Amityville Horror, The
Reviewed by Mike Brannon
Rating: 3 Beans
mityville is probably the most famous American ghost story of the 20th century. For those unfamilair with the history:
November 13th, 1974, 3:15 AM. 23-year-old Ronnie DeFeo, Jr. stalks through his father's house in Amityville, Long Island, with a high-powered rifle, and kills all other members of the DeFeo family. Later, he claimed voices told him to commit the crime. He is later arrested and sentenced to six consecutive life sentences. A year later, the Lutzes (George and Kathy) move in with their daughter and two sons. They know of the house's past, but do not believe in ghosts. Over the next 28 days, paranormal events start to occur, increasing in both frequency and magnatude: George keeps waking at 3:15. Kathy has dreams of assuming Mrs. DeFeo's body seconds before it is shot. An invisible marching band starts to parade through the living room during the night. The Lutz's daughter, Missy, strikes up a friendship with an "angel" in the shape of a pig named Jodie, and the Lutzes see fleeting images of the demonic pig looking in the windows. The walls excrete goo and various psychics claim that there is a powerful demonic presence in the house. The Lutzes flee after a particularly terrifying night, and never come back to even recover their possessions.
There is a lot of contraversy about this allegedly true story, ranging from basic inconsistencies in the story to outright charges of fraud and complete fabrication. The popular motive for this alleged fiction is that the Lutzes were in financial trouble and saw this as a chance to get out from under an oppressive mortgage and make some money besides.
Before we get to the movie review, let me confess that I was not impressed with the book. The writing was incredibly episodic and spotty: "this event happens. then this event happens. then this event happens."
The movie is even worse. The book at least was subtle, detailing each of the 28 days in the house, and the events occurring outside the house: the movie just combines the worst events into four or five days. What a gyp! Not only that, but a lot of the spookier events in the house (Kathy turning into a 90 year old hag, the cermaic lion's movement, the phantom marching band, the ghosts of the little boy and the old woman, the disembodied voices screaming "WILL YOU STOP!" when the Lutzes try to bless each room) are omitted entirely! Even the crowning horror in the book, the cloaked, faceless demon (possibly Jodie in a different form) is absent. The potentially interesting story about the DeFeos is cut almost entirely. Ronnie and his dark mission are only given about 2 minutes of total screen time. (It's RONNIE'S head floating in the red room, not George's. But the movie doesn't even try to clarify that fact).
There is even an episode of George being possessed and attacking his family with an axe, hacking at a bathroom door to get at them. "The Shining," anyone? (Actually this movie predates that movie, but not the story) This episode was not anywhere in the book. James Brolin is passable as George Lutz, but he is never really characterized so we don't care much about him (but this was true of the book, too). Margot Kidder is vanilla as the devoted mother who has "victim" written all over her. Rod Steiger hams it up as the priest who tries to help the Lutzes and pays the price (like the book, the movie asserts that Satan's power and influence is complete, while God has no power or does not care to interfere at all). Natasha Ryan comes off best as the Lutz's daughter Amy (Missy in the book).
The most chilling part of the movie is the inter-cutting of the Lutzes being shown each room by a realtor: as they enter the room, we get a spooky flashback of Ronnie entering the room and methodically shooting his sleeping family members as a thunderstorm rages outside. But the rest of the "shocks" are so heavy handed it's ridiculous. For instance, one of the creepier bits of the book involves George looking up into Missy's room and seeing Missy looking out vacantly, with face of a pig with glowing eyes hovering over hers. He runs upstairs to find Missy in bed asleep and the room otherwise empty. In the movie, he looks up and we see obvious stock footage of a pig (not looking menacing at all) with red eyes colored in. Lame, lame, lame!
If you are very undemanding for your horror films (and you can stay awake, this film PLODS like a turtle with a hernia) you may find this movie enjoyable. However, if you are looking for a quality horror movie, or want to learn the Lutzes' incredible story in its true form, don't come knocking at Amityville. This old house is a "fixer-upper," and believe me, so is the movie.
Heed the voice. "GET OUT!"
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