The Amityville Horror (1979)

Genres - Horror  |   Sub-Genres - Haunted House Film, Supernatural Horror  |   Run Time - 117 min.  |   Countries - United States   |   MPAA Rating - R
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For those caught up in the media blitz surrounding the "real-life" paranormal activities of the Lutz household in the late '70s, Jay Anson's best-selling nonfiction tome and its subsequent movie adaptation may have been riveting, seminal works of fact-based horror. Years removed from the scandal, however, it's possible to see The Amityville Horror for what it is: a laughable piece of quickie camp exploitation, produced by the company that invented the form, American International Pictures. The Lutzes' story -- however fabricated -- made for some great, straightforward post-Rosemary's Baby, post-Exorcist freak-outs. But in its translation to the screen, Amityville became an almost Dadaist exercise in incoherence, riddled with shots that don't match, performers that seem to have been filmed at separate times in separate locations, and interminable stretches of celluloid where absolutely nothing happens. '70s stalwarts Margot Kidder and James Brolin -- not to mention the well-in-decline Rod Steiger -- turn in wildly overmodulated performances that somehow don't fit together, despite having a common denominator of bug-eyed, histrionic bombast. Of course, none of the ineptitude of the film's first hour would matter if there were a satisfying payoff, but Amityville botches even that, with fake-looking green ooze and perhaps the least-menacing portal to hell in motion-picture history. By the time the umpteenth low-angle shot of the house's evil-eye attic windows rolls around, most viewers -- no matter how nostalgic -- would be best advised to shut off Amityville and rent Poltergeist instead.