Amityville Horror, The (1979)

Amityville Horror, The (1979)

“I’m telling you there was a presence in that house!”

A recently married couple (Margot Kidder and James Brolin) move with Kidder’s three kids (Natasha Ryan, K.C. Martel, and Meeno Peluce) into a house tainted by the murders of its last inhabitants at the hands of their own son. A priest (Rod Steiger) attempting to ‘purify’ the house begins experiencing mysterious symptoms, while Brolin becomes increasingly obsessed by chopping wood; the family’s dog barks incessantly at the basement; and Ryan develops an invisible imaginary friend who tells her about the house’s past.

Genres, Themes, Actors, and Directors:

  • Horror Films
  • Margot Kidder Films
  • Possession
  • Priests and Ministers
  • Rod Steiger Films

Response to Peary’s Review:
Peary writes that this “adaptation of Jay Anson’s ‘fact’-based book isn’t nearly as ‘convincing’ or as much fun”. He notes that while the “two leads try hard, [the] material becomes increasingly stupid”, and that the “filmmakers were hampered by [the] fact that nothing really terrible happened to the Lutzes during their tenure”. Indeed, while there’s atmosphere to spare, the storyline is painfully slow, and neither Kidder (wearing kid-like piggy tails) nor Brolin (menacingly one-note) is particularly sympathetic.

Peary rags on Rod Steiger for giving “what may be the worst performance in horror-movie history”, arguing that he’s “incredibly awful”, but I can’t agree; I think Steiger’s sincere performance is simply misplaced in a film that asks him to become hysterical without good enough cause.

Several sequels followed, and the film was remade in 2005, though I haven’t seen that version.

Redeeming Qualities and Moments:

  • Effectively atmospheric cinematography

  • Lalo Schifrin’s score

Must See?
No; skip this one unless you’re curious.


2 thoughts on “Amityville Horror, The (1979)

  1. ⭐️⭐️⭐️

    Effective spook opera with lots of creepy moments and decent performances although Rod Steiger does get out of hand at a couple of points. Based on a supposedly true story that has since been debunked; just take it as another fictional haunted house flick.

    Amityville II: The Possession (1982) ⭐️⭐️⭐️ is much more lurid and a shade better and Amityville 3D ⭐️⭐️ is ok, but even better in 3D ⭐️⭐️⭐️.

  2. First viewing. Complete waste of time. Skip it. As per my post in ‘Revival House of Camp and Cult’ (fb):

    “Houses don’t have memories.”

    ‘The Amityville Horror’: Finally caught up with this – thinking I’d missed out on some camp / cult material. Turns out I hadn’t. Also turns out that the most horrifying thing about ‘TAH’ is that it’s among the dullest horror films ever. The 2nd most horrifying thing about it is that it returned almost $87 million for a less than $5 million budget. Here and there, director Stuart Rosenberg made a good film (i.e., ‘Cool Hand Luke’) but here – having a horror story with no horror – he just made everything LOUD; all sound effects (including the thunder storms – which there seemed to be every single night that the family lived in the house) are louder than they would be in any other film needing loud sound effects. (I kept thinking of Christopher Guest’s line about his amps in ‘This is Spinal Tap’: “These go to eleven.”) ‘TAH’ wants to be ‘The Exorcist’ without that film’s consistency of terms: evil rising up to own a child, and horror contained within the house. In ‘TAH’, whatever ‘evil’ there is has a confused sense of purpose and it’s free to go out about town: the well-meaning priest (Rod Steiger) is hounded everywhere – in a car (with the car hood flying up to block vision), on the telephone (static blocking conversation), and in his church (with saint sculptures crumbling above him). I kept waiting for a scene with the priest shopping at a grocery store and being attacked by canned goods. You can read about the history of this (ahem) true story at Wikipedia. But the film… well, yes, it might give you a few giggles, but it’s a charged-up yawn (one that made James Brolin rich; he took 10% of the profits and made $17 million). [Link to film in comments]

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