Horror Movie: The Amityville Horror (R; 1979; 119 min.)

I first saw this movie when I was 11 years old, way too young. In fact for months afterwards, I awoke at 3:15 am every morning in a cold sweat (true story!)…when you watch the movie you’ll learn the significance of 3:15 am. Now that I’m, ahem, a bit older, this movie no longer terrifies me, but I still consider it a horror classic! It features a creepy house that appears to have eyes, lots of plaid shirts, a mom who wears pigtails tied with ribbons, and singing children’s voices as background music. Hard to believe, but those aren’t even the scary parts!

George and Kathy Lutz are newlyweds, and along with Kathy’s three children, they move into this great house on a river where a 20-year-old man killed his parents and siblings one year earlier. They see no problem with this, since “houses don’t have memories,” as one of them says. Or do they?

Just fourteen minutes into the movie, we learn that flies enjoy one room in the house in particular as they swarm the priest who is alone in it, blessing the house. An evil digital voice cries, “Get out,” which he does, falling very ill over the next two weeks while no one believes his assertions that the house is evil.

Meanwhile, the young girl of the family, Amy, has befriended an “imaginary” girl/spirit named Jody who resides in the house. One night Jody keeps Amy from releasing her sitter (decked out in full retainer headgear) from a “locked” walk-in closet she had gone into. Hours later, Mom and Dad return home to release the sitter from the magically unlocked closet and scold Amy for being so mean. When they learn Jody was the cause, the warning bells do not go off yet. In fact, that doesn’t start happening even when George becomes obsessed with splitting logs in the back yard instead of going to work, a nun related to Kathy stops by but runs right out again, the family dog tries to dig up part of the basement until his paws are bloody, and George’s business partner’s girlfriend “feels” the evil emanating from the house and retreats quickly to the car.

The Lutz’s continue on in their fine new home until one night, the front door to the house blows off its hinges. “What was that?” Kathy yells. “I don’t know. You stay up here,” George replies, running down the stairs. “Like hell!” Kathy says, following him. Good stuff.

Then, finally, we learn that the house itself is located in a devil worship location, and that “energy cannot be created or destroyed, it can only change forms.” The business partner’s friend goes into the basement and her voice changes to a deep growl that warns them to “Find the well…it’s the passage to hell.” Hmmm. Maybe we should move, after all, honey? But as the Lutz’s try to escape their possessed home, the real horror begins! Cue the singing children…

  • Top Scare: A surprise visitor on a dark night
  • Heartbeats: 2 out of 5
  • Gore Factor: 2 1/2 out of 5, mainly from Kathy’s dream
  • Suspense Factor: 2 3/4 out of 5
  • Recommended for: 13-14 and up

Next up: The Fourth Kind

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