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Saturday, November 10, 2012

Day 315: The Amityville Horror

The Amityville Horror
Home is where the horror is

The haunted house, as a means of delivering horror, goes far beyond film. Stories have been passed down through the generations, speaking of evil spirits and unholy things that dwell within our own homes. We've all been alone in a house and felt a creeping uneasiness. We know full well that no one else is home, but are sure that there is something “else” with us. Creaking floors, settling foundations, doors that never stay closed; while these may have simple explanations, the mind runs wild with fear and anticipation. It's this real-life fear that allows the haunted house story to still strike fear into the hearts of an eager audience.

The Amityville Horror is a 1979 horror film based on the the book of the same name written by Jay Anson. The story is said to be based on real-life paranormal events witnessed by the Lutz family. The movie stars James Brolin (The Car, The Cape Town Affair) as George Lutz and Margot Kidder (Superman, Black Christmas) as his wife Kathy. An unknown assailant murders an entire family without a motive in a house in Amityville, New York. Years later, George and Kathy Lutz purchase the house and move in with Kathy's three children. While George is not religious, Kathy asks Father Delaney (Rod Steiger, On The Waterfront, Oklahoma!) to bless their new house. He experiences trouble while trying to do his blessings, including trouble breathing, a door inexplicably shutting and being surrounded by flies, despite being out of season. He hears a disembodied voice yell “Get out!” and overcome with sickness, Father Delaney flees. As the days go by, George starts to change, becoming more sullen and aggressive. He ignores his work and the family finances, causing Kathy to become afraid. Her daughter Amy also begins to act strangely, saying she has a new invisible friend named Jody. When Kathy's sister, a nun, comes to visit, she immediately becomes sick in the house and leaves. When one of Kathy's boys has a window randomly shut on his hand, it becomes apparent that a malevolent force is present in the house. Father Delaney tries to use faith and prayer to rid the house of evil, but it follows him even to the church, eventually taking his eyesight. Research reveals that the house was built on a tribal burial ground and was once home to a devil worshiper. Will George be able to free himself from the grip of the house before it's too late?

"Oh, Choppy. You're the only one who gets me."

This was the first time I had watched The Amityville Horror and thanks to pop-culture references and spoofs, I had high expectations. The house in which the story is based on was actually for sale not too long ago, so that probably increased my desire to see the film. Sadly, I cam away very disappointed. When it was first released, the movie performed very well at the box office, earning more than $80 million. Perhaps my expectations were too high or maybe I've just seen too many horror movies, but I felt that the movie came off as middling and tedious. The story itself is interesting on the surface and the general mystery of what is going on with the house kept me interested. The payoff is rather weak, made all the more worse with an extra-long run time. The movie does go the religious route similar to The Exorcist, but it feels like they didn't know where to go with it. All the focus on Father Delaney could have been cut from the movie without any damage to the story itself. The is some excitement and action in the movie, but the blood and gore is pretty tame, even by 1970's standards.

It's not all terrible, though. There are some very good, recognizable scenes in the movie, such as George climbing the stairs with an axe, the walls bleeding, and Father Delaney being surrounded by flies. The music is also very good, receiving an Academy Award nomination for composer Lalo Schifirin. James Brolin is good in his role that requires a wide range of emotion. He is able to pull off both a loving husband and a deranged maniac convincingly. Margot Kidder is alright, but overacts in certain scenes. The same could be said for some supporting roles as well. The direction is good thanks to some creative angles and letting scenes run their course. The editing was a little bit off, at least to me, as certain scenes felt like they came out of nowhere. 

The flies love Father Shitface

I expected a lot out of The Amityville Horror, but it didn't meet my expectations. The film is slow most of the time, but there are a few good scares and jolts. The music is good and there are some fun, iconic scenes. The movie is a little too long and the acting could have been better. The mystery is enough to keep the movie going, but the ending was not very satisfying. By today's standards, the movie lacks the necessary violence and blood to be truly thrilling. It's fun to know that there is an actual house where the movie was based on, even though the movie was actually filmed in Toms River, New Jersey. While The Amityville Horror isn't great by any means, it still has it's moments and is a good starter movie for people who do not like horror.


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