The Amityville Horror (1979) – Stuart Rosenberg

The next film to haunt the ghost chapter of DK Canada’s Monsters in the Movies is the granddaddy of the modern ghost/haunted house movie The Amityville Horror. Based on the non-fiction(?) book by Jay Anson.

When a house comes up for sale (at a cheap price – a now recognizable horror staple), the Lutz family moves in, realizing they got a deal on it, because the previous homeowners died violently. The DeFeo family was murdered by their eldest son, who claimed he heard voices urging him to commit the crime.

Taking the plunge anyway, despite the morbid house history, George Lutz (James Brolin) and Kathleen Lutz (Margot Kidder) move in with their three kids. They lasted three weeks… before they were driven from their home by an unseen, but malevolent force.

The film hasn’t aged well, the subject matter had been done better before and after, the only interesting claim this movie makes to differentiate it from the swarm of other films, is that it purports to be a true story.

Despite the things that may or may not have happened in the house, the story isn’t very involving. They could have gone documentary style to make it a stronger film, or give it some stronger character beats. This one just kind of meanders along and expects you to be scared by some over-orchestrated and underwhelming scares.

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That being said, I remember reading the book when I was young, and a reader’s imagination can often conjure more frightening images than those portrayed on film. This was very much the case for me, especially in regards to the supposed demonic pig-like Jodie.

There’s a sequence in the book (and the movie – terribly executed) when Kathy goes to the window after her young daughter claims that’s the way Jodie as left the room, and she sees a pair of red eyes glaring back in at her.

That got to me as a kid. There’s something about looking out a darkened window, and have a pair of glowing eyes glaring back in at you. That has stayed with me, and I won’t lie there are moments that I still get uncomfortable closing a blind or looking out a window at night.

That one moment of fear caused by the book (truth or not) is more frightening than anything in the film, and that’s too bad, because done right, this could be a truly frightening story.

The less said about the remake the better, and the countless sequels and spin-offs aren’t worthy of mention. But if someone could give it the attention to detail that would make it a spooky story, build the tension, the characters. Maybe not in a movie, but in a limited series… It could be so good.

True or not, the story could scare, and it’s too bad this one isn’t as strong as it could be. Still the scares keep coming as I keep exploring the ghosts that haunt DK Books’ Monsters in the Movies.

Pick up a copy today, and find something spooky and macabre to watch tonight.

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