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The Amityville Horror is based on true events. It follows the story of a recently married couple, George Lutz (James Brolin) and Kathy Lutz (Margot Kidder), who purchase a new house on the coast of Long Island where they intend to live along with their children. Despite knowing of the house's violent history, the Lutz family decide to stay. After a visit from a priest, the house begins to let the family know that they're not welcome, causing months of horror, violence and possession.
My only real interest in this film sparked because of its relations with The Conjuring. Soon after the events of this film took place, Loraine and Ed Warren, the two paranormal investigators from The Conjuring, came to investigate this haunting. After loving that film, and because of the recent release of Annabelle, I decided to go back and check out where it all started (or finished, as The Conjuring and Annabelle both take place before Amityville). While I don't necessarily regret watching this film, it wasn't the most pleasant of viewings. The only thing I got out of this predictable, rarely scary and poorly acted film is that I can now check it off my to-watch list. The film is slow, even by horror movie standards and not remotely interesting. The film pulls out every trick in the book. It's got everything from mysterious opening doors to slamming windows to bugs to eyes in the dark. Not one of which that managed to conjure up a scare (did you see what I did there? Okay, that's all.)
The film opens odd, causing me to have mixed opinions. Within the first twenty minutes I was intrigued, but not hooked. Honestly, it was 50/50. The film managed to set up everything reasonably well. It got out all of the backstory and the relationships between characters. While it hadn't necessarily set up too decent a story as of yet, the film was far from terrible. It did, sadly, have a few problems. The main one being the editing. The editing, and this occasionally popped up later on in the film too, is choppy. The cut backs in time could have been done to the film's advantage, but the sound was edited to such a poor degree. Also, the film tries to unnecessarily show too much of these characters lives. They make an attempt at cutting through months, only skimming across the so-called major events, we're notified of this through the several title cards that appear on screen. During this prolonged montage, there was actually one scare that managed to work. It's not necessarily the scare factor that it has going for it, but more so the tension that this scene manages to build up. I shan't spoil what scene, but it does involve a priest's blessing.
The Amityville Horror, from a modern perspective, is just all too familiar. In fact, even from a 1979 perspective it's familiar. The film takes bits and pieces from other horror movies, including the famous score from Psycho, and puts them together for an emotion-less and occasionally comical movie with infrequent scares. There's a scene where Kathy, playing along with her daughter's game, peers out the window, only to find large, glowing eyes looking back at her. It sounds frightening on paper, but on screen it's absolutely laughable.
To sum up, The Amityville Horror has a few decent scares on paper, but on screen it's frequently laughable. With bad acting, a mix of other horror movies, choppy editing and a slow pace, this film is constantly tripping over its own shoes.