Friday, October 23, 2009

Friday Flashbacks: The Amityville Horror 1979

The Amityville Horror 1979
Director: Stuart Rosenberg
Writer: Sandor Stern
Starring James Brolin, Margot Kidder, Rod Steiger, Don Stroud, Murray Hamilton and Helen Shaver

This was one of the first haunted house films I ever saw, the third if I recall. After Burnt Offerings and The Legend of Hell House. I think that is why this is still one of my favorites. This film has a lot of great things going for it, a great cast, some excellent atmosphere and a great musical score. The film is rather eerie and creepy and when I hear the music I know exactly what it is from. If there is any downside to the film it is very much a 70's film and I think anyone who did not grow up in this era and view the film back then will not appreciate it as much as someone who lived through this era. It has some scenes that still stick with me and when I think of memorable moments in horror films I can think of a few that come immediately to mind. For instance, the scene with the toilets shooting black bile, the attack on Steiger and Brolin's frantic search for that check. The unease and increasing feeling of terror that the characters go through is very palatable throughout the entire film.
The plot basics are this, George (Brolin) and Kathy (Kidder) Lutz have just bought a house in Long Island NY and at first everything seems perfect. Though horrible things have happened in the house and that is disclosed to the Lutz's they buy it, as they believe a house is just a house. But, then bizarre and frightening things begin happening. Kathy is not too sure though and brings a Catholic priest (Stieger) to exorcise the house but he is attacked by the evil spirits that are contained within the house. Soon, it begins to get worse with their babysitter being attacked and soon the spirits are influencing George and it seems are driving him to become a homicidal maniac. It is up to Kathy to try and save her family before the house destroys George and her entire family, but will she succeed or be killed like the previous owners?
This is a classic film and I think one of the best horror films of the 70's. The direction by Rosenberg is very good, he stages the scenes well and has a great sense of atmosphere. The best example of this is the attack on Steiger, it slowly amps up until it becomes unbearably horrifying. The script is good too, based on the supposedly True book based on the account of the Lutzes ordeal, it is turned into a far better film than the book had ever aspired to be. The cast is great too, with the best work done by Brolin and Steiger. Brolin really amps up the emotions needed to slowly go insane and does it superbly. Steiger is great as the priest and has the best scene in the film I believe. Kidder is great too, but she is over eclipsed by those two. The SFX is nominal but is very effective when it is used. The best example of this was the bile erupting from the toilets. The score by Lalo Schifrin is a integral ingredient to why this movie works as well as it does too. Anytime you hear that eerie music you expect something bad to happen and it always does. This is one of the best haunted house films and well worth re watching.
This one gets 5 out of 5

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