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Sunday, November 21, 2010

The Amityville Horror


     I love Margot Kidder.  I really do.  She alway seems like she'd be that cool aunt who would sneak up to the attic with you and pull out a joint at Thanksgiving.  Always saucy, Margot starred in the awesome BLACK CHRISTMAS, and of course will always be Lois Lane.Which brings us to that hoary classic we all know and love- THE AMITYVILLE HORROR starring Margot Kidder and James Brolin. Supposedly based on the "true" story of the Lutz family, THE AMITYVILLE HORROR successfully started a franchise of books and films, and made funny, triangular windows and barn-shaped homes instant icons of horror around the world.

     The movie is loads of fun and borders on high camp 90% of the time- gobs of flies, puking nuns, black goo oozing out of toilets, red eyes in windows, demonic voices, Rod Steiger scarfing up every bit of scenery along the way, and James Brolin packing some serious heat under those skivvies of his. Regardless of your opinion on whether all of this really happened, the movie itself has attained almost cult status and is one of the most famous horror films to come out of the 1970's. I'm sure by now you know the story. George and Kathy Lutz buy an unbelievably cheap house in Amityville, Long Island. The home was the sight of the infamous DeFeo murders the previous year. George and Kathy Lutz and their children move into the house on 112 Ocean Avenue and are instantly plagued by strange and frightening experiences until 28 days later when they leave all their belongings behind and flee for their very lives.

    THE AMITYVILLE HORROR has all the classic elements of a great ghost story- respected actors and director, an eerie back story, and a super-creepy score by Lalo Schifrin. This was one of my favorites growing up, and of course I own the box set (The DVD boxset contains some great special features if your'e a geek like me and find documentaries and the making of certain movies fascinating- it includes not one, but two History Channel documentaries on the actual Amityville murder case and the paranormal investigations that followed, plus a trip down memory lane with our favorite Margot in a featurette about making the movie.  Good stuff.) The cinematography on THE AMITYVILLE HORROR is top notch, and the use of colors work to great effect here-different tinted shots of the house, combined with some great exterior shots of fall foliage help the overall look. And the set design. Can you name a single more famous or well-known design of a "haunted house" in a film? It instantly struck a chord in movie-goers and became a pop culture phenomenon by the time the 80's rolled around.

      This was huge stuff back in the late 70's, with the original murders and the whole Lutz debacle. Regardless of how good or bad the movie actually is, its infamy will live on. On an interesting note, if it weren't for the true story of the DeFeo massacre that actually happened there, would the movie itself be so memorable and well-loved? For me personally, it's impossible not to think of THE AMITYVILLE HORROR when the 1970's are brought up, it's that ingrained into my psyche, I guess. So I would say yes, it would.

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