Support Us!
Powered by
Got any friends who might like this scary horror stuff? GO AHEAD AND SHARE, SHARE!



Tuesday, November 8, 2022

The Amityville IP: ‘The Amityville Horror’ Begins Our Journey Through the Entire ‘Amityville’ Saga

Twice a month Joe Lipsett will dissect a new Amityville film to explore how the “franchise” has evolved in increasingly ludicrous directions.

At this point, the Amityville “universe” of films is something of a running joke in horror circles. It is borderline ridiculous that there’s so many entries (for those who are curious: 2022 has seen the release of no less than 10 new films!). As Paste editor Jacob Oller explains in his piece “Why Are There So Many Absurd Amityville Horror Movies?”, there appear to be two main reasons why there are so many movies with Amityville in the title.

  1. After the Lutzs lost their suit against The Possession and 3-D producer Dino De Laurentiis, Amityville titles became open season so long as they didn’t skew too closely to the real-life story. As Oller explains: “The nuttier the twist, the less worried anyone has to be about getting sued.”
  2. The other reason is the explosion of low budget, direct-to-video titles in the last two decades. As the cost of filmmaking equipment dropped and new avenues for distribution and exhibition opened up, independent filmmakers seized on Amityville as a recognizable (and therefore sellable) title. The mentality nowadays appears to be that what follows “Amityville” barely matters because horror audiences have a brand recognition with the word.

Before we can dig into wild sequels like Amityville Exorcism or Amityville in Space, we need to go back to the original title: Stuart Rosenberg’s 1979 film The Amityville Horror.

In some ways, this film may be the least exciting entry in this editorial series because it’s the most straightforward (ie: conventional) film. Based on the 1977 book by Jay Anson, the film stars James Brolin and Margot Kidder as George and Kathy Lutz, a young married couple who move into the notorious Amityville house one year after Ronald DeFeo Jr killed his entire family. The film follows the subsequent weeks, using sporadic time cards, to document the disintegration of George’s mental faculties as the house’s evil energies threaten his sanity and endanger his family.

In many ways The Amityville Horror is a quintessential haunted house film. Audiences who have seen The Conjuring and Insidious will recognize the DNA of this film, though the nefarious events threatening the Lutzs never truly extends into poltergeist territory. Still, the imagery of bleeding walls, locked doors, mysterious hidden rooms and (threatening) religious iconography all feels extremely familiar.

One of the film’s challenges is the solid, albeit workman-like, direction from Rosenberg. Even when the action switches from a low-boil to all-out insanity in the film’s climax, The Amityville Horror struggles to generate a true sense of danger. George, Kathy and their kids are in peril, certainly, but it feels more threatening than fatal, regardless of whether you know the “real life” outcome of the events. Robert Brown’s editing doesn’t help; his lackadaisical approach is reflective of the times, but it hasn’t aged particularly well.

Where the film truly shines is Brolin and Kidder’s committed performances. Aided by Stephen Abrums’ make-up, Brolin’s (de)evolution into madness looks exhausting, with dark shadows under his eyes and a persistent sweaty sheen on his brow. Kidder, meanwhile, has a more reactive role as Kathy struggles to adjust to her husband’s wild mood swings and fixation on maintaining the family’s stockpile of wood. The genre staple remains a strong empathetic presence, however, and Kidder truly delivers in the few scenes where Kathy is allowed to lose her emotional cool.

Religion is also a significant component of the film. There’s a clear insinuation that religious figures, including Rod Steiger’s Father Delaney, Kathy’s sister-in-law Carolyn (Helen Shaver) and Aunt Helena (Irene Dailey) are physically affected by their proximity to the house, often to a greater degree than non-religious people. On a rewatch, however, it feels somewhat disjointed; certainly the house is evil and Carolyn espouses that the secret room is a gateway to hell created by Satanist John Ketchum, but Sandor Stern’s screenplay seems content simply to pepper these facts throughout the film.

Religion is undeniably tied to the film’s most memorable horror sequences, including the sudden appearance of a swarm of flies, Father Delaney’s car accident and his sudden blindness in Church. Of course, one of The Amityville Horror’s more unusual creative decisions is the lack of consistency in the house’s powers: its reach extends well beyond the property line and there is no shortage of bizarre imagery it can seemingly produce (red eyes in the window, locked closet doors, hysterical blindness, etc).

Arguably the film’s greatest contribution to the horror canon is its exterior, particularly the iconic eye-like windows that have been cemented in popular consciousness. The interior of the house is less visually evocative, though Kim Swados’ art direction and Robert Benson’s set decoration of the secret room in the basement immediately sets it apart.

Ultimately The Amityville Horror is a serviceable, albeit unexceptional entry in the haunted house subgenre. It has several decent sequences, particularly its rain-soaked climax, but in the pantheon of horror, arguably its greatest contribution is its financial success: the film cost $4.7M to make and grossed $86.4M. This is one of the reasons why the Amityville brand remains such a pervasive lure to independent productions. The film is fine…but the title is a license to print $$$.


The Amityville IP Awards

  • Most Memorable Moment: Carolyn breaks down the wall to reveal the secret room
  • Best Effect: George hallucinates Kathy as an old woman near the climax
  • Best Scare (tie): The babysitter in the closet / the blood escape at film’s end
  • Best Costume: Brolin’s white-shirt and briefs combo

Next time: it’s prequel time as Amityville II: The Possession (1982) loosely reinterprets the DeFeo murders with the fictional Montelli family.

Amityville movies

The post The Amityville IP: ‘The Amityville Horror’ Begins Our Journey Through the Entire ‘Amityville’ Saga appeared first on Bloody Disgusting!.


No comments:

Post a Comment

Support Us!
Powered by
Got any friends who might like this scary horror stuff? GO AHEAD AND SHARE, SHARE!

The Top 10 Streaming Scary Movies of Today (According to Netflix)

Given that Netflix really is the master of their own data, how many times a viewer streams The Ridiculous 6, or what films don't get watched all the way straight through, or how many times someone watches an episode of Bill Nye Saves the World, it was easy for them to come up with the list based on just one percentage: 70 percent.

Got any friends who might like this scary horror stuff? GO AHEAD AND SHARE, SHARE!

Top 5 Original Horror Movies of 2020 (Even During a Pandemic)

3 Frightening Clowns Not from the Underworld or Magical Hell

3 Viral Videos Proving Spiders Are Still Scary as Hell

Stephen King Adores These 22 Horror Films

3 Super Stories on 'Halloween' and Horror That'll Make You Want to Wear the Mask