Tuesday, November 20, 2012

The Amityville Horror (1979)

***DISCLAIMER*** The following review is entirely my opinion. If you comment (which I encourage you to do) be respectful. If you don't agree with my opinion, that's fine. To each their own. I am just sharing my opinions and perspective. Finally, the reviews are given on a scale of 1-5. 1, of course, being terrible. 2, being not great. 3, being okay. 4, being good and 5, being epic!

The Amityville Horror (1979) – 2 out of 5

Since Halloween is my favorite holiday, I’ve been pretty much only watched horror films all of October even though I’m impossible to scare. I watched good ones, cheesy ones, new ones and classic ones and one night I decided to pull out a classic I haven’t watched since I was in high school…The Amityville Horror.

For you younglings, The Amityville Horror is, supposedly, based on a true story about a house where a man, at the behest of voices in the house, kills his entire family. A year passes and the house goes up real cheap (the higher the body count, the lower the asking price) and George Lutz (James Brolin) and his new family move in. However, in a matter of a few weeks things start to get intense. Before the boxes are even moved off the truck, the wife; Kathy (Margot Kidder) sends in a priest; Father Delaney (Rod Steiger) to bless the house only to be assaulted by an onslaught of flies, a tummy ache and a voice that utters, “Get Out.” Afterward, George becomes increasingly sick and aggressive and the youngest girl in the house begins talking to an imaginary friend—and we all know imaginary friends in horror films are actually ghosts. Kathy starts to do her research on the spooky house and is horrified that an Indian burial ground, devil worshipping cults and possibly meddling teenagers are involved with the home’s history.

I could easily make a joke about organized religion and what flies are attracted to...

Insert vulgar caption involving Superman and those pigtails.
Thanks to the fact I’m a born skeptic and don’t believe in anything supernatural, the fact I’m a big movie fan and have literally spent my entire life watching movies, reading about movies and studying how they're made, went to college and studied the rhetoric of media including film and add to the fact that I’ve watched horror films since I was a small child, you have a cocktail of a movie viewer who has become numb and jaded to the emotion commonly referred to as fear. I’ve watched hundreds of horror films in my years (Who needs a social life and dating, amirite?) and over the course of those decades, I would say about a dozen horror films have actually frightened me…and even in that estimate I’m being generous because the number is more likely under ten films…maybe even as low as five or six. That being said, it should NOT surprise you that while The Amityville Horror is considered a classic within the genre and loved by horror fanboys, the movie doesn’t scare me in the least. In fact, there is only a single moment I find to be spooky and that’s at the beginning when the priest hears the voice telling him to “Get Out.” After that, I just kinda roll with the movie and laugh at the unintentionally hilarious faces that James Brolin and Margot Kidder make when they are acting scared.

Brolin after his wedding night with Barbra Streisand.

Despite being a massive success when it came out and the fact it went on to become a cult classic, the film was received negatively from the critics which is kinda surprising since the film actually does very little wrong in the form of a horror flick. Sure it doesn’t frighten me but I can see why an average movie-goer would shit their britches over the film. The movie does a great job of creating atmosphere and it does it overwhelmingly well through the growing insanity of George Lutz (Brolin). Brolin (when not looking silly with his fear reactions) did a great job at setting the film’s intensity level with his performance…albeit, this level gets skewed with Margots performance which shows that sometimes 11 just isn’t high enough in the overacting department.

At one point, Brolin literally turns into a Muppet.

She stole those glasses from Clark Kent.
The one thing that bothers me most about the film is the fact it is sold on the idea it is based on “real events.” The Amityville Horror is based upon a book by Jay Anson (who actually wrote the screenplay for the movie as well but the studio rejected it) about the troubles the real life Lutz family suffered at some spectral hands. However, all investigation into the “true” story has come up with suspicious inconsistencies. Including, but not limited to, damage sustained to the house not seen after the fact when new owners took it over and the fact that the real life priest made a claim that he only spoke to the Lutz family once over the phone and never actually made any contact beyond this. He later recanted his story and changed it twice but that's presumably because the royalty checks from the film’s success clear. The book also came out when The Exorcist hit it big and one of the marketing ploys to promote the film (as if a little girl masturbating with a cross isn’t enough to peak our perversion to see it) was to claim “accidents” and “deaths” occurred on the set. Of course, nothing actually happened on the set but the blitz worked and, to this day, people still people demonic forces were working against the production of The Exorcist (The Amityville Horror filmmakers did the same thing when filming their own film and claimed that odd occurrences happened on set…but nothing actually did). So, it’s comparison to a popular film and then arguing it is scarier than one of the few films that actually makes me scared by claiming it’s “based on a true story” is a quick, clean and efficient way to move those hardcovers off the shelves. And who’s going to say you’re wrong? Well, the stars of this movie will as both James Brolin and Margot Kidder (who met and had wonderful things to say about the real life Lutz family) have gone on record saying that the events in the house most likely didn't happen. Kidder went even further and stated on record that she just plain hates the movie. 

Yep, that's probably going to be bad on your septic system.

Not to mention that those involved with the books fabrication have claimed that the idea came with the Lutz family over “many bottles of wine.” I won’t argue with such marketing, that’s what the game is all about. It’s about openly and blatantly lying to the consumer so they buy your shit and it works. That’s why nearly every single freaking horror movie that comes out is now “based on actually events,” except they now say “inspired by real events” so they can get away with taking a lie and blowing up to cosmic levels. 

Haunted houses just make this priest angry.

The Amityville Horror can be a pretty scary classic horror film…for the average movie viewing individual. Since long ago the feeling of fear packed its bags and left my body for more inviting lands (I’m telling you, there is a person out there who absorbed my ability to feel fear and now get scared over every little thing…like finding out you just took a sip from a day old expired milk will send this person into a coma—the producers of the Paranormal Activity franchise is desperately trying to locate this person in order to sell the world that their movies are actually scary and not—in no way—a sleeping aid I use when I can’t get any Zzzz’s.) The movie tells a decent ghost story and it went on to lay the ground work for an awful franchise (which, people are still using to cash in on) and it went on to inspire a legion of cliché haunting horror movies for decades.

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