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Newlyweds George Lutz (James Brolin) and his wife Kathy (Margot Kidder) are thrilled to buy their first home, a spacious storey house with a basement and boatshed, where they and Kathy's three children from her previous marriage will live. But the house in Amityville has a history: one year ago, an entire family was shot to death there, with the murderer insisting voices had instructed him. Not long after the Lutz family move in, strange things begin to happen, and family members behave out of character. Kathy asks Father Delaney (Rod Steiger) to bless the house, but even he can't overcome the angry house.

Review by Louise Keller:
There is renewed interest in this 1979 original due to the imminent release of the remake with Ryan Reynolds and Perth-born Melissa George. Based on a novel that recounts the supposedly true story of the Lutz family, who became possessed by the evil spirits living in the house they bought in Amityville, this film was the beginning of a genre, which has grown more and more popular over the years.

This isn't the kind of film that makes you jump at every turn. It's creepy in a cumulative kind of way, as a normal family is tipped over into their dark side, when ghosts of the past make themselves known. Sure, all the filmmaking tools are put to good use - the tinkling wind chimes, the creaky stairs that go down to the dark cellar, and of course the mandatory night-time thunderstorm, that allows the shadows to jump even more ominously.

The film is a little dated - the phones are those old fashioned ones, and James Brolin looks very 70s with big hair and full beard. His character of George undergoes the greatest physical change - when we meet him, he is tall and dashing, but within days of moving into the Amityville house distinct with its pair of mysteriously ominous triangular windows, he looks sunken eyed and positively deranged. He is constantly cold and becomes attached to an axe, which he sharpens incessantly. Margot Kidder's Kathy doesn't undergo any such transformation - the house appears to only have an affect on those who are especially sensitive to the spirits living within. When Rod Steiger's family priest enters the house, he feels an evil presence immediately, compounded by the swarm of flies that sem to have an evil intent.

Blood oozing through the walls, sticking windows and swinging doors are just about all the special effects to expect, but the filmmakers have concentrated on the niggling little things to make us uneasy. When the young babysitter is locked in the closet, there is real terror in her eyes as she pounds on the door with great urgency. Some may find the resolution a bit of an anti-climax, but often truth is stranger than fiction.

Released as a two-disc set, with four hours of documentaries on the second disc, The Amityville Horror won't scare you to death, but there's historic interest for lovers of the genre.

Published April 14, 2005

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(US, 1979)

CAST: James Brolin, Margot Kidder, Rod Steiger

DIRECTOR: Stuart Rosenberg

SCRIPT: Sandor Stern (novel by Jay Anson)

RUNNING TIME: 117 minutes


SPECIAL FEATURES: Documentaries and audio commentary


DVD RELEASE: March 16, 2005

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