Release Date: September 24th, 1982
Directed by: Damiano Damiani
Written by: Tommy Lee Wallace, Dardano Sacchetti
Based on: Murder In Amityville by Hans Holzer
Music by: Lalo Schifrin
Cast: James Olson, Burt Young, Rutanya Alda, Jack Magner, Diane Franklin, Moses Gunn, Leonardo Cimino, Ted Ross
Media Transactions, Estudios Churubusco Azteca S.A., Dino De Laurentiis Company, Orion Pictures, 104 Minutes
“If these walls could talk…they would shriek!” – tagline
I think that the original Amityville Horror will always be the best of the films that carry the Amityville name but I have to say that this one, because of how absolutely fucked up it is, is my personal favorite.
This features a new family moving into the immensely haunted, demonic house from the first film.
The father is played by Burt Young a.k.a. Paulie from the Rocky movies, which always weirdly fascinated me, as it’s hard to separate him from his most iconic role. And in this, he’s sort of the worst version of Paulie imaginable. Granted, most of that is due to the demonic influence of the house.
There is also the mother, an older brother and sister and a couple really young kids.
The older brother and sister have a weird incestuous vibe from the beginning and it’s actually hard to tell how much of that already existed or how much of it comes from the house. It’s an odd, taboo side plot that is supposed to make viewers feel uncomfortable and it is pretty effective, especially by the time they go full incest, as the brother falls deeper into demonic madness and the sister comes under the evil spell of the forces living inside her.
As religious horror goes, there is also a priest character that wants to save the family but doesn’t have the support of the church, as they find all of this to be too insane to believe.
This movie really goes much further into darkness than the original, as the end of the second act actually sees the oldest brother violently murder his entire family while being fully possessed. It’s an insanely fucked up sequence but it immediately makes the original tame by comparison. I’m sure the critics of the time hated just how gruesome this movie actually got.
The priest, even after the murders, still feels as if he must conquer the demonic energies in the house and with that, he is driven to save the possessed son.
The final showdown is really damn intense and the special effects are pretty fucking incredible for 1982. The effects make the finale work really well and it adds to the agony that both characters have gone through and are going through.
I can’t say that this is well acted or even well directed but it’s still an effective horror film that pushes the bar pretty far and succeeds at that without feeling like it jumped the shark. This could’ve very easily fallen into looking and feeling like cheap exploitation for the sake of shock value but it sort of maintains its humanity and leaves us with a truly heroic character that was willing to throw away his own soul to save a kid from Hell.
Release Date: July 27th, 1979
Directed by: Stuart Rosenberg
Written by: Sandor Stern
Based on: The Amityville Horror by Jay Anson
Music by: Lalo Schifrin
Cast: James Brolin, Margot Kidder, Rod Steiger, Murray Hamilton, Don Stroud, James Tolkan
Cinema 77, Professional Films, American International Pictures, 117 Minutes
“GET OUT!” – The House
The Amityville Horror was a fairly terrifying picture when I first saw it. I was probably seven years old, give or take. It’s always had an effect on me ever since and that’s probably because I saw it at such a young age.
While it’s not a movie I revisit often, I still always like it and get somewhat enchanted by it whenever I revisit it.
It’s a slow movie but the more serious horror films of this era were. It uses its time to build up both suspense and dread and this film does that exceptionally well. It’s a slow burn to a pretty terrifying and effective payoff.
This is also a movie that is enhanced greatly by its atmosphere. That atmosphere is really thick and brooding. The house has the right look, as does the area around it. But watching this and being immersed in it, it almost feels like it’d be hard to breathe in that house once the supernatural shit really kicks up.
The movie is also helped by the actors. All of the key players are immensely talented and they really threw themselves into this picture. James Brolin, Margot Kidder and Rod Steiger, especially, gave their all in this and because of that, this was elevated from just a simple, run-of-the-mill haunted house story to a film that’s become moderately iconic and is still sequelized and remade to this day.
I also think that Lalo Schifrin’s musical score helps with the atmosphere and the growing dread.
The Amityville Horror had a bigger impact than what the filmmakers probably could’ve predicted. That impact, still felt today, has helped shape horror and the haunted house subgenre of horror ever since this was released.
Modern franchises like The Conjuring and all its spinoffs, owe a lot to The Amityville Horror and its effect on filmgoers over forty years ago.