Dark Mechanicus JSG | Fortified Bunker, USSA | 10/26/2004
(3 out of 5 stars)
"The seventies were crazy times to be an American. We had just bailed ignominiously out of Vietnam, been chewed up by inflation, suffered throught the resignation of a President, brazened out the gas shortage, mobilized the Civil Defense and fought off plagues of flesh-hungry zombies stalking the Pennsylvania countryside, coped with reports of cannibalistic crazies terrorizing the badlands of Southwest Texas, slicing up tourists and wearing their faces like Halloween masks. And things were just getting started: as the decade waned, Americans had to deal with houses spewing blood and black tarlike goop, with red-eyed spectral pigs bothering good taxpaying New York homeowners, and worse---with Roman Catholic priests running around the dioceses, begging to perform exorcisms!
Yeah, you guessed it: I've just awakened to chunky nuggets of ghoulish delight that lair deep down in the storm cellar of "Amityville Horror", which is an often reviled, albeit woefully flawed, fun little classic of horror and grue. I like the kitchen and the double bath---let's MOVE IN!
Full Disclosure: Had I not been subject to American Movie Classics Amityville Triple Feature---including the impossibly sick and twisted Part II (Possession) and the amusing but derivative Part III (in glorious 3-D!)---I would never have appreciate this little bauble of depravity for what it is. I first caught it on VHS a decade ago; already unimpressed with the cheesy cross-cut edits in the intro massacre, I decided to part ways with the 'Horror the moment James Brolin's bushy Chewbacca face popped into the picture---I was thoroughly grossed out by an excessive, whopping overdose of sheer seventies cheese, and flipped the tape off. What a mistake my young self made! With that, Moral #1 of The Amityville Horror:
MORAL #1: NEVER UNDERESTIMATE THE POWER OF JAMES BROLIN. Yah he's a hairy Wookie, but the guy really grows on you, especially as he starts upping the quality time with an Axe. Brolin plays unlucky homeowner George Lutz, who spots a great deal in a charming Long Island colonial mansion and moves in with wife Kathy (Margot Kidder, fresh off mega-stardom in "Superman") and his lovely little family, not knowing that another charming little family was blown to atoms just a couple of years before in this very house, not realizing that gaping Hell awaits, and not even noticing that the House looks like a big hungry monster with those nasty windows leering at passerby like forlorn eyes!Wake up, you Walkin' Carpet!
That said, Brolin really gets into this flick and admittedly the big guy grows on you, flexing those mighty thews, chopping wood like a Greek god, and crackling with hostile energy (he even unnerved me when he and a nervous employee had a little face-to-face and Brolin wouldn't part ways with that wood-chopper)with latent hostility. Brolin owns "Amityville Horror".
MORAL #2: IF PRIESTS AND NUNS RUN SCREAMING FROM YOUR HOUSE, IT'S TIME TO MOVE. Nuns and priests don't think the Lutzes got a steal. Rod Steiger (Father Delaney)is really just unforgivably awful in this film, presaging his complete meltdown as an actor in the excremental "Mars Attacks!." His only real task in this role is to cover his face with his hands and look critically constipated. He succeeds wildly. Also, the scene in which he's grilled by Hal Holbrook-lookalike Murray Hamilton (also the Mayor from "Jaws") goes on forever. Hit fast forward---the Mercy of Christ compels thee!
MORAL #3: IS IT JUST ME, OR IS THE STUFF MARGOT KIDDER IS WEARING JUST A LITTLE TOO PRE-TEEN TO PASS MUSTER IN POLITE SOCIETY? C'mon, folks---pig-tails and fake school uniforms? Anyway, Kidder handles her role of screaming and bugging out her eyes just fine for me. Though I do have some ethical questions about the nature of Mr. Lutz's attraction for Mrs. Lutz---all those kiddie dresses, for pity's sake, man!!!---, but those are outside the scope of this review.
MORAL #4: WHEN YOUR HUSBAND NAMES THE HOUSEHOLD AXE, IT'S TIME TO GET COUNSELING. Look, director Stuart Rosenberg was an old hand at helming a movie: he was 52 years old when he directed the flick and had been in the business for 25 years. He directed "Cool Hand Luke", for God's sake! And for all that experience, he turns out a pretty ugly film, let's be honest. It's all very seventies: the point and shoot camera-work, the incessant shots of the House's admittedly freakish windows, ugly overexposure and miserable lighting, sets that look like ugly sets, and tons of pancake make-up.
And yet, for all of that---"Amityville Horror" has a delicious little horror vibe all its own that raised my hackles. The dark circles around Brolin's eyes, his apelike surliness, my absolute certainty that if his hapless employee asked him just ONE MORE QUESTION he was going to bury that chopper up to the hilt in the guy's forehead, the spooky red-lit House, the huge demonic pig hulking in one of the eye-shaped windows (that one is going to give me nightmares), Brolin getting chummy with the axe, and the total breakdown of an otherwise all-American family---for some reason, it just clicked. It worked me like a professional, and after the first 60 minutes of sitting spellbound watching it on TV (even with horrible commercial breaks) I broke down, gave in to the power of The Brolin, and ran out and bought the DVD. It's worth every penny.
MORAL #4: MAYBE THAT 'IMAGINARY FRIEND JODIE' YOUR KID HAS BEEN PLAYING WITH ISN'T IMAGINARY AT ALL. "Amityville Horror" the First has all the earmarks of a trashy seventies creepfest, but in the end I believed! Nasty, vicious, dark, atmospheric, boasting Brolin and the Axe, and featuring a creepy red-eyed demon pig, "Amityville" signed my Halloween dance card and made me giggle in fear. Everything I know about Real Estate I learned from "Amityville Horror"---if it sounds too good to be true, it's probably demon possessed."
Birthe Jrgensen | Odense, Denmark | 09/28/2000
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Finally !. I've been waiting an eternity to see this very underrated ghostly gem in widescreen, and now at long last it's here. MGM may not exactly be known for superb DVD transfers, but this disc actually looks pretty good. (I had to have it no matter what though.) Brolin and Kidder make a great couple, and their acting is spot-on. They may experience some quite incredible things in their new home, but their performances stay believable throughout. -And guess what, I don't think Steiger is hammy at all !. It's too bad Hollyweird doesn't make that many haunted house movies anymore, because if you know what you're doing, they can be (relatively) easy to make. -Just keep it simple, and stay the heck away from CGI if you can. I saw "The Amityville Horror" in a theater when it first came out back in '79, and it scared me like few other films had before it. (-It also helped sitting in the balcony, getting all the action on the big screen smack right in the face.) The friend I was with thought it was a silly movie, but I think he was just too spooked to admit it affected him. Seen with modern eyes I'm sure this movie now looks oldfashioned, but don't call it dated. -That word ("dated") is so easy to throw around these days, and what people really mean is "bad". But what's bad/dated about it ?. If it's scary (which I think it is), it must be good and so it has served its purpose to me as a piece of entertainment. Most modern horror movies tend to leave me rather cold, but then again, I don't see them with the eyes of 15-year old f/x nuts; I only think they're missing out in the spooky atmosphere department. -"T.A.H." has plenty of that, and it's about time it got dug out of the turkeys bin, and received the recognition it so rightfully deserves. I can think of only one other haunted house movie since then with a similar kind of power; the 1991 TV movie "The Haunted", starring Sally Kirkland and jeffrey DeMunn."
Joe Grych | Illinois | 03/13/2000
(4 out of 5 stars)
"This is one of the better haunted house tales made in the 70's. I wouldn't bother with the sequels. Kidder and Brolin are cute newlyweds who try to hang on to their sanity as they begin to realize that their new house is evil. The incidents start out as curious and frustrating, growing more demonic as the movie progresses. Steiger as the priest has a no-so-subtle encounter when he first visits the house. His performance is over the top and a treat to watch. The 70's pacing might be too slow for today's audiences. The story was supposed based on fact, but in later years we find that the whole thing was a hoax. When I first saw it at the theatres (and thought there was some truth to it), it seemed a lot more frightening. It is still a good example of effective story-telling."
For God's Sake, Go To A Hotel!...
Bindy Sue FrÝnkŁnschtein | under the rubble | 01/04/2006
(3 out of 5 stars)
"I love Margot Kidder and James Brolin. They each had some great horror moments in the 70s! Kidder was in SISTERS and BLACK CHRISTMAS, while Brolin showed up in WESTWORLD and THE CAR. Then, the two joined forces to play George and Amy Lutz in THE AMITYVILLE HORROR! Now, don't get me wrong, it's not the best movie in the world, nor is it very frightening. I just like seeing the Kidder / Brolin match-up! As the Lutz's, they get to act scared and crazy (Margot is slowly terrified and James goes bananas!). The house they buy is haunted / possessed by evil spirits that cause mayhem and whatnot. You see, the former occupants were all murdered in their sleep! The Lutz's start experiencing weird stuff almost immediately, including swarms of nasty house-flies and Jody, their daughter's new invisible friend. Rod Steiger is Father Delaney, the loudest priest in the universe, yelling and screaming his way through the film. When he finally shuts up, your ears will be ringing. Don Stroud is Father What's-his-name, Delaney's apprentice of sorts. Stroud usually plays tough-guys, so I kept waiting for him to clock someone! Anyway, the subplot between Steiger and Stroud is the main problem w/ this movie. It could have easily been left out and made TAH a better and (blessedly) shorter story! I know it's based on a "true" story, but come on now! I also love the psychic lady who simply must go to the house's basement. She's hilarious! Between her Constipated facial expressions and Steiger's howling, I found myself laughing out loud! Watch this one for the Margot Kidder / James Brolin factor. Ms. Kidder even bares a little skin for heaven's sake! If you like 70s-style cheese-fests, then this is just what the witchdoctor ordered! Enjoy..."
Hasn't aged well
Jason Whitt | Southwest Mich., United States | 03/24/2005
(1 out of 5 stars)
"I grew up in the 70's. As such I remember a select few films from that decade that struck fear in my heart at the mere mention of their title. The Excorcist, The Omen, Dawn of the Dead and The Amityville Horror. I'd like to say that all of these films held up to the test of time but alas, one just does not make the cut. Amityville is that film.
I'll grant that I was a lot easier to scare in those days and didn't watch films with the critical eye that I do now as a reasonably intelligent adult. So I expected to be somewhat disillusioned with a movie I'd last seen 27 years earlier. But upon viewing Amity again, I am amazed that adults were ever scared by this film when it was released much less able to sit through it in its entirety.
With apologies to those who revere this film as a classic, The Amityville Horror is just a complete disaster as a film. Just because it was made in the 70's does not qualify it as a classic. One must keep in mind that Amityville WAS NOT a B-budget chop job that simply grew a cult following. This was a major motion picture with big name actors. It does not get a break for being cheesy or camp because the cheese/camp is completely unintentional on the director's part. The screenplay is often nonsensical, overly cryptic and repetitive in its attempt to convince us that evil is afoot. It is clear that the director was trying to achieve a subdued atmosphere of unseen evil as was done successfully in The Excorcist. But The Excorcist succeeded in achieving this atmosphere because a great deal of care went into preserving the authenticity of the characters and their world through the script and sets. We believe that the characters we see on the screen in The Excorcist could in fact exist in the real world. Further, the evil is actually defined in The Excorcist, even if it is not seen in its natural form. In Amity, the evil is never truly defined in this way. And the characters, through poor scripting just do not shine through effectively as people we might know in everyday life. These characters just walk around in a stupor hoping that will be enough to get the idea across that something isn't right.
To say that the pacing of the film is wrought would be an understatement. Amity jumps around from scene to scene completely oblivious to any semblance of a compelling story arc and the editing is awful. Amityville is just a series of flat, understated scenes depicting a spectre of impending doom that never really manifests itself in any meaningful or frightening way (unless of course you consider disappearing wedding money and James Brolin brooding about for two hours with a bad perm as meaningful and frightening.)
There's nothing wrong with watching an old movie as a walk down memory lane. I do it all the time. But an old movie doesn't necessarily make a good movie. Good old movies, while reminding one of the era in which they take place, do not allow that era to become so distracting that one can't still immerse himself in the story and characters. The Excorcist is the perfect example of a good older movie. I can sit down to watch that film and am immediately aware of the decade in which it takes place. But the sets and characters are so well written and depicted that I soon forget and stop caring about what year it takes place in. All I could think about as I watched Amity was how it REALLY looked like it was made 30 years ago. It relied entirely too much on cheap, now horribly dated antics like slamming doors and windows and the like to supply the horror. The horror never got to the psycholigical level as it did in The Excorcist. Perhaps it's unfair to compare Amity to The Excorcist, but they are often mentioned in the same breath as being two of the better horror films of the 70's. Amity just does not earn its place in that rare air. Amityville is just a dog with no teeth and bad breath when it gets right down to it."