WEIRDO’WEEN #22: The Amityville Horror [1979]

weirdoween2015Because nothing is scarier than a film that claims to be based on a true story, right? When it comes to marriage, newlyweds generally move into a large house, raise a family, and live happily ever after..right? But what happens when the house you bought had a group of mass murder happen inside? Or what if there were spirits of the dead who still remained inside, wanting you out? That’s what happened to George and Kathy Lutz [and their three children] when they move into the colonial house on the river’s edge seemed ideal: quaint, spacious and amazingly affordable. They had hoped this amazing home would become their dream, only for everything to end up in terror!

As if this movie isn’t already terrifying enough – I mean, I used to hate it for how scared I’d get – Stephanie and I actually watched a documentary on the house itself earlier last month, and everything I knew about the story went from scary to fear. Although there has been multiple versions of this film/story told; today, we’re going to talk about The Amityville Horror:

weirdo'ween-#22Everyone knows the legend about that house in Amityville, New York – the Dutch Colonial on 112 Ocean Avenue. The movie version of the story begins in 1974, when Ronnie DeFeo Jr. murdered his family inside the family house, shooting them all in their sleep. Not even a year later, George and Kathy Lutz bought the house and moved in with their three children and the family dog. Even though they were aware of the tragedy that occurred in the home, George had made plans to fix it up and start a new life with his family, especially after their recent marriage. After all, “houses don’t have memories”..right? But then, things went wrong – Horribly wrong. After only living there for 28 days, the family left the house and fled Amityville, never to turn back.

Of course, the story was first a book, Jay Anson had written a retelling of what happened inside during the month that the Lutz family lived there; and his novel was a bestseller. Because of this, there are several different variations on what happened during those 28 days, even with George and Kathy Lutz themselves. So, for those of you who already know the story, you’ll notice that it’s hard to distinguish what is and isn’t true facts. Some of you may not even believe it at all – assuming it’s a senseless cash-grab. However, I am one of those people that has started to believe in this account of a haunted house, after watching rather intelligent interviews with the Lutz family and paranormal investigators on scene; especially in that documentary I saw a month ago, But that’s besides the point. What matters most about The Amityville Horror is how it translates itself as a horror movie.

For starters, the setting in the movie means everything. The movie itself was filmed in New Jersey, and not actually filmed in Amityville, but the house chosen is particularly creepy to look at, especially during scenes that take place at night. Those two windows on the top floor start to become characters of their own. They stare out aimlessly into the night, giving the viewer this horrible feeling that they’re being watched.. at all times. There is also enough ghost-like activity [Paranormal Activity? No. we’re not going that route!] going on to keep you interested in what’s going to happen next. Just don’t expect the evil inside to start right away. In fact, it builds slowly, creating this wonderful sense of dread..It’s as if you know it’s going to happen, but you can’t tell when. You truly have to appreciate a good build-up without that much special effects to appreciate what the movie is trying to accomplish, and it works surprisingly well! When it finally picks up – more on this later – the film brings restless terror with great piles of blood caused by the curse and the usual ghastly situations that come with a movie about a haunted house.

I really appreciate the creepy atmosphere that finds itself present in many scenes. The use of dark lighting in the house along with the music felt like it was effective and certainly made me fear the house. On top of that, the house that was used looks just like the real house in Amityville. I really enjoy knowing that the filmmakers really put the very most effort into the Lutz family’s claims onto the big screen – making it as realistic as possible: the walls dripped with ooze,  ‘Jody‘ was often mentioned and briefly seen, George woke up at 3:00 AM all the time, the flies were appearing seemingly at random, and supernatural voices were heard. It was great to see them make a film adaptation that was accurate to the claimed events, especially in such a well done manner!

And then there is the things I didn’t like in the movie..

Firstly, the acting feels wooden. Margot Kidder and James Brolin aren’t what one would call very good actors, and what’s worse is that their chemistry is quite ineffective. Unfortunately, this is proved by the fact that some of the dialogue for the George and Kathy Lutz [as characters] feels kind of cheesy and therefore; laughable [“You make me feel like a kid in the back seat of a car.” I mean, what?! who says that?] It doesn’t help the fact that these two are supposed to be the main characters, it’s really off putting and it just draws your interest towards waiting to see something creepy to happen in the house even more. Which brings me to my next issue. [I did like Rod Steiger‘s performance as The Priest, though!]

The film moves rather slowly, especially in around the middle mark. The film wastes a lot of time on [not so interesting] drama sequences, and sometimes forgets that it is supposed to be a haunted house movie. Seeing this newly married couple argue makes sense, [what couple doesn’t argue?] it’s just that it isn’t why I’m watching this particular film. Also, the editing came off as amateur as it gets, almost to the point of hilarity! These are arguably the most important flaws, because they’re the ones that should be done right – except they aren’t.

Overall, The Amityville Horror is a slow-burner for sure. Unfortunately, what we get in the end is barely worth the 28 days of build-up [or in our case, 2 hours] While you’re watching, your common sense tells you that leaving the house a few weeks earlier would have probably been the smartest move, but I guess you just can’t walk away from a “killer” deal, right? For a movie that used to scare me, it isn’t nearly as terrifying as I remember it. Sure, it’s an effective film, but being as it’s trying [and sometimes failing] to be a haunted house film, most people will probably just watch the next Paranormal Activity film for cheap scares, instead.

Also, If you have an idea for the next weirdo’ween review[s], please let me know which movie[s] you’d like to see next! If you found yourself to enjoy this particular review – and want to see more – then take a minute and follow me over on my Facebook page [it’s at over 120+ likes almost at 130!] By clicking that “like” button, you’ll see every post from warrenisweird the very moment it’s been posted online; as well as links to articles and pictures/videos that will not be featured here on the blog. Every “like” helps me a ton, giving me the ability to write more posts for you to read, so be sure to tell the horror enthusiast in your life to do the same, and share The Facebook Page with your family and friends! Join me tomorrow morning when I talk about weirdo’ween #23! – So STAY TUNED!


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