click.

Meanwhile, Andrea’s relationship with the family is one of the stranger parts of the film. Watching her put herself last while striving to care for children that Jacob barely interacts with tells us a lot about why the relationship ended. The film makes prudent choices by giving her a lover who is equally annoying as Jacob but for opposite reasons. Jacob’s alternating neediness versus outright neglect drives her away, while her new guy’s over-interest is likewise bound to eventually alienate her. The script never judges Andrea for pursuing other interests and trying to distance herself from Jacob and his family, instead portraying this as a genuinely difficult choice that is repeatedly undermined by Jacob. She steps into a maternal role, but it doesn’t suit her, and ultimately, it’s her ability to see things from Rusty’s perspective that allows her to free them all from the torments of the clock.

L: Megan Ward as Lisa. | R: Stephen Macht as Jacob and Jonathan Penner as Leonard.

As with the other fathers of the franchise, there are outside factors that ultimately send Jacob over the edge, but the sad fact is that it really doesn’t take much. Andrea manages to keep it together from beginning to end, which is part of why Jacob’s drastic descent into violence and depravity seems as jarring as it is. Yet, when he becomes possessed and says cruel things to her, she is able to completely look past it and continue trying to make her points. This speaks to a long-established animosity between them. Though we open the film seeing Jacob’s sweeter side, one assumes that this monstrous, possessed version isn’t exactly totally new for Andrea and the kids.

Though It’s About Time is ultimately a unique but fleeting triumph for the Amityville franchise, it gives a clear vision of what the series could have been striving for. When Amityville embraces the weird, surreal, gory, and emotionally resonant aesthetic is when it’s at its best. Much like the other Amityville movies, the plot doesn’t hold up to much scrutiny, but it’s always easier to suspend disbelief when the filmmakers are attempting something exciting and new. By divorcing itself from the greater Amityville story, It’s About Time gave us the franchise’s most surprising hidden gem.

About

Sara Century is a contributing writer for Manor Vellum. She is a writer of short stories, articles about comics and film, and many, many zines. She is also an artist, comic creator, filmmaker, and podcaster, and she used to be a musician. She’s written for SyFy.com, StarTrek.com, Bustle, Gayly Dreadful, and many more. Visit her website at SaraCentury.com. Find Sara’s webcomic with Tana Thornock and her podcast about comics with SE Fleenor. Follow her on Twitter @SaraCentury.

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A membrane of texts about the human condition and the horror genre. A MANOR feature. Email pitches and/or inquiries to contact@MANORHQ.com.