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The Amityville Horror (1979)

For God’s sake, get out!

Directed by:

Stuart Rosenberg

Rating: 4/10

Running Time: 117 minutes

US Certificate: R UK Certificate: 15

On DVD

Country: United States

The house used in ‘The Amityville Horror’ might look from the outside like an angry man’s face, but it’s the closest you’ll get to actually seeing any baddies in this silly old attempt at following the lead of more assured 70s chillers like The Exorcist and Halloween.

Based on Jay Anson’s book – which, in turn, was based on a supposedly-true story – it tells how the mild-mannered Lutz family are stricken by the heebie-jeebies after moving into the Long Island mansion where six people had been brutally murdered twelve months earlier. Over the course of the 21 days for which they inexplicably stick around, mum (Margot Kidder) sees a demonic pig at the window, the kids start talking to invisible entities, and dad (James Brolin) goes as mad as an owl. The local priest (Rod Steiger) also finds his pants turning a shade of less-than-white when he attempts to enter the place – but, with his God-bothering pals up at church headquarters having none of it, it looks like this is a problem the fam will have to deal with by themselves.

I fully accept, of course, that if this sort of stuff was happening to me in real life I’d find it absolutely terrifying (let’s face it – pigs can be pretty scary even when they’re not hovering 20 feet in the air and gazing eerily through the double-glazing). But come on folks, let’s be serious – ‘The Amityville Horror’, as a movie, is about as frightening as toasted marshmallows. And the fact that the Lutzes carry on sleeping in the place even AFTER they’ve sussed out what’s going on seems to suggest that even THEY aren’t really as spooked out as we’re supposed to believe.

One of the main problems here is that the film lacks any striking focal point – there’s evil evident, right enough, but when the only form it takes is a levitating oinker, a self-jamming door and an imaginary kiddie called “Jody”, it’s pretty difficult to enter into the spirit of things. Throw in some laughable over-acting (“AAAAARRRRRGGGGHHH!!!! SHE WAS SHOT IN THE HEAD!!!!”), ham-fisted shock-tactic editing, and an ending which is about as anti-climactic as they come, and you have the makings of a pretty poor – if not downright ridiculous – viewing experience.

A remake of ‘The Amityville Horror’ – starring Ryan Reynolds and Melissa ‘Home & Away’ George – hits the big screen in 2005, and here’s hoping it does a better job of tingling some spines than this dud. In the meantime though, if you want to see how a similar theme CAN be turned into a success, get a hold of a copy of ‘The Shining’. It got its theatrical release less than a year after this one, and it’s vastly superior in every single department.

It's Got: Swarming flies.

It Needs: Bug spray.

DVD Extras This brand new 2-disc special edition – released to coincide with the afore-mentioned remake – includes an audio commentary and introduction from parapsychologist Dr Hans Holzer (as in “you needs Hans to Holz someone you care for” – arf!), three inside-looky documentaries, radio spots, a sneak peak at the new version, and an original trailer. Edition Reviewed: The Amityville Horror (Special Edition) - see also The Amityville Horror Collection from Amazon.com. DVD Extras Rating: 7/10

Alternatives:

Amityville 1992: It's About Time, Amityville 3-D, Amityville II: The Possession, Amityville: A New Generation, Amityville: Dollhouse, Amityville: The Evil Escapes, The Amityville Curse, The Amityville Horror

Summary

This dodgy haunted house hokum brings a whole new meaning to the phrase “get down the bleeding stairs”.

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