Amityville Christmas Vacation - A Silent Fright, Holy Fright Chrismassy Review
Director: Steve Rudzinski
Starring: Autumn Ivy, Steve Rudzinski, Garrett Hunter, Joshua Antoon
Written by: Bill Murphy, Steve Rudzinski
Produced by: Steve Rudzinski
Cinematography by: Scott Lewis, Steve Rudzinski
Original Score by: Mike Treblicock
Wally has won a vacation to sunny Amityville. While there he has met a woman: a GHOST woman. Can the spirit of Christmas bring these two opposites together?
Who would have thought that the murders perpetrated by Ronald DeFeo Jr. in 1974 and the subsequent paranormal activity linked to the house the crimes were committed in would have led to the creation of a film series that is currently sitting at 44 and counting. With no copyright restrictions in place the Amityville story has given wannabe filmmakers free reign to run amok with the property. From 2011 onwards it has gone to strange places such as 'Witches of Amityville Academy', 'Amityville in the Hood' and 'Amityville in Space'. There is even a festive feature in the mix with 'Amityville Christmas Vacation'.
Before watching the film, I was well aware about the lack of quality that the 'Amityville' series has now become notorious for but nothing on earth could have prepared me for the abomination that is 'Amityville Christmas Vacation'. Shot almost entirely in what appears to be the director's house with the exception of a montage at a local park and shopping centre it tells the story of Wally Griswold (do you get it?) a cop who wins a contest to stay at a house in Amityville over Christmas where a ghostly encounter sparks romance.
It's hard to know where to begin with this attempt to make a film because it is a textbook example of everything you shouldn't do as a filmmaker. Under the stewardship of Steve Rudzinski who is the writer/director and cinematographer/editor/star of the film, we aren't dealing with any regular filmmaker. He comes across as a prodigy of Neil Breen's filmmaking masterclass as a man who wears many hats only none of them fit. It isn't a case of Rudzinski spreading himself too thin by taking on multiple roles but that he doesn't know what he is doing. His naive perseverance leads to excruciating results.
Framed as a horror/comedy it is neither scary nor funny with a plot that was probably scribbled on the back of a napkin after an unhealthy amount of eggnog. The dialogue too is painful to sit through with some absolutely pathetic attempts at humour that is at the same level of a child hyper on skittles trying to make their family laugh. The most "clever” joke the film implements is that the action doesn't take place in the actual Amityville house but the one across the street. That is the level of comedy the film aspires to achieve showing how much of a miserable failure it is.
A poor script can badly affect an actor's performance but here the attempts to act (even in line with the tone of the film) are abysmal all around. Leading by a poor example is Rudzinski as hero cop Wally Griswald in what is one of the most obnoxious and irritating performances I've ever seen, where every aspect of his performance from diction to facial expressions are so exaggerated that even the most seasoned panto actor would tell them to reign things in. This level of poor performance filters down to the rest of the cast who don't even reach the dizzy heights of a primary school nativity play. It feels like Rudzinski has asked his mates to star in his film and out of pity they agreed to do it.
The actual look of the film is indicative of the lack of care or effort that was put into the project as Rudzinski's idea of lighting is just to stick a random gel over a light to give the film a sense of atmosphere but it ends up making every shot look incredibly ugly. It certainly doesn't help when the set lights are clearly visible in many shots as the attitude seems to be "just put the camera somewhere and we'll act around it". In scenes set outdoors the overexposed lighting is blinding and practically unwatchable and when the action moves to the local park and shopping centre the change in the type of camera used makes it look like the kind of film that would belong in a serial killer's "home movie" collection. It makes what is supposed to be a cute montage unintentionally into something more sinister. Then there are the establishing shots which I am convinced are just computer screensavers slotted into the film and the image of the Amityville house looks like it was drawn on clipart.
Rudzinski's crimes don't stop there as his work in the editing booth is on the same level as every other aspect of the film he takes charge in. Within seconds you realise that the runtime of just over 45 minutes might be its only saving grace but the manner in which scenes last twice as long as they should be means that the film feels longer than something like 'Oppenheimer' or 'Killers of the Flower Moon'.
As a fan of films that are so bad that they are good I went into 'Amityville Christmas Vacation' thinking it could be fun but my naivety blinded me to the nightmarish reality of what it actually is, a cynical cash grab. I know how difficult it can be to make a film and I admire anyone who takes a crack at it (even when they fail) but when a film is designed to lure unsuspecting victims into watching what is the equivalent of a 10 year old playing with the family camcorder for the first time I have no sympathy for them. In every conceivable way possible I am convinced that 'Amityville Christmas Vacation' is not just one of the worst Christmas horror films but one of the worst films ever made.