31 Days of Halloween 18 – Everything working against Amityville
The Amityville Horror (1979) could be the one film where success comes in spite of everything else working against it. The film resulted in several lawsuits, the original screenwriter was fired and replaced, it was critically panned, and the media doubted the true nature of the story. George and Kathy Lutz took a polygraph test to prove that their haunted house story was true, and passed with flying colors, but people still don’t consider The Amityville Horror (1979) a true story. I have never seen so many websites and books about the “true” nature of a ghost story, a haunted house tale like this one. The movie’s controversy must have been very attractive back in 1979, compelling crowds to see it for themselves as they tried to figure out what was going on. Is it true? Who knows. Who cares. It’s a good movie.
I don’t think any other haunted house movie even comes close to The Amityville Horror, except maybe The Shining. However, even The Shining doesn’t have the underlying notoriety of The Amityville Horror. This actually made people want to see the film, mainly because the story was marketed as a mystery and a controversial subject. People love a good mystery and love a good topic to talk about with their pals. I think Gone Girl (2014) has the same “water cooler” notoriety, with a mystery and some social drama to talk about, linked to real events.
Evoking The Exorcist, priests run like scared bandits when they enter the house bought by George and Kathy Lutz. Many of the media releases did not hide from comparisons to The Exorcist, and praised The Amityville Horror as superior, of course. This movie was released in the summer of 1979, even though that summer was crowded with classics like Dawn of the Dead, Alien and Phantasm. All of them are classics. Great movies. Newsweek dubbed that 1979 summer as “Hollywood’s Scary Summer”.
Media Release: More hideously frightening than The Exorcist because it actually happened!
The media hype must have been amazing and exciting for horror movie lovers. The book was everywhere, published only a couple of years prior in 1977, so it was backed by literature, the most tantamount of truths. I saw it in the 90s on home video, and regarded it as “okay”, but it has a rare element of capturing horrific moments in the commonplace. The evil flies still stick out as one of the more scary moments.
The family doesn’t run when they start to have problems around the house. In fact, they buy the house cheap and get a real deal knowing the background. They are desperate. They have little money. Stephen King has described this economic subtext as helpful to the tension in the movie. It is the monetary fear of loss that almost everyone has had at one time or another, upon investing in something big. The Lutz family has the anticipation and dread that they might lose the house, their whole future, and this is really scary to them. It comes across to us. It is brilliant.
The dread and the fear come across as real and genuine, like it could happen to anyone. In the case of the Lutz family, they have to cope with the horror. George curses the house and the troubles at one point, shouting in frustration. He’s losing control of his future, his investment, and that freaks him out. The subtext is that he’s spent too much like many people in middle America and the bank is the villain, the evil out to foreclose if he can’t “make it work”.
All in all, I wish I could have been a movie goer during the summer of 1979. I think I would have been a happy camper. From sci-fi to horror, I can’t imagine a better time for people at the movies. There is a fear of monetary loss in The Amityville Horror and The Shining too, so both movies have a commonality in that way. The subtext of both movies is that the loss will be too much, tossing you down the economic ladder into darkness. Did the Amityville Horror really happen? Can it happen to you?
31 Days of Halloween Movie Marathon
1 – Frankenstein and the Monster from HELL (1974)
2 – Dracula has risen from the grave (1968)
3 – The Curse of the Mummy’s Tomb (1964)
4 – Evil Dead II (1987)
5 – Dawn of the Dead (1978)
6 – Les Diaboliques (1955)
7 – The Howling (1981)
8 – Friday the 13th (1980)
9 – Friday the 13th: The Final Chapter (1984)
10 – Hellraiser (1987)
11 – Let the Right One in (2008)
12 – Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors (1984)
13 – House of 1000 Corpses (2003)
14 – The Strangers (2008)
15 – The House of the Devil (2009)
16 – Psycho (1960)
17 – The Orphanage (2007)
18 – The Amityville Horror (1979)
19 – The Raven (1963)
20 – Blue Velvet (1986)
21 – Repulsion (1965)
22 – Dementia 13 (1963)
23 – The Vanishing (2008)
24 – Halloween (1978)
25 – Shaun of the Dead (2004)
26 – The Silence of the Lambs (1988)
27 – An American Werewolf in London (1981)
28 – Bram Stoker’s Dracula (1992)
29 – The Exorcist (1973)
30 – The Ring (2002)
31 – Night of the Living Dead (1968)