With a quantum leap to before the Lutz family embarking on a journey in haunted-house terror, Tommy Lee Wallace wrote this misbegotten prequel which completely announces prematurely that the residence is a portal to Hades. The kitchen faucet dispenses blood and the mother Dolores (an insipid Rutanya Alda) chuckles as if it her mind were playing macabre tricks on her. For continuity’s sake, flies are omens. Upon discovering a tunnel into the netherworld, Dolores commences laundry duty. It’s nearly untenable how oblivious the family is to the highlighted signs of otherworldly visitors.
This almost marks the most conspicuous use of first-person POV for the demon as it invisibly prowls around the house throwing sheets over crucifixes and engaging mischievous pranks like ding dong ditch on the front door. The orgy of evidence for the Montelli family to relocate is overwhelmingly frontloaded. The subtler nuances are more skin-crawling such as when Sonny (Jack Magner) hears a scabrous voice warning him to “pull the trigger” on his abusive father Anthony (Burt Young).
For once though, the inhabitants aren’t a felicitous group. Anthony is a brutish figure who is constantly flogging his kids with a belt and molests his wife, Dolores is a henpecked enabler and the two elder children defile themselves with incestuous intercourse. I do like how the poltergeist feeds off of their collective dysfunction. This is not a lighthearted romp. To its merit, It’s infernally uncompromising.
At the same time, it’s sensationalistic and overproduced with the house tilting on its axis every other minute. The sister seduction will leave viewers with a prolific frown but its impression is a guttural knot in the stomach. Then again horror movies should be fatalistic and not warrant a tidy, uplifting resolution. The structure is asymmetrical with the massacre occurring before a reproduction of The Exorcist III’s jail-cell exorcism. Through it all, Magner gives a tour-de-force performance as Sonny is put through the ringer.
Rating: 2.25 out of 5