No house since the adjoining one that overlooked the Bates Motel in Hitchcock’s Psycho (1960) has evoked more fear and fascination than the one that debuted in 1979 in Stuart Rosenberg’s The Amityville Horror.
What is even more amazing is that there has been a mix of fourteen theatrical and TV films based on the real-life horror in 1974. Like the real-life 1949 demonic possession that inspired William Peter Blatty to write The Exorcist, The DeFeo Murder Case remains one of the most mysterious and haunting cases in American history, in which Ronald DeFoe shot and killed his whole family, after initially claiming it to be the work of an intruder, then openly admitting to the crime himself.
Now making its UK debut on Blu-Ray, the original haunted house affair is back for a new generation and a previous one who first saw it on VHS and on TV. Amongst its spin-offs were a prequel, Amityville II – The Possession (1982), starring Burt Young and a remake in 2005 starring Ryan Reynolds, however the first film stands out most and Second Sight's prestigious 'Steelbook' edition also comes with a host of excellent new bonus features.
Based on Jay Anson's novel of the same name, The Amityville Horror tells of the Lutz Family, who move into what initially is their dream home, but which becomes a rather malicious home experience for them. A local priest (Rod Steiger) comes to bless the house, but is clearly unwelcome. The experience begins to drive a wedge between the Lutzes as they try and come to terms with what is happening to them….
Along with Fred Walton's original 1979 version of When A Stranger Calls, The Amityville Horror remains an intelligent, atmospheric horror film. Admittedly, the scares and tone of the film may well have diminished in impact, much like a lot of the horror films that came before it, like old Universal and Hammer offerings, but that doesn't take anything away from the competence of director Rosenberg, who directed two of the best prison dramas of all time, Cool Hand Luke and Brubaker. This film represents a different kind of prison.
James Brolin and Margot Kidder, as newly-weds George and Kathy Lutz, convey the right essence of unease and confusion. Kidder is very good in the role and even today, it is such a surprise in retrospect to have heard her be so vocally critical of a film that, along with her turn as Lois Lane in Superman, proved to be a very popular draw at the box-office. Indeed, both films emerged on Starburst's Top 20 Sci-Fi And Fantasy Films Of 1979 (which featured in STARBURST Issue 22 back in 1980).
Whether you have seen it in earlier incarnations, or are catching up on old horror releases as part of the new generation of fans, The Amityville Horror makes a welcome return to screens in this smashing re-mastered transfer.
THE AMITYVILLE HORROR: LIMITED EDITION STEELBOOK (1979) / CERT: 15 / DIRECTOR: STUART ROSENBERG / SCREENPLAY: SANDOR STERN / STARRING: JAMES BROLIN, MARGOT KIDDER, ROD STEIGER / RELEASE DATE: 26TH JUNE