Now Streaming: Amityville Karen (2022) - Reviewed


Shawn C Phillips' debut feature is a hilarious satire of an infamous meme and simultaneously a bravura example of low budget filmmaking.  In direct contrast to last year's woefully restrained Karen, Phillips and his team of guerilla horror acolytes take the cliches head on, lampooning the icon of privilege and entitlement with comedic aplomb. Featuring an unforgettable central performance, Amityville Karen breathes poisonous life into a floundering franchise with a meandering fever dream of demonic possession, neighborhood scandals, and bizarre characters who are perfectly at home in Phillips' circus of absurdity.   

Karen is a code enforcer who doles out social punishments on the regular, nearly drowning in hypocrisy.  In the midst of her latest enterprise, she steals a bottle of wine that transforms her into a conduit for evil entities from beyond.  Laura Francesca stars as the eponymous Karen.  There's a nuance to her performance that is almost lost underneath the corny veneer and this is most likely by design.  Underneath the (purposefully) bad wig and clich├ęd dialogue, Francesca embodies a wounded and lonely soul whose only recourse is to harm everyone and everything around her, while also violating the standards upon which she ferociously maintains and the result is a memorable turn that might otherwise have been unremarkable.  

Phillips builds a dream-like ambiance throughout.  Much in the same vein as Sharks of the Corn(also from SRS), Karen takes its time, introducing the viewer to a rogue's gallery of outlandish characters, several meaningless (in the best possible way) plot lines and mandatory naked women.  While the promise of succubi and pools of blood is part of the price of admission, it is the charming, awkward, and outright lunacy of the journey that is of import.  What could have been a forgettable, stilted takedown of one of the more on brand memes in human history mutates into a dreamlike habitation of the mind and body of a truly vile person while also making fun of the insanity of 2022 in America.  Additionally, Karen also hints at a secret occult underground much like Sharks, yet, here, Phillips takes the lunacy of those who worship ancient gods to the next level, both satirizing this films’ cinematic ancestors and praising them for their influence, creating an almost perfect duality of camp and trashy gore effects. 

Now available for digital rental, Amityville Karen is exactly what you expect it to be and more.  This is a film made by someone with a clear love of the genre and a crew who are having a blast with the ludicrous material.  If you approach this with the care and consideration that its creators did, then there is much to mine in between endless, rhythmic chants of “I want to speak to your manager...”

--Kyle Jonathan