Based on the alleged ‘real-life’ experiences of the Lutz family in Amityville, New York, and their purchase of a house where a family were brutally murdered, this 70s horror film is a cult classic and still ranks with the best in its scares.
George (a brooding James Brolin) and Maggie (Margot Kidder, being adorable) are recently married, and move into the house (its windows look like eyes – aaaaaargh!) with Maggie’s three young children. George is not their father, which is kind of important in the journey to come. Strange things start happening; a nun visits the house and is violently sick, the youngest child starts playing with an imaginary friend called Jody, the dog gets spooked out, flies swarm, and the house shouts GET OUTTTTTTTTT at a priest. Let’s not forget Maggie waking up screaming ‘She was shot in the head!’. Unsettling times indeed.
Tension builds as George starts to look REALLY ill and gets very tetchy with his wife and stepchildren. This could or could not explain why he takes the dog for an evening walk without his top on, or wearing really bad y-fronts to wander around the house at night – but heck, it was the 70s and George is a real mannnnn. There are many similarities to The Shining – both Stephen King’s novel and The Amityville Horror: A True Story by Jay Anson were published in 1977, although Kubrick’s The Shining was released one year after The Amityville Horror. Whether it is the house affecting George, or a perceived illness, is something only unknown to his family. We, the viewers, really know what’s going on; Kubrick’s The Shining however is more ambiguous. You’ll also find references to The Exorcist (1973), with central characters’ religious beliefs tested.
In today’s stalk, slash and splatter, some audiences may find The Amityville Horror slow in comparison but it takes time to tell its story and falls into well-acted drama like many 1970s horror films do (see – again – The Exorcist, The Omen et al). The ‘reveal’ of what’s behind the house is somewhat disappointing, and you will question why the hell the Lutz family don’t just leave as soon as the scares start. Yet it will draw you in, and on the final haunting night there’s some very creepy stuff that gives payback on staying with the film so long. Those stairs! *shudder*. Kudos must also go to Harry the dog, who provides some amazing canine acting!
(Erm…let’s not talk about the 2005 remake with Ryan Reynolds, although he gets Brolin’s beard nearrrllyyyy right).
GORE RATING: 3/5
Watch it for: One of the best ‘bad place’ horror films
Watch out for: Get outttttttttttttttttttttttttttttttttt
Next up…Dolls (1987)