Written and directed by Thomas J. Churchill, Amityville Uprising begins with a view of the beautiful city, highlighting several friendly locals. We then get a hard aerial cut that shows a massive explosion taking place in Amityville. The next Transition Cup leaves us in a military installation in chaos; bodies lie as military personnel scramble to locate survivors. Seriously injured scientist tells soldiers chemicals have been released and are now in the air. A warning is being sent to the citizens of Amityville, detailing the approach of acid rain and to stay indoors. And if it’s bad enough to rain acid rain, this chemical rain has the power to turn people into undead, too.
When you think of Amityville, an immediate association can be that of the classic 1979 film Amityville Horror, so it’s interesting to see a horror movie set in the same location offer such a drastic change of tone. That said, while there are ultimately some decent action sequences in the second half, the movie does grapple with horrific pacing and tone issues – which makes a big part of the viewing experience feels like a drag.
With a plethora of supporting characters introduced early on, our primary cast involves the cops within Amityville Station. Much of the screen time, as well as the more emotional aspects of the film, is spent with that of Sgt. Hyphen (Scott C. Roe). Beside him is Lieutenant Howie Stevenson (Jones tank top), Officer Malloy (Troy Fromin), Officer Nina Rossi (Kelly lynn reiter) and Detective Lance McQueen (Mike ferguson). Given that the vast majority of the film takes place within the precinct, the sheer amount of characters holds the promise of chaos in such a confined space. However, what’s really weird is how much the movie opts for a sort of slice of life focusing on these characters, keeping all the acid rain thing in the background. For much of the film, we spend most of our time with the officers in the compound, listening to them talk about a range of topics.
That said, among those conversations is the somewhat heartfelt, but awkward, relationship between Sgt. Dash and his son Jimmy (Kole Benfield). There’s a distance between the two, but Dash wants to make things right – his desire and effort is genuine, allowing for a heartfelt emotional connection that adds extra tension to the narrative when things go to hell. It is frankly the deepest Amityville Uprising goes in terms of action, emotion or suspense.
The action is relatively conventional compared to a plethora of other infected horror stories. Those who come in contact with acid rain not only have a painful reaction that involves their skin boiling and peeling, but over time they become like zombies. As the infected enter the compound, loved ones work in favor to create a claustrophobic aura, creating spells of tension as the characters slowly make their way through the hallways.
This action is accompanied by a decent amount of cheese. Some of them seem on purpose – and in these cases, humor works. But there are times when something serious or ominous is trying to be portrayed, it can be giggling. Depending on individual tastes, this can take you out of the suspense or have a fun and cheesy time. That said, when you look at the larger image of what the movie presents, the cheese factor is weird; especially in the narrative moments where it aims to explore the rhythms of the story which are meant to be emotional.
A more problematic issue for the film, however, is its pace. It takes a decent 40 minutes to get the ball rolling on anything action-related. The topic of acid rain becomes more of a secondary element – attracting more attention via brief interlude scenes where people come into contact with it, or it’s a topic of conversation on news stations. It’s confusing. The attention to character set-up is nice and all, but this establishment undermines a good deal of what could have been provided for the action-horror component of the film.
Sadly, this is one of those movies with a neat premise but weak execution.
Amityville Uprising is now available on VOD points of sale.