The Amityville Horror (1979)


A family moves into a house with a significant notoriety, and the evil that thrives within it cause them a lot of misery.

"...Houses don't have memories"

You know, I can understand the argument that The Amityville Horror is crass exploitation utilizing real events of the DeFeo murders as sensationalistic marketing to put moviegoers asses into theater seats and drawing their cars to the drive-in. How many specials, documentaries and television shows, have been dedicated to the DeFeo murders themselves? There's always an interest in the psychology of psychopathy. So you have the Lutz' book as a tool behind the subject matter of a haunted house movie where a possible repeat of what happened before in the house could occur. Events I personally consider bogus by the Lutz' are ideal fodder for an audience hankering for imposing spirits wanting to do bad things to the occupants who live in the house seemingly fostering sinister elementals.

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It was an evening after director Stuart Rosenberg died that the flix channel showed The Amityville Horror (1979), and in his memory I revisited it. I admit that I'm not all that wild and crazy about the film, but it isn't something I personally consider a wretch totally devoid of any value. It has unintentionally funny moments primarily thanks to Brolin who really got himself worked up while in the role. Intense is putting it mildly. Some complaints are spotlighted on Rod Steiger, considering his acting a bit too full bore and forceful. When he argues a point, his whole face and voice expresses extensively his position vehemently. He's actually off-putting to the clergy who insist he drops his quest to supposedly cleanse the Amityville house as his superiors (like Murray Hamilton) and peers (like Don Stroud) discourage and defy him. And whatever evil exists in the house, Steiger is forever changed by it. Steiger doesn't get his Father Karras moment to exorcise that damned house. Brolin and his facial tics, the psychotic eyes, the budding rage, and the chopping wood; it is all quite a lot to digest without the occasional giggle. He certainly went all in!

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"For God's sake, get out!"

For me, with all the nonsense regarding the babysitter locked in the closet by "Jody" (daughter Amy's supposed imaginary friend), George's (James Brolin) deteriorating mental and psychical health resulting in his cursing everybody and sweating profusely, the toilet overflowing black sludge, the walls bleeding, priest Don Stroud's car locking its steering wheel and throwing up the hood (it appears that the evil that exists at the Lutz' home can move outside it towards a spiritual enemy) while driving to the Lutz' home, priest Rod Steiger receiving stigmata just in his attempt to make a phone call to Kidder at the Lutz' house, bleeding walls, lost money for the caterer, the nun ralphing outside her station wagon upon just being in the Lutz' house for just minutes, window closing on Kidder's son which refused to open, and lots of Brolin chopping wood, Steiger's impassioned pleas to his superiors about the demonic threat at the Lutz' home with the tears running down his face and undeterred assurance that he is not wrong about the dangers that exist are a bright spot among a lot of unintentional hilarity. A door exploding from the hinges and lots of fly close-ups: you kind of see why Kidder considers the movie a piece of shit. But Kidder has never been more beautiful, the house has the back windows that light up as demonic eyes (iconic to the Amityville brand, even if a bit too overemphasized by Rosenberg, the director), and Schifrin gave us a score worth a better movie. And what's up with the neighbor who has the sniffles and six pack of beer???

 Well Brolin with his dark eyes and two beady red eyes sending Kidder the heebee jeebies (with Schifrin getting to homage Psycho), a basement wall supposedly containing a room which could be the evil center of the house, Shaver took over by a voice that tells the Lutz' to "find the well" because it is the "passage to hell", Brolin and Kidder taking it upon themselves to cleanse the unholy house and not succeeding; this all capitalizes on the popular religious horrors of its time, The Omen and The Exorcist. What is interesting in these films is that evil comes out victorious: Steiger's blindness such a case as he cries forth for Christ's blessings and gets the loss of sight instead. The house is home to a powerful evil which initiates quite a physical toll on those who it feels are worthy of such treatment.

"I'm coming apart! Oh, mother of God, I'm coming apart!!!"




**/*****

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