I was surprised to read yet another Amityville film is being released. Even more surprising was the fact it stars brilliant character actress Jennifer Jason Leigh, who plays the mother of Bella Thorne‘s curious teen. Their new home seems to be somewhat on the spooky side and it’s going to take more than fly spray to get those bugs off the window. Will the family survive the terror of the property’s ongoing curse…?
Of more interest is the film’s troubled production. Intended as a follow up to the 1979 original, it was shot three years ago and is only now getting an airing via Google Play and a limited cinema release. Leigh has since had triumphs with The Hateful Eight and Twin Peaks: The Return but nevertheless, what is she doing in this umpteenth franchise entry…?
One for the “seemed a good idea at the time” file perhaps. While we ponder this strange mixture of formidable talent and belated continuation, let’s look at some other heavyweight performers who wound up taking a walk on the less distinguished side of a movie’s legacy…
DENNIS HOPPER in TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE 2
The first Texas Chainsaw Massacre was a chilling, documentary-style account of mass slaughter at the hands of a deranged clan with a taste for human flesh. It burned a hole in the American consciousness in 1974 and for the next twelve years audiences figured the nightmare had been left behind. Director Tobe Hooper had other ideas – in 1986 he made a follow up with the infamous Cannon Films.
Part 2 shifted gear to become a gory black comedy. And to the surprise of cinemagoers the lead role was taken by Dennis Hopper, iconic star of Easy Rider and Apocalypse Now. He played lawman-on-a-mission “Lefty” Enright, who was on course for revenge on the maniacal Sawyer family for what they did to his relatives.
Made around the same time as his extreme turn in Blue Velvet, it was a surprisingly low key Hopper character. However Enright did go beserk with the title implement in the movie’s deranged climax, so viewers expecting him to lose his sh*t weren’t disappointed. Why he signed up to the unusual sequel isn’t clear but this interview should give you a bit of an insight into the actor’s process.
DANNY GLOVER in PREDATOR 2
1987 saw Arnold Schwarzenegger plant his action flag on the Hollywood map via Predator. Yet when it came to the next chapter in the franchise, it appeared the Austrian Oak was all burnt out from being chased around the jungle by the extraterrestrial hunter of humanity. Or at least they weren’t paying him enough to battle the helmeted horror again. To fill the big man’s shoes in 1990, director Stephen Hopkins turned to a surprising source – Lethal Weapon‘s Danny Glover.
Known for parts in Silverado and The Color Purple, his acting credentials were sound, and he had the required action chops from his partnership with Mel Gibson‘s Riggs. But he was the more sedate side of the equation, watching on as Gibson raised hell. Certainly not the sort of guy you’d think would give a battering to a hostile alien.
His casting proved to be an inspired choice, lending gravitas and grit to a film that had a mixed response from critics and fans. He didn’t return for ensuing instalments and Mike Harrigan faded into the canon. As for why Glover boarded the ride… well he seemed happy to take the opportunity, as this footage shows.
GEORGE C. SCOTT in THE EXORCIST III
As with The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, writer William Peter Blatty‘s The Exorcist defined the American horror genre in the Seventies. Exorcist II: The Heretic failed to build on that momentum. But many years later in 1990 Blatty decided to make a film based on Legion, the follow up novel he wrote to the original tale. The result, about a satanic serial killer being pursued by Lt. Kinderman (a previously-used character) was brought to the screen under an imposed title of The Exorcist III.
Actor Lee J. Cobb, who played Kinderman in William Friedkin‘s 1973 original, had passed away. His replacement caught many off guard – George C. Scott, the star legendary for his performances in Anatomy Of A Murder, Dr. Strangelove, Patton and numerous others. He was drawn to the quality of the script and its blending of horror and dramatic depth.
Sadly the production was subject to creative differences and reshoots, so what emerged wasn’t what Blatty had hoped. The director didn’t want the threequel title but having a charismatic presence at the forefront of the action helped the release considerably. Here the cast and crew discuss what it was like working alongside C. Scott’s mercurial talent.
MICHAEL CAINE in JAWS: THE REVENGE
My final entry has to be the mother of all surprise castings. Jaws launched Steven Spielberg‘s career into the stratosphere. The watchable Jaws 2 picked up the story before a lacklustre Jaws 3-D kicked it into the long seagrass. Over a decade later, a new movie was announced, to take place in the Bahamas where another killer fish follows the unlucky Brody family in order to exact bloody vengeance.
Washed-up pilot Hoagie was played by none other than Michael Caine. His character became the love interest for Lorraine Gary‘s widow Ellen (who was married to Roy Scheider‘s Chief Brody in the first two films). Caine was reportedly drawn to the idea of being involved with the Jaws legacy, though the exotic location might have had something to do with his decision.
Infamously, he missed the Oscar ceremony where he received an award for Hannah And Her Sisters as he was busy battling a giant rubber shark. And his quote about the result goes down in history as one of the best of all time: “I have never seen it, but by all accounts it is terrible. However, I have seen the house that it built, and it is terrific.”
Director Joseph Sargent explains how the bizarre sequel came to be in this interview.
Sources: ComingSoon, YouTube
If you want to see Amityville: The Awakening, it’s available free on Google Play until Nov 8th.