The Amityville Horror
directed by Stuart Rosenberg
(MGM/UA, 1979)

Certainly, this movie deserves a place in the collection of all horror lovers, but it is far from epitomizing the best of the genre. I am sure it proved much scarier for original audiences back in 1979 than it does for we blood-and-gore inured veterans of such macabre moviemaking today, especially since an air of "truth" surrounded the events back then. As a modern viewer, I can't help but be somewhat put off by the fact that this whole story proved to be a fabrication; as a believer in supernatural phenomena, Amityville immediately conveys to my mind a sense of shame and frustration -- this story being revealed as untrue is the kind of thing that makes the pursuit of the reality of ghosts seem ludicrous to so many people.

You all probably know the story. A family is murdered, a young family decides to buy the house in spite of its recent violent history, frights and general freakiness ensue, and a final escape is finally made. There's not much gore here -- a few sweeping shots of murdered children, nothing that would scare most 6-year-olds today. I really expected more physical manifestations to be presented; the bleeding walls are just about it in terms of special effects. In some respects, I have to ask myself why the family, especially the mother, became convinced that something evil was taking place; the evidence she was presented with did not seem to be enough to make a normal person jump so quickly to the conclusion that the place was haunted or possessed. Then again, I have to ask myself why these people, once they figured out what was seemingly going on, waited so long to leave the house. I know -- if they had fled earlier, the movie would have been too short, but I am trying to examine this in terms of my prerequisite suspended disbelief.

Frankly, the most horrifying part of the movie for my eyes was the totally unnecessary sight of James Brolin approaching the camera in his underwear (three times, in fact). As a second aside, this film offers one of the most impressive examples of overacting I have ever seen in the person of the tuned-in, vibe-feeling associate who feels compelled to walk right into the house and commence taking an axe to a basement wall.

All in all, it's a pretty good movie. I wouldn't rush out and buy it on DVD but, if you happen to spot the tape on sale for five bucks (as I did), I would recommend picking it up. There are many worse ways to spend two hours of your time.

- Rambles
written by Daniel Jolley
published 7 May 2005

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