Movie Reviews 82 – Amityville Horror (1979)

Amittyville HorrorThis one brings back memories and for anyone who’s seen the movie (or sequels and remakes) the image of the house with the two quarter round windows is unmistakable. While it was not the first movie that used the “Based on a true story” marketing ploy, it was the first one I remember doing so.  I have to confess that because of that I was somewhat suckered into taking it much more seriously than I should have and it somehow did make the movie more real and terrifying to watch. Sure I didn’t really believe in a haunted house, but it certainly gave the impression that there were some people that really believed and that alone was enough to make me inch forward, if not jump out of my seat as I watched the movie.

The story is about a real house in Amityville, New York where in 1974 a man slaughtered all six members of his family. The following year the house was sold to the Lutz family, but they stayed a mere 28 days before leaving in haste, claiming paranormal experiences while there. This movie is the Lutz family`s story.

James Brolin and Margot Kidder play George and Kathy Lutz who, with their three children, move into the house to start a new life. Almost immediately strange things start to happen beginning with the family priest (Rod Steiger) trying to bless the house and being spurned away hearing voices. Flies swarm in a room, one of the kids adopts an invisible friend, some of the walls begin to ooze, the priest, now back home, develops boils and chills, George wakes up at 3:15 am (the time of the killing spree) and crosses are found inverted in the house. These are just some of the strange events that build up to the eventual climactic family departure.

As you can imagine, the events in the book and movie have undergone significant scrutiny and criticism in the following years, but this has not deterred Hollywood (perhaps inspired it) to continue to churn out movies, as of 2011 no less that 10 sequels or remakes have been made, and I would assume still counting.

Amittyville Horror bookI also recall reading the book (Jay Anson) right after seeing the movie, a habit I picked up after I realized that any decent movie based on a book most likely had a book that was in fact much better than the movie. I did enjoying it even more than the movie and would recommend it for a good scare. While most of the book is what was filmed, there are differences and nuances that can only be appreciated as a late night read. It had one particular passage, only briefly hinted at in the movie, that scared the crap out of me.

I’ve stayed away from the sequels and remake so far but some of those DVDs are sitting on my shelves now, waiting to be watched. Scariest thought is mustering up to the courage to watch those as I don’t recall them being well received. Stay tuned.

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