The Amityville Horror (1979)
Running Time: 117 minutes
Director: Stuart Rosenberg
Cast: James Brolin, Margot Kidder, Rod Steiger.
Ltd Ed Steelbook Out June 26th 2017 from Second Sight Films
The Amityville Horror began life as a book by Jay Anson, based on apparently true events that took place on Long Island in 1975. Naturally, the book then became a film, directed by ‘Cool Hand Luke’ Director Stuart Rosenberg. Both the film and book tell the story of the Lutz family, who move in to their dream home to begin a new life together. They obtain the house at a knock down price due to its past. The previous family were killed in their beds, by their son who claimed voices told him to murder. Such a horrific incident of violence within the all American home seems to have stepped off the screen itself, life imitating art.
In a style reminiscent of Halloween, the film opens with a brief depiction of the murders committed; a stylish opening prologue that swiftly sets the scene for the rest of the film. Events then jump to a year later when newly married George and Kathy Lutz, along with her three children move in to the house which immediately starts exhibiting some strange paranormal phenomenon. George’s behaviour and physical appearance starts to worryingly change and Kathy’s daughter Amy finds a new ‘imaginary’ friend; Jody. Moving forward day by day, it becomes very clear that the family and those who come in to contact with the house are in grave danger.
By the time The Amityville Horror was released in 1979, iconic films such as The Exorcist, Carrie, Halloween and The Shining had already set the bar for horror exceptionally high. Arriving at the tail end of the 1970’s then, it was no mean feat to try and craft yet another great movie to add to that illustrious canon. Accomplished director Rosenberg hits many of the right notes, the opening haunting theme has a disturbing childlike quality and there are some well placed Bernard Hermann style strings used later in the film. The house itself is also imposing, even Hitchcock-esque, with its two glowing windows carved out like eyes. Stepping inside the house with the Lutz’s for the first time, a high shot down from the staircase further evokes that Hitchock feel. It’s a succinct and strong start, putting the viewer immediately inside the world of the Amityville Horror.
The film works best when it implies rather than shows. Of course we have to take in to account that the film is now nearly forty years old but dated special effects aside, it feels that it loses some of its strength as soon as it starts to try and depict red eyed demons and gateways to hell. It is far more disturbing to see young Amy having a conversation with ‘Jody’ whilst staring at an empty rocking chair, or the babysitter desperately trying to scratch her way out of an apparently locked cupboard.
When the film starts to try and explain events, it loses its way somewhat. We are introduced to George’s work colleague and his girlfriend, who has an acute sensitivity and knowledge of the occult and events become more literal, leaving little room for imagination or possible scepticism. It harms the story in the sense that surely the family would leave the house at this point rather than remaining even longer for the final climax. Equally, George’s transformation happens a little too quickly. After moving in, he spends most of the film in a pale, red eyed glaze. A slower burn would have been more disturbing and raised less questions.
There are many other threads left undeveloped. Kathy’s close relationship with Father Delaney (an excellent and scene stealing Rod Steiger) is left hanging and Sergeant Gionfriddo’s initial appearance seems to serve little further purpose. More depth in these areas would have elevated the film, allowing the viewer to become even further immersed in the world created. Having said that, the film maintains its distinct 70’s charm and you can’t deny the appeal of a ‘true story’ retelling.
This Blu-Ray release has a raft of special features including interviews with James Brolin, Meeno Peluce, composer Lalo Schriffer and screenwriter Sandor Stern. Alongside the obligatory trailer and TV spot features, there is also ’My Amityville Horror’, the story behind the film with Daniel Lutz and ‘For God’s Sake Get Out’, a retrospective of the film with Kidder and Brolin. A nice extra package for those wanting more.
Six out of Ten
Limited Edition SteelBook
Restored version of 1080p HD transfer
‘Brolin Thunder’ – A new Interview with Actor James Brolin
‘Child’s Play’ – A new Interview with Actor Meeno Peluce
‘Amityville Scribe’ – A new interview with Screenwriter Sandor Stern
‘The Devil in The Music’ – A new Interview with Soundtrack Composer Lalo Schifrin
‘My Amityville Horror’ – feature-length documentary with Daniel Lutz
‘For God’s Sake, Get Out!’ – featuring James Brolin and Margot Kidder
Intro by Dr. Hans Holzer, PhD. in Parapsychology (author of ‘Murder in Amityville’)
Audio Commentary by Dr. Hans Holzer
Original trailer, TV spot, radio spots
4 reproduction lobby card artcards (SteelBook Exclusive)
DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 and uncompressed stereo options
New optional English subtitles for the deaf and hard of hearing