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The Amityville Horror (1979)

| January 16, 1979 | 0 Comments

The poster for The Amityville Horror tells us – practically screams at us – the words “For God’s Sake, Get Out!” Having seen the movie, I’m not sure if that is meant for the characters or the audience.

The Amityville Horror is a haunted house movie with termites. It doesn’t really move so much as it slowly ambles its way from one cliché to the next and about every 20 minutes an object will move by itself. The characters here have no personality and no energy to speak of. Even the ghosts exude a measure of lethargy and compared to the actors that’s pretty swift. If you can imagine a Corona commercial that runs 117 minutes you get the idea.

The story is based on the real-life murder case of Ron DeFeo, who early on the morning of November 13, 1974 murdered his family with a double barreled shotgun. Eleven months later, The George and Kathy Lutz moved into the house (which they bought as a suspiciously low low price) and 21 weeks later fled in terror leaving their belongings behind claiming that an unseen evil force drove them from their home

For years, the Lutz family stuck to their story and it was only a few years ago that they went public again to say “Ya know, we gotta be honest here . . . we may have stretched some of the facts juuuuuust a weensy little bit.” I wish they had done that before the world got inundated with the crappiest nine-movie franchise this side of Friday the 13th. Thanks for nothing guys.

After the Lutz’s made their story public it was put into the hands of Jay Ansen who turned into a book that got turned into this movie. It is pretty faithful to the book except that, ya know, reading scenes in which characters walk around the house and scenes of chopping wood and scenes of sitting in front of the fireplace and scenes of aerobic exercise do not really translate well when you’re making a HORROR MOVIE!! It’s a sad state of affairs when the scariest thing in a haunted house movie is hard rain.

George and Kathy are played by James Brolin (the only straight man in the world who can freely admit a love for Barbara Streisand without getting quizzical stares) and Margot Kidder (trying to star in at least one movie that doesn’t contain the word “Kryptonite”). This is an odd couple: He has a weird fascination with the fireplace and she has an affinity for fetish-wear (pigtails, schoolgirl outfits etc). That’s about the limit of their quirkiness. Everything else about them is about as exciting as drywall.

Seriously, this is the most boring couple I’ve ever seen in a movie. They don’t do anything . . . I mean, nothing . . . ever. It’s so bad that even when they run for their lives they drag their heels. Their function in the movie: Get nervous, look shocked, argue, reiterate plot points, rinse and repeat.

The Lutz’s haven’t even unpacked when ominous things begin to slooooooooooooowly reveal themselves, like a chair that rocks by itself, blood the wells up in the toilet and 1500 dollars that suddenly disappears. I still haven’t figured out what the evil force in the house stole a fistful of cash but the fact that I pondered that question just goes to prove that I have too much time on my hands, so I’ll move on.

Rod Steiger arrives early in the film, walks into the house when no one is there and is soon forced out of the house by violent vomiting and a plague of flies. He spends the rest of the movie slowly losing his health and little bits of his mind. He tries to warn Kathy but the demons are apparently working at the phone company because all she gets is static.

I was also puzzled why after these terrible events: Brolin becoming temporarily possessed and nearly takes out the family with a double-bladed axe; blood burping up in the toilet, the walls bleeding; the priest coming down with a state of catatonia, it’s only then that Kathy suddenly comes to the brilliant conclusion “Maybe we should move”. Watching the movie I said, before I thought “Good! I’ll help ya pack!” The movie is a trial, its so deadbeat that you scratch your head to figure out how it became a hit at the box office. At 117 minutes it’s Hell to watch and even worse to ponder. The worst thing about the movie, the subtitles which inform us that it’s “The 10th Day”, “The 17th Day”, “The Last Day”. Bad enough when a bad movie seems endless, worse when it reminds you how endless it really is.

About the Author:

Jerry Roberts is a film critic and operator of two websites, Armchair Cinema and Armchair Oscars.
(1979) View IMDB Filed in: Horror, Thriller
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