Movie of the Day: The Amityville Horror (1979)

01 Jan


People have been telling me for years how scary this movie is, but I’m sorry, having revisited it recently I’m afraid I just don’t get it. This is a fairly boring movie, featuring good actors playing boring characters and going through things that just aren’t that scary.

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 – I prefer to think that it’s trying to escape the film. 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, George and Kathy Lutz moved into the house (which they bought as a suspiciously low price). 21 weeks later they claim they fled in terror leaving their belongings behind with the excuse 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.

The Lutz’s are played here by Margot Kidder and James Brolin who have been better before and after this movie. 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 finished unpacking 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 by these terrible events: Brolin becomes temporarily possessed and nearly takes out the family with a double-bladed axe; blood burps up in the toilet, the walls bleed; a visiting priest is put in state of catatonia. Yet, it’s only then that Kathy suddenly comes to the brilliant conclusion that: “Maybe we should move”. Watching the movie I said, before I thought “Good! I’ll help you pack!” The movie is a trial to sit through, its so deadbeat that you scratch your head trying 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. Subtitles inform us that it’s “The 10th Day”, “The 17th Day”, “The Last Day”. It’s bad enough when a bad movie seems endless, worse when it reminds you how endless it really is.


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