The Amityville Horror (1979)
January 8, 2022 11:26 AM - Subscribe

George Lutz (James Brolin) and his wife Kathleen (Margot Kidder), move into their Long Island dream house with their children only for their lives to be turned into a hellish nightmare. The legacy of a murder committed in the house gradually affects the family and a priest is brought in to try and exorcise the demonic presence from their home.

Currently streaming in the US on HBO Max.
posted by DirtyOldTown (17 comments total)
There are a couple good You're Wrong Abouts about the book.
posted by box at 11:32 AM on January 8, 2022 [5 favorites]

This is not very good. It's maybe not as bad as you've heard, but it's not so good. A person can still consider this time well spent because of how lovely Margot Kidder is in it.

There's an interesting undercurrent of financial anxiety. They talk money, costs, bills, expenses, all the time. In fact, the entire movie can be read as an expression of unease at the nagging financial burdens just beneath the surface of middle class life.
posted by DirtyOldTown at 11:36 AM on January 8, 2022 [3 favorites]

It's not nearly as bad as the Ryan Reynolds remake, but yeah, it's quite bad. It's got the same problem as the book, which is that rather than a conventional three-act structure of rising and resolving tension it's just some stuff happens, then more stuff happens, then more stuff happens, then they flee, with only a small amount of it building on each other or connecting up in any real way.

Which I've heard argued makes it more realistic, since life doesn't occur in three-act arcs? But it's not very entertaining or scary, and being more realistic doesn't help its case any, particularly since the story was debunked decades ago.
posted by Pope Guilty at 12:23 PM on January 8, 2022 [1 favorite]

Also, Jody the Demon Pig is a special effect so bad I laughed and snorted
posted by DirtyOldTown at 12:44 PM on January 8, 2022

I much preferred Amityville 3D.
posted by Jessica Savitch's Coke Spoon at 4:00 PM on January 8, 2022

There's an interesting undercurrent of financial anxiety. They talk money, costs, bills, expenses, all the time. In fact, the entire movie can be read as an expression of unease at the nagging financial burdens just beneath the surface of middle class life.

Haven't seen the movie, or read the book, but I have read Stephen King's Danse Macabre, a nonfiction book on horror based on a college course that he taught about the subject, and that's absolutely his take on the movie.
posted by Halloween Jack at 6:13 PM on January 8, 2022 [1 favorite]

Ha! I've never read that, but now maybe I will.
posted by DirtyOldTown at 6:37 PM on January 8, 2022

This is not very good.

Yeah. I saw it as a pre-teen in first release and even then I knew it was mediocre. The oddest thing about it was that I actually knew the book pretty well: I was in an enrichment program at school, where all the brainy students were placed. We were given more latitude over our syllabus than our more lumpen fellow students in the other classes, including collectively choosing one book that we would study in greater detail.

I suppose the hope was that we would choose some classic that spoke to young people and gain some great insights that would enrich our formative years. We would analyze it closely and trace its themes and message.

We somehow convinced our teacher to let us spend weeks talking about The Amityville Horror. Looking back on it, there was a time in my life when that was probably the book I knew the most thoroughly and certainly the one I had written the most about. I think the rumours that there was going to be a movie of it coming out the following summer made us even more thrilled to be living in an era where a book might magically become a movie, because that was pretty remarkable for something we wanted to read. Sure, some kids’ book might turn into a one-hour animated TV special, but a feature film? The last word in quiet sophistication. I can only imagine what our teacher thought of our choice.

Sorry, Mrs. Windsor, wherever you are.
posted by ricochet biscuit at 9:57 PM on January 8, 2022 [2 favorites]

I would note, however, that it spawned a shockingly durable but very loose franchise of seemingly random vaguely spooky ideas linked tenuously by, er, a house with distinctive attic windows being on the poster. In just the last year, it seems that discerning horror fans have been able to catch the new releases Amityville Moon,, Amityville Cop, Amityville Cult, and Amityville Vampire. IMDb suggests Amityville Bigfoot and Amityville Shark House are among the several upcoming movies in post-production.

James Brolin, Margot Kidder, and Rod Steiger suddenly not sounding so bad.
posted by ricochet biscuit at 10:13 PM on January 8, 2022 [3 favorites]

I remember being traumatized, as a kid, by the scene where the window falls on the kid's hand and traps him there. That seemed like something that could really happen! I don't remember anything else about this movie, but I do remember the Ryan Reynolds version, which may have been worse for his career than Green Lantern.
posted by kittens for breakfast at 7:55 AM on January 9, 2022

richochet biscuit, I'm more interested in what your class had to say about the book than I am, honestly, about the book. When I was a kid I briefly went to a fancy school that once divided the class into 4 groups, handed out tamborines and kazoos and stuff, and told us to come up with a piece of music. I remember in our group we just stared at each other. Another group came up with a piece I still remember for its smug mediocrity, but it won because they were the only ones to organize themselves and perform the task. And I remember thinking afterwards: this was about organizing and performing a task? Why didn't they just tell us that?

Anyway, I lived on Long Island for a while, and no one cared about that house.
posted by acrasis at 9:17 AM on January 9, 2022 [2 favorites]

Heh. Maybe no one in Long Island did, but I know twenty seventh-graders in Canada who did.

I’ve never reread the book, never seen any of the two dozen of so movies that followed this one and so far as I can recall, never even read so much as a Wikipedia page about the murders or the putative supernatural events thereafter. I have gone to Google Street View and gawked at the house virtually, though.

I wish I could recall anything of what our analysis of the book yielded; sorry, but nothing beyond the sense of vaguely illicit glee survives.
posted by ricochet biscuit at 9:30 AM on January 9, 2022

Here is a movie for every woman who ever wept over a plugged-up toilet or a spreading water stain on the ceiling from the upstairs shower; for every man who ever did a slow burn when the weight of the snow caused his gutters to give way; for every child who ever jammed his fingers and felt that the door or window which did the jamming was out to get him. As horror goes, Amityville is pretty pedestrian. So’s beer, but you can get drunk on it.
“Think of the bills,” a woman sitting behind me in the theater moaned at one point . . . but I suspect it was her own bills she was thinking about. It was impossible to make a silk purse out of this particular sow’s ear, but Rosenberg at least manages to give us Qiana, and the main reason that people went to see it, I think, is that The Amityville Horror, beneath its ghost-story exterior, is really a financial demolition derby.
Stephen King writes more about this in Danse Macabre chapter VI section 4.
posted by Monochrome at 10:04 AM on January 10, 2022 [2 favorites]

Amity was one of the baby name candidates for my daughter, but polling of friends and family revealed that association with this movie has made that name a non-starter. It’s too bad, I think it’s the coolest of all the “virtue” names.
posted by qxntpqbbbqxl at 11:05 AM on January 11, 2022

There's gotta be a horror nerd somewhere whose kids are named like Amity, Carrie, Jason, and Freddy.
posted by DirtyOldTown at 11:52 AM on January 11, 2022

I've seen it at least a couple of times, once perhaps in the last couple years. I can be a tough audience, and I'm not really a horror fan. But my recollection is that it kind of intrigued me. Ricochet biscuit, your comment about Google Street View made me look up the address. Google now has the area around the house completely blurred.
posted by NorthernLite at 10:04 PM on January 11, 2022

I guess that is my fault.
posted by ricochet biscuit at 7:02 PM on January 12, 2022

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