Wednesday, 5 July 2017

The Amityville Horror

Cast: James Brolin, Margot Kidder, Rod Steiger, Don Stroud, and Murray Hamilton

Director: Stuart Rosenberg

117 minutes (15) 1979
Widescreen ratio 1.85:1
Second Sight blu-ray Region 2

Rating: 8/10
Review by Steven Hampton

After domestic shockers like The Exorcist (1973) and The Omen (1976), but before The Shining (1980) and Poltergeist (1982), The Amityville Horror is based on a true story. Here, $80,000 seems too much for newlyweds to pay for a riverside home in Long Island, New York. The now iconic front with its quadrant attic windows, that appear like glaring eyes, gives the place a distorted face but “Houses don’t have memories,” claims George (a beardy James Brolin) until a fatal despair settles upon him.

An instant swarm of flies in a back bedroom quickly sees off the visiting priest because he cannot bless the cursed. Hubby wakes up at 3:15 am just like clockwork and things go rapidly downhill from then, especially on dark and stormy nights when the door gets torn off its hinges. It’s the kind of drama where strongly sincere overacting is not only favourable but absolutely necessary as the best response to various supernatural events, and the hyper-reality of a nightmarish scenario where demonic weirdness is married to a memorable score.

Irony abounds in the studied grace of secularly educated Father Delaney (Rod Steiger) whose great faith in holy spirits and the strength of his beliefs remains stronger than the placatory brotherhood of the church, whose generally blithe, business-as-usual, attitude, saying “we create our own demons in our minds,” is inadequate when a family of souls are clearly in mortal danger. More than just a classic haunting melodrama, The Amityville Horror skewers the piety of traditional Christian values while exposing the much vaunted ‘American dream’ to sinister powers of darkness lurking beneath conventional knowledge of colonial history and the glossy surface of 20th century culture.   

The prequel Amityville II: The Possession (1982) kicked off the burgeoning franchise and sequels, starting with the gimmicky Amityville 3-D (1983), and continuing ten-years-later with Sandor Stern’s Amityville 4: The Evil Escapes (1989), elaborating upon the original’s familiar genre themes. A competent remake in 2005 took its cues from some imitators of this movie. 

Stunningly restored at 1080p with a transfer re-mastered in hi-def for this Blu-ray limited edition steel-book, the disc includes: Brolin Thunder - a new interview with the actor; Child’s Play - a new interview with Meeno Peluce; Amityville Scribe - a new interview with screenwriter Sandor Stern; and The Devil In The Music - a new interview with composer Lalo Schifrin. Bonus material: My Amityville Horror - a feature-length documentary with Daniel Lutz, For God’s Sake, Get Out! - a featurette with James Brolin and Margot Kidder, an intro by Dr Hans Holzer (author of the book Murder in Amityville), and a commentary track by Holzer.

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