Wednesday, October 1, 2014

The MONTH of HORROR - Day 1: The Amityville Horror (1979)

"Houses don't have memories"

Yeah, except those houses where families are brutally murdered in, those ones apparently have memories!

Is it weird that after viewing this haunted house fright flick, I wanted to become James Brolin? I mean seriously, if aliens ever came to this planet, and needed a perfect human male specimen to examine, would they need to look much further than him in the late 70's? I feel compelled to wear more flannel, and tirelessly chop wood around the clock.

Brolin plays George Lutz, based on the real man whose family encountered these "spirits" in Long Island, NY in 1973, as an unhinged lunatic basically from the get-go. There's just something "off" about him from the earliest scenes so I didn't really buy his descent into madness, similar to my qualms with Jack Nicholson in 'The Shining'--the psychotic behaviour doesn't feel earned. He's snapping at his step kids over nothing, yelling at the dog, berating neighbours, and smacking Margot Kidder around. OK, that last one may be justified, I mean, she was only a few years away from urinating in bushes outside government buildings.

The house itself is a bit of a marvel though, with those glowing red attic windows staring out into the world like demonic eyes from hell. When provoked, the walls bleed, rooms become infested with flies, doors are torn off their hinges, and it can even talk! It doesn't have much of a vocabulary outside of "GET OUT" though which is fine because it gets the point across.

I wouldn't call this a particularly great movie--everyone overacts (Rod Steiger, you don't need to yell everything!), the characters are mostly bland, it seriously drags in places, and in the end it doesn't really amount to a whole lot. Some of the scares are still effective though, and there are definitely creepy moments that give off a genuine sense of dread but overall it's fairly limp by the finish line.

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