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Thursday, February 24, 2011



The Amityville Horror is a 1979 horror film directed by Stuart Rosenberg. It's your classic tale of a haunted house that starts with a young man brutally murdering his entire family in the middle of the night. A year later, a young pair of newlyweds, George (James Brolin) and Kathy Lutz (Margot Kidder), moves into the house with the Kathy's three children. At first, everything seems fine and dandy, and although they know about the deaths that occurred only a year before, the Lutz's choose to believe that a house cannot retain any memories. However, a series of incidents start to plague the family, from random acts of horror and violence to a mysterious illness that soon takes hold of George. As all of the events continue to occur, a great strain begins to affect the young newlyweds as they wonder what exactly they've gotten themselves into by moving into this house.

The film actually starts out pretty well, setting the scene with the aforementioned brutal murders inside a rather menacing-looking house (pictured below). At first glance, the house appears to have a face, with the two upper windows providing the eyes. That's the first thing we see in the film as a series of gunshots ring through the night. After that, however, everything starts to spiral downwards. The movie quickly becomes rather dull and uninteresting, as do seemingly every haunted house flick nowadays. We get the standard gags - a door opening and closing on its own, random pieces of the house "attacking" family members (like a window slamming on a child's hand) - and thirty-two years after this movie was made, they all seem boring and rote. At times, it's almost laughable, but I wouldn't even give it that much credit.

What's really laughable is the level of acting in the film. Now, Brolin and Kidder do have moments of semi-goodness, but for the most part, their over-the-top ham-fest is almost unbearable to watch. And the chewing of the scenery doesn't limit itself to our leads. We have a couple performances from supporting actors that rival their own badness. For example, Rod Steiger plays a local priest who knows there's evil within the house. His scenes are so over-the-top and bad that it's hard to take them seriously. He can't get through a scene without yelling at someone, and all I wanted to do was roll my eyes and laugh at him. We also get a short scene from Helen Shaver, one of the Lutz's friends who seemingly understands paranormal activity. As with everyone else, she brings a level of "over-the-top" that's too ridiculous to miss. If you can't tell, there's really not much in terms of acting going on in The Amityville Horror.

If there's anything going right within the film, it's the musical score which garnered an Oscar nomination. Lalo Schifrin helps to set the tone of the film with his haunting score, but it's nowhere near enough to save the picture. I can see why it would grab the Academy's attention, but this trainwreck of a film really shouldn't have gotten any of their attention. However, credit should be given where credit is due, and Schifrin did the best he could with a terrible flick.

Had I been more drawn into the movie, I might call The Amityville Horror "so bad, it's good." However, the lack of interest in any of the situation makes me want to say that it's just a bad film. I had a few high hopes for it going in, considering the film was remade in 2005. The two reasons a movie can be remade are as follows: the original was either very good (in which the studio is trying to cash in on its name), or the original was very bad (in which the filmmakers think they can take the concept and make a better film). I'm gonna have to say that the original Amityville Horror was pretty damn bad, but from everything I've heard, the remake is even worse. Maybe they should've just let this one die on its own.

(On a side note, this is the first "F" grade I've ever given to a film from the 1970s. I thought that deserved mention.)

Movie Review Summary:
Grade: F
Current All-Time Rank: Worst - #89
2 Thumbs Down

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