There were key movies in my life that helped to make me who I am today. Movies that I have loved from the moment the opening credit rolled and still love now. This blog series is about those, My guilty pleasures, my favorites, my escapes. Some were very popular, others not so much. Some of these will have some real life take-aways, others are just for fun.
Today’s Key Movie:
Everyone knows about this film and it’s well earned place in the Horror Film genre.
This, The Amityville Horror is the ‘true’ story of the Lutz families experience with the most well known Haunted House in the world, the Amitiyville House.
Why this movie?
Growing up, this was THE horror film that every kid talked about in hushed tones. Along with The Exorcist and Poltergeist, there was hardly a film dealing with Ghosts and Demons that every kid in the 80’s and 90’s feared and longed to watch from safely behind the couch.
The first time I saw this film it scared the pants off of me. From the dad, played by James Brolin who looked and sounded very similar to my own sans the permed hair, and a mother, played by Margo Kidder, who was not unlike my own as well. This, combined with the fact that there were three children in the family made it closer than what was entirely comfortable to be honest.
What made this movie even more terrifying to me was the fact that my family had a history of paranormal activity. Yeah, you read that right, we had ghosts and, while they were never the ‘evil’ type (as far as we knew), they still seemed to like to hang around our family. From the kitchen spirit we had nicknamed ‘Misty’ to the strange dark haired girl that followed me well into my twenties, ghosts were a major part of my life. So, the idea that a house could have malevolent spirits terrified me to no end.
The first time I watched this I was likely around 10 years old. Far too young for most people, but if you have been keeping up, not very young for me. By the age of 10 I had been exposed to a plethora of horror stories that probably damaged me mentally in ways I will never fully realize. So to be exposed to this film was not much at the time but was something that took its time to build in me as I got older and understood more about the story itself.
Whether the story was true or not was not important the older I got, simply the idea that there were THINGS that could affect people mentally and spiritually frightened me to no end. I remember years after watching this film the first time and turning it on, alone in my apartment, quickly shutting it off again when the disembodied voice told the preacher to ‘get out’. My mind tends to fill in these gaps making me second guess the shadows and sounds when alone in the dark and frankly, this is one of those films that still does that to me to some extent.
You like it, but is it really a ‘good’ movie?
Watching it again some years later from the last time I watched it, found it had lost some of it’s power over me. While it still managed to make me step a little quicker through a darkened room, I no longer get the heebie-geebies I once did.
That being said it is indeed a well made film, especially for one from over 40 years ago. With an excellent cast including James Brolin (Josh Brolin’s dad) and Margot Kidder (who I fell for since first seeing Superman), you really could not ask for a better cast. Heck, the family is very believable in their interaction and nature, so when the haunting begins you actually feel anxiety for these people. I was particularly impressed with the gradual decent into madness that could be seen in Brolin in this film. Going from a well adjusted ‘new’ dad to his step children to a nearly raging homicidal maniac thanks to the house’s influence could be seen throughout the film. His portrayal of George Lutz is almost too good as you actually begin to believe he may indeed be a mad man. This portrayal coupled with the genuinely creepy score by Lalo Schifrin makes for some legitimate moments of terror.
It is the haunting itself that I find impressively done. Most modern films rely on an insane amount of special effects and jump scares but The Amityville Horror has little of that to ratchet up the fear. In fact, there is hardly a moment when you actually ‘see’ anything scary which, as an adult, I found refreshing. The film manages it’s fear through sound and what is unseen. Utilizing shadows, sound and the actors themselves, viewers are encouraged to essentially scare themselves as the films story plays out. Now I am not saying there are not things in the film, it is just that those things are not essential to the terror within the story.
While the film may have not aged as well as it could have, it is still a truly frightening film that, although there is now significant doubt to the veracity of the ‘true’ story, the events that took place in Amityville have since become something of our own cultural mythology. Taking it’s place along side that of La Llarona and Bloody Mary, The Amityville house with it’s creepy eye-like windows will continue to haunt people for many years to come.
OK, where do I get this movie?
If you like horror and enjoy the prospect of something that may have happened, then you really should give The Amityville Horror a go. While there have been sequels and remakes since, the original is one that you really can not go wrong with.
This is one that is readily available on Bluray, DVD and digital, even popping up on streaming services such as Netflix from time to time. Do yourself a favor and give it a go, You will not regret your first visit to the house that continues to terrify generations.
Late To The Game 9/10/2020
If you would like to read more reviews please check out the rest of the Key Movies Of My Life that comes out every Thursday.
For more retro TV goodness check out the rest of the Retro TV Reviews here. and, If you dig Music, I have a semi regular series called Stand Out Albums that covers some of my favorite records I have come across in life.
As always, please feel free to comment below and share your experiences with these episodes as well. If you just happened by, tell me what you think! Don’t Forget To Follow me if you like the blog!