October 20, 2013

Amy (2013)

"With the psychic power of clairvoyance, an extra-sensory perception, Amy starts witnessing haunting visions as her entire Amish village begins to fall into demonic control."

Although "Amy" is typical of the low-budget awfulness which I usually tell people to avoid, the Amish setting is rather fascinating. There aren't many horror movies with the Amish in them that I can think of other than "Deadly Blessing" (1981), and apart from "Witness" (1985) and a couple of episodes of "Friday the 13th: The Series" involving a possessed quilt, the Amish haven't really been a source of entertainment for me at all. Consequently, as I don't know much about the Amish way of life except that they are a Christian sect who have chosen to separate themselves from the rest of the world (and have taken John 17:13-16 very literally), the novelty value sold this to me.

Having said that, I've been to Lancaster, Pennsylvania, where "Amy" was filmed and can tell you that the Amish people depicted in this movie are more like Mennonites. Mennonites are the ones who don't mind using a bit of electricity or modern tools to get their jobs done. They also run a lot of stores where they sell baked goods and some quite outstanding gummy worms, which is the only reason I've ever had any contact with them. Truth be told, as much as I admire their simple lifestyle, I find them all to be a bit creepy.

Playing up the creepy factor of their otherness, however, is not this movie's intention. Instead, the agenda is something which you will either find absolutely hilarious or very insulting depending on your point of view. I don't want to get ahead of myself and spoil the ending for you because the way it's delivered is supposed to be a surprise which is impossible to guess before it actually happens, but suffice it to say that there's only one infamous '80s slasher movie I know of where the villain has the same motivation. I'll leave a clue in the labels below this post.

"I see possessed people."

Because I misread the synopsis, I half-expected "Amy" to be a "Carrie" clone, but it isn't. It's a tale of demonic possessions in an Amish village which only one girl, Jessica DiGiovanni as Amy, has the power to see. She isn't believed even when people start dying, which strains her relationships with everyone around her, but then Christopher Atkins conveniently shows up as a magician/exorcist to help her save the day. That, give or take some cheap CGI effects, is as good as the story gets. Remember Christopher Atkins from "The Blue Lagoon" (1980) with Brooke Shields? Even if you do, you'll barely recognise him 33 years on. He's really aged, but unfortunately, his acting hasn't improved to go with it.

Despite "Amy" being a serious (but poorly made) horror movie, there's some amusement to be had around 40 minutes in when Christopher Atkins is speaking in his normal American accent and Amy exclaims, "You're English!" I know the real Amish are a bit cut off from us "fancy people", and some of them speak with a strange German accent, but that's just ridiculous in the context of this movie. Amy doesn't have any accent but an American one either, nor does she do any of the stereotypical Old English "thees" and "thous" which you might expect from religious folks. Thus, I don't know how and why that line was left in when Christopher Atkins clearly had no intention of ever trying to do an English accent. Maybe it's because Indian writer/director R.P. Patnaik (better known for Bollywood movies) was unable to tell the difference.

Blaming the rest of the movie's inadequacies on R.P. Patnaik's nationality and an imagined language barrier which may never have been a problem is the only way I can explain how a production with an alleged $2,000,000 budget turned out to be so horrible. I have no idea what really happened, but as that's twice the budget which The Asylum normally use, I'd guess that the real budget was a lot less. "Amy" looks like something you'd find buried in a Pendulum Pictures or Echo Bridge multipack, and with so many one-off actors and actresses in it, it's more like a $2,000 movie (plus whatever Christopher Atkins' fee for the day might be).

"God - He can't find us any better than Santa Claus."

Apart from Jessica DiGiovanni trying her hardest with a terrible script, everyone around her is either wooden or embarrassing to watch. I'd like to say that the older Amish women are the worst, but they're clearly amateurs and Christopher Atkins is not, so his performance wins a special booby prize for cringeworthiness. Runner-up is Kurt Mason Peterson as Amy's boyfriend Robert because he's so inconsistent. His prize is that he got to kiss and fondle Jessica DiGiovanni in the least erotic way possible during a scene on a bench which looks as if it lasts from morning until evening.

The passage of time is the biggest problem in "Amy". While I don't often tear a movie apart for breaking the Aristotlean rules about unity of time, there's no way I can overlook the mess that's been made here. I have no idea if the events are supposed to take place over a couple of days, a week, or a month. One very noticeable mistake is how Amy's visits to Chris' magic circle in the barn don't match up to the dusk and dawn rules which he explains to her either, but there are plenty more like that if you look for them.

On the plus side, the storytelling isn't too bad, and I'll give everyone credit for trying to make something a little bit different. As ever, it's the execution and production values which let things down, but "Amy" is still worth a rental if you have nothing else to watch.

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