By Steve Vivona
Having lived on Long Island nearly all my life I can vividly remember the commotion caused by the release of "The Amityville Horror" more than 20 years ago. For those of you from outside the New York area it goes like this: one evening in the mid-seventies a young man killed his parents with a shotgun. Sometime later the house was sold and the new owners quickly high-tailed it out of there, claiming it was haunted. They sold their story and in 1979 the film based on these "actual events" was released, creating years of unwanted attention upon this hapless town.
James Brolin and Margot Kidder (fresh from her success as Lois Lane in "Superman") play George and Kathy Lutz, the new owners of the infamous residence. It doesn't take long for the proceedings to get creepy as George starts acting totally unlike himself (much like "The Shining") When suspicious accidents start turning deadly the Lutzes realize they may not be alone!
"The Amityville Horror" came at a time when horror films were relying more on shock value than suspense, but thankfully the film relies more on what it doesn't show and that gives it a certain credibility that its awful sequels do not. It really produces some truly scary moments and is on a par with contemporaries like "The Changeling" and even "Poltergeist."
Brolin and Kidder fill their husband and wife roles nicely and Brolin especially does a nice job essaying George's descent into madness. He never veers into Nicholson territory (the film actually predates "The Shining" by a year). In fact this is one of the most solid performances of Brolin's career.
MGM has served up a pleasing DVD presentation for "The Amityville Horror" that is the best this film has looked in years. While the transfer has some compression flaws they are minimal, and the image is sharp and clean. It's fair to say this film hasn't been taken care of over the years, but the original elements have been remastered nicely, producing the best quality image possible. A trailer has also been included.
Any serious horror fan is going to want to have this film in their collection as it represents a bygone era in the genre. It may not be a classic but it still serves up the scares and isnt the goal of any good horror film?