The Amityville Horror

The Amityville Horror


Reviewed by: Gator MacReady

The Amityville "myth" has been criticized and picked apart so many times over the years that I run the risk of sounding boring. But for those of you who don't have a clue, there really WAS an Amityville Horror. It was nothing particularly noteworthy but the crap that followed brought it into the public consciousness (of the 1970s, at least).

The quiet town of Amityville in Long Island was home to the DeFeo family. Their house was a slightly spooky (it had window eyes, ooooohhhh) four-storey villa out by the water. Mr DeFeo was a strict dad and would not take kindly to his son getting bullied at school. Ronald "Butch" DeFeo was a fat kid with no pals and was pressured into using aggression as a way of getting his own way by his dad. Mr DeFeo would use that same logic with his son. Ronald had two brothers and two sisters. Being the eldest, it was his privilege to enjoy more freedom and privacy than his siblings.

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This freedom led to getting away with murder, metaphorically and almost literally. As Ronald grew up he became stronger and tougher and got heavily into drugs and booze. He would steal from anyone and was in trouble with the fuzz quite often. Still suffering under the brutal rule of his dad, one day he snapped. Following his father's teachings he took a shotgun and blew away his parents, his brothers and sisters during the early hours of the morning in November 1974. He blamed this on a Mafia hitman, whom he claimed had been threatening the family.

After extensive quizzing on his whereabouts, habits, timelines and alibis and the insurance polices of Mr DeFeo, the Amityville police quickly saw through Ronald's story. As a last minute attempt at softening the forthcoming heavy sentence, Ronald said that he heard voices in the house telling him to kill. No one believed him and so he gave up the story and went to jail.

That was the REAL Amityville Horror. Everything beyond this point is about as real as the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.

A short while later George and Kathy Lutz moved into the ironically named High Hopes house. They only stayed for 28 days. Why? Because they said that the place was haunted and it scared the shit out them. They even got novelist Jay Anson to write a book about their alleged scarifying time at High Hopes. It was a best seller. A movie was soon made. It was a moderate success, but is still spawning 86 million sequels about time-travelling anal rapists and possessed lampshades (seriously).

But wait a minute. It was all a load of crap! The Lutz family made it up. They admitted it later. However, this one moment of surprising honesty seems to have been forgotten by the public in general. Why? Because people like to be scared. They want to believe in nonsense like this and would gladly pay to see a remake.

Too bad nothing really happens in this film. In the original, the extent of the spooky terror the house had to offer was no more than Mr Lutz getting a bit grumpy. The remake has even less going for it. It's about as scary as an episode of Trap Door.

I did have er...high hopes for this film as the recent Texas Chainsaw Massacre remake I found to be quite effective. And seeing as how this has the same production team (including uber-hack Michael Bay), I figured it would be an improvement. No such luck.

The main problem both films have is that they never take full advantage of the Lutz family's ridiculous stories. Not only did they say that the house was built on an Indian graveyard, devil's ground, and was an asylum for mad Indians as well as the place of the DeFeo massacre (that IS true), but they said flying demonic pigs would torment them at night (never seen in either film), the walls would have bloody messages written on them (this time they are written in a kid's cereal or something), they saw a ghostly vision of Ronald DeFeo's head floating in a so-called hidden red-room of sacrifice in the basement (that never actually existed) and that one time Mr Lutz awoke to find his wife floating above the bed with her face transformed into that of an old witch (also never happened in either film).

What we're left with in this flat-as-a-pancake remake is Mr Lutz scolding the kids when they misbehave and suffering from confusing, so-not-scary visions of the house's supposed past. Nothing else happens. There is not one decent scare or a single moment of atmosphere. The ending is no more than the usual run-away-from-the-guy-with-the-axe kind of thing and it would have been totally static without the customary thunder and lightning and rain. Hell, nobody even dies in this film! You'd think with the original story being mutilated and embellished and shortened and lengthened to the point that it is nothing like the original truth (more so than the Bible even) that they might have the guts to introduce a few expendable characters. But no!

The Amityville Horror is about a bearded dad who is a bit bossy with his step-kids. The only horror is the time and money you'll waste watching it.

Reviewed on: 14 Apr 2005
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The Amityville Horror packshot
Remake of axe-wielding angry dad in true-life adaptation of horror in haunted house.
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Director: Andrew Douglas

Writer: Scott Kosar, based on the novel by Jay Anson

Starring: Ryan Reynolds, Melissa George, Jesse James, Jimmy Bennet, Chloe Moretz, Rachel Nichols, Philip Baker Hall, Annabel Armour, Rich Komenich, Danny McCarthy

Year: 2005

Runtime: 100 minutes

BBFC: 15 - Age Restricted

Country: US


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