11 February 2012


Twelve Things about The Amityville Horror

12. Are Haunted Houses fantastic or what? If I ever do a Top 5 Archetypal Settings, they will be #1!

But that's because (as longtime readers already know)
I used to live in a haunted house . . . ;-)

11. For those who have already seen this . . . At what point did you find yourself yelling the "For God's sake, get out!" tagline at the screen?

I lasted a while, holding it in until Day 18.
(Guess what had happened on Day 17!)

10. Before I begin my usual eccentric analysis, I think it's worth sharing my teenage brother's more straightforward take on The Amityville Horror. Also a fan of the genre, he was very eager to watch this with me at the beginning . . . and then didn't last thirty minutes. Not because it was too scary, but because it was too boring. (Poor movie.)

9. Back to the setting for a bit: I'm tickled that it's probably the only movie house that is more recognisable from the side than from the front.

Horror fans must have been gutted when subsequent owners remodeled those distinctive "eye" windows to look like basic squares. =(

8. I had known that The Amityville Horror was "Based on a True Story" before watching it, but it was only after seeing it that I did some research and learned that the "True Story" is probably a "False Story". There's a good case that the real-life George and Kathy Lutz who moved into this house in 1975 just made up the whole thing for notoriety.

But most movies are "False Stories," anyway, so let's judge this one on its own merits, aye?

7. Best Quote: "Houses don't have memories . . . "

It's great because it's ironic. Houses may not have memories, but the families that live in them do--and we see that the Lutz family has its own share of skeletons. (And where do skeletons bump about? In the closets of houses! It's all so psychological!) If I ever develop psychic gifts and start getting invited to other people's haunted homes, I'll pay as close attention to the residents as I do to the house. If I've learned anything from Horror movies, it is that the dark side of the supernatural and the dark side of everyday human relations lie very close together.

6. So if the Lutz family gave me a ring, I'd pop over and the first question I'd ask would be about former husbands or wives.

And it is true that George and Kathy Lutz had both had first marriages with other people! (Score one for the pseudo-psychic!)

5. The next question would be whether the children were originally part of an earlier marriage.

And sure enough, in this case, all three children are not the biological offspring of George Lutz. (Score two for the pseudo-psychic!)

4. "Haunted house" is often the Gothic euphemism for "kids jerked around by a mom who wanted her own way in everything." Which adds a second layer of meaning to George's angry outburst at Kathy: "You're the one who wanted a house! This is it. So just shut up!"

3. Second Best Quote: "I am not some pink-cheeked seminarian who doesn't know the difference between the supernatural and a bad clam!"

Bwahahahahahahaha! Too priceless! So it's just sad that Father Delaney is a such an undeveloped character with no closure to what passes for his "arc." I understand why he was unable to put up more of a fight, but for those with high standards for Priest Figures in Horror, "It's a plot device" is a really lame excuse.

2. But my first sense that something was wrong with the priest came during his very first scene, when he begins ritually blessing the house without anyone in the family there with him.

Seriously, I was all, WTH? That's a little like starting the wedding ceremony before the bride and groom are in the church. Perhaps it's just cultural, but every house blessing I've ever been to involved a party and everyone (residents and guests) following the priest around the house, crowding into the rooms with him, if possible. (Yes, including the bathrooms.) Priests should be in the thick of things, you see, and lay people should remember their roles as "thickening" agents.

1. And just for Stilwell those who like movies that "come in twins," I am pleased to announce that The Amityville Horror has one!

One was released in 1979; the other was being filmed in 1979.
One is based on a "False Story"; the other, on an honest novel.
Both are set in a "new home" of sorts.
Both have father figures who go crazy.
Both have scenes involving an axe and a door.
Both have children who see entities that aren't there.
(I could do this all day . . . Could you?)

Image Sources: a) The Amityville Horror poster, b) Amityville house, c) The Shining poster


Paul Stilwell said...

Oh my Lord. They *are* twins. You found one! I mean "two". I've seen The Shining but haven't seen the film of this post. I've seen one of the Amityville movies but I'm pretty sure it wasn't this one.

You probably don't want to know what I thought of The Shining.

Indeed, bang on about asking as much about the residents themselves as about the house.

Enbrethiliel said...


It was the axe used against the bathroom door (!) that sealed the deal, but I had started noticing the uncanny similarities much earlier.

And of course I want to know what you think of The Shining! Was there ever any doubt?

The Mike said...

I've always believed that the house was afraid of James Brolin's beard.

This movie gets a pretty bad rap these days, and I think it's really flawed, but I still think it's got some fantastic moments and a great psychology to it all. Lots of haunted house movies before had characters literally trapped in a house, here the characters have the chance to leave any time - but they feel trapped by the committment they've made. That's why the tagline makes so much sense, because the family could end the trouble at any moment - and yet they choose not to.

Oh, and I knew a lot of people who thought this - and The Shining(!) were "boring" - when I was younger. Score one for twins of terror!

Enbrethiliel said...


It's really the psychology that sets this movie apart, isn't it? I'm afraid I stopped taking it seriously after the scene with the red wall (which is why I'm focussing on its flaws here), but you're right that if we watch it for the psychology, we'll get more out of it than a sense of camp.

So . . . at what point did you start yelling the tagline at them? ;-)

love the girls said...

The ghosts in the houses I live in don't ever do anything beyond moving stuff around once in a while, or make an occasional appearance. And I really like it that way.

Although there was something seriously wrong with the house I grew up in.

There's a lot to be said in favor of boring ghosts.

Enbrethiliel said...


Our ghosts didn't bother us unless we bothered them first. It was their sense of fairness.