Worth A Look: 13.21%
Pretty Bad: 18.87%
Total Crap: 28.3%
1 review, 47 user ratings
|Amityville Horror, The (1979)
by Matt Mulcahey
The problem with haunted house movies is that, at some point, you inevitably feel compelled to yell at the screen, “For Christ’s sake, get out of the damn house already!”Though this thought will undoubtedly crawl into your head at some point during The Amityville Horror, the movie prolongs the epiphany long enough to rise above its rather dubious reputation as one of the 70s least worthy box office successes.
"If a voice in your house says “Get Out,” you should probably listen"
Based on a the supposedly true novel by Jay Anson, the film begins none-too-promisingly with a badly shot murder montage followed by some lazy exposition from a couple of flatfoots played by Val Avery and Back to the Future principal James Tolkan (Jesus, did that guy ever have hair?) It seems a 20-year old man has inexplicably murdered his parents and all four of his siblings with a shotgun. He claimed voices told him to do it.
Cut to one-year later, as a real-estate agent shows the newly married Lutz’s (James Brolin and Margot Kidder) around the home. Down on their luck financially, the Lutz’s think that a Long Island waterfront domicile at the bargain price of $80,000 is worth it even if the last resident did off six family members.
“Houses don’t have memories,” says Brolin, and with that the Lutz’s and their three kids are unpacking.
No sooner than the ink dries on the mortgage, strange goings on start to occur in typical haunted house fashion: doors shut by themselves, bad dreams slip into the subconscious and rocking chairs inexplicably sway.
The most frightening development comes in the form of Brolin, who slowly starts to go Nicholson from The Shining (though only Stephen’s King novel had been released at the time). Though Brolin, better known these days for being Mr. Barbara Streisand, captures his character’s neurosis well, the character has no arc. Director Stuart Rosenberg (talk about slumming, this guy made Cool Hand Luke and The Pope of Greenwich Village) and screenwriter Sandor Stern never let us get to know Brolin beforehand. So when he starts yelling at the kids and becomes obsessed with an axe its hard to tell if it’s the demonic influence of the house or if Brolin is just an asshole who likes to cut firewood.
To make sure you get the point that it’s the HOUSE that’s evil, anytime someone related to the church enters they vomit and become violently ill (including priest Rod Steiger, an actor who always tip toes right to the edge of over the top and takes a big-time tumble here).
The strange occurrences continue, but they aren’t particularly frightening. Flies gather at a certain window, the cash for Kiddor’s brother’s wedding caterer disappears, the toilet blocks up with black sludge. Hardly the work of terrifying forces of evil. Tom Hanks and Shelly Long had it worse in The Money Pit, though rendering Brolin impotent is pretty cold-hearted.
None of these ghostly acts is enough to compel you to stand up, hurl a milk dud at the screen, and declare, “Get out of the house you morons.”
However, that moment is quickly to come.
Because the movie never manages to make the house a character unto itself, much less the menacing gateway of evil the story proports it to be, the filmmakers felt they needed a little more. So they added a completely ridiculous subplot, with Brolin and Kidder discovering the house was built by some loony run out of Salem for witchcraft.
THIS is the point at which you pack up your shit and get the hell out of Dodge.
Not in this movie.
Still not convinced by the whole “gateway to hell in the basement” thing, Kidder decides to do some research on the murders (Hey, maybe that’s something you should’ve done before you bought the house) and finds that the nutjob who took target practice on his family is a dead-ringer for Brolin.
OK, no question about it, time to relocate.
Not in this movie, as the fam sticks around until the walls start dripping blood before finally making a run for it.But it’s a little too late to prevent The Amityville Horror from becoming just another horror flick where the participants are too stupid to avoid danger by simply getting in their car and stepping on the gas pedal.
link directly to this review at http://www.efilmcritic.com/review.php?movie=1933&reviewer=255
originally posted: 04/14/02 12:02:04
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