The Amityville Horror (1979)
Film: The Amityville Horror
Director: Stuart Rosenberg
Writer: Sandor Stern
Starring: James Brolin, Margot Kidder and Rod Steiger
This film begins with a rainy night. We are outside of a large house. We see flashes of lights in the windows. There is a delay between them. It turns out that the eldest son is going room to room, assassinating his family with a gun. A detective comes to investigate and doesn’t understand why he did it and how no one heard him as he did. The detective is played by Val Avery.
We then shift to one year later. A newlywed couple is looking at the home. It has enough space for them, but it is at the upper-end of their budget. The couple is played by James Brolin and Margot Kidder. Kidder has three children from a previous marriage, two boys played by K.C. Martel and Meeno Peluce. She also has a daughter played by Natasha Ryan. They end up getting the house and start to unpack their things as one big happy family.
We learn early on that there is something wrong with this house. The children are outside playing with their dog while Brolin and Kidder are unpacking. They decide to take a break and go outside. When they do, a priest comes to bless the house; he is played by Rod Steiger. He finds they are outside and decides to go ahead with his task. He goes into a room to begin. There are flies on the window. He is stopped as it gets hotter and hotter in the room, there is a horrible smell, more flies appear even though it is out of season from them and finally a voice tells him to get out. He does just that. Before he gets away though, he vomits.
More and more weird things happen in this house. Any time Kidder and Steiger try to talk on the phone, the connection goes bad. Brolin while in the house is always cold. Ryan begins to have an imaginary friend that might not be so imaginary by the name of Jody. Things turn up missing and other mysterious things happen at 3:15 am. Even Kidder’s aunt who is a nun can’t stay long in the house; she is played by Irene Dailey.
Things get even weirder when the basement door and the front door are blown off their hinges by something. Avery comes to check it out and is shocked when he sees Brolin. He states that he looks just like the boy that killed his family that lived in the house. Brolin hasn’t been feeling well and doesn’t take kindly to the statement. No one knows what happened to the door. Avery states that he will keep an eye on the house.
More bad things happen to Steiger who fights that the house is possessed. Murray Hamilton is his superior and tells him that he should know better. John Larch has witnessed some of these things, but doesn’t understand what is going on, even when Steiger is blinded.
Brolin’s business begins to collapse, bills are not being paid, paychecks are not signed and his partner Michael Sacks comes to see him to help him get on track. Brolin can’t seem to keep focused on it. Sacks is seeing Helen Shaver who is interested in the occult. She decides to try to help them and their situation.
Kidder learns that Brolin does look just like the boy that murdered his family. He is not getting better and he is becoming even angrier. Brolin also learns that there is something in the basement and the dog wants to get inside the wall to it. All Brolin wants to do is chop wood to feed the fire as he fights to stay warm.
When it tells us it is their final night in the house, will Brolin make history repeat itself just over a year later? Will Kidder get him to realize what he is doing before it is too late? Will they survive or will the house add more victims to those that it has already claimed?
I have to admit that when I was a kid and saw this film for the first time, I was terrified. Watching it now and having seen it multiple times, I realize that it still had some parts that scared me, but not as bad. With that said though, it still has the potential, even if you have seen it before. Brolin is great in the film as well as Kidder. I also really liked Shaver even though she had such a small part. What makes this film scary is you have a family that has all their money tied up in this house and the stress of that could explain Brolin’s descent into madness. Also the haunted house is a classic concept and this film does very well with it. There are limited special effects, but the ones used are good enough. The setting is also good as the house resembles a face and it is menacing.
My problem with this film is that the timeline seems jumbled. You get the feeling that the family stays in this house for at least 6 months, but really all of this happens with a two week stretch. I think that is where the finale creates problems for itself. I don’t envision that Brolin’s business would be in that much trouble from him not doing too much in week’s time. If it does, then his business was struggling before hand. There are just some little things that bring the film’s rating down, but do not ruin it by any stretch.
I would recommend giving this film a viewing. It is a classic haunted house film that is based on a true story. It really is an iconic film and I would say it needs to be viewed at least once. It is not the best haunted house film out there, but definitely is an important film to the genre. There is some really good acting, a decent story and an overwhelming creepy feeling. This one sticks with you a little bit after watching it. If you like horror films, I would say that this one is a must see for the significance of it.
My Rating: 7 out of 10