Monday, November 28, 2011

The Amityville Horror (1979)

I'm fascinated by the story behind The Amityville Horror, and if it actually is all a hoax, I guess you could say that the Lutzes have one hell of an imagination.  I always liked the remake of the movie, and was embarrassed to admit I've actually never seen the original.  The DVD was on sale for $5, and I had a long train ride back to NYC with spotty wifi.  Perfect opportunity to check out this classic.

In Amityville, Long Island, New York, the Lutzes are looking for a new house.  They are a blended family on a budget, and are intrigued at a huge house being offered at a bargain basement price.  The only catch?  Recently, Ronald DeFeo murdered his entire family in cold blood in the house.  George Lutz (James Brolin) insists that houses don't have memories, and that they should snap up this incredible offer.  His new wife, Kathy Lutz (Margot Kidder) agrees.

The Lutzes move into the house, and immediately start experiencing strange phenomena.  Cold drafts come out of nowhere, doors open and close on their own, and every religious person that shows up leaves puking their guts out.  What starts out as minor escalates quite quickly.  Their daughter, Amy, adopts a strange imaginary friend.  George Lutz's health and mental state rapidly deteriorates as the house begins to consume him.

One thing I immediately noticed as different from the remake is that jump-scares didn't really exist in the 70s, and maybe for the better.  The original Amityville Horror relies on a slow buildup and subtle scares to get the message across.  The evolution of George Lutz's character is most believable, and well-played by James Brolin.  Margot Kidder, while all kinds of 70s gorgeous, doesn't really seem to change much throughout the movie, which throws things off a little.
Of course, controversy surrounded the Amityville story and the film.  Both Kidder and Brolin went on record saying that although they met the Lutzes, they did not believe their story.  The studio made up stories of strange occurrences on set, in order to entice viewers.  In it's time, The Amityville Horror was one of the highest grossing independent films of all time.  It's a solid flick, and a little part of me would love to believe that the story is real.