The Amityville Horror (Stuart Rosenberg / U.S., 1979):

Mark Twain states the theme: "No real estate is permanently valuable but the grave." Newlyweds (James Brolin, Margot Kidder) inspect their new home, shock cuts to the execution-style familial slaughter that took place a year earlier set up the sales agentís punchline ("Itís all included in the price"). The demonic spirits in the property resent the invasion, a swarm of vilely buzzing flies is unleashed onto Rod Steigerís vein-bulging padre. Rocking chairs rock by themselves, cats hiss by the window, black goo bubbles up from the toilet. Dad morphs into a grouchy lumberjack—he stares with red-rimmed eyes at logs crackling in the fireplace while Mom tries to piece together the mysteriously smashed Virgin Mary statuette. "Based on a true story"? Other gags in Stuart Rosenbergís horror version of Mr. Blandings Builds His Dream House include eyeballs glowing in the dark (Lalo Schifrin quotes Psychoís shrieking violins, what the hell), Murray Hamilton reprising his Jaws character with a clerical collar, and Helen Shaverís rendition of a hippie wife moved to pickaxe-wielding paranormal glee ("Boy, are these vibes ever so strong"). The introductory vision of the house as a demon-head with gleaming window-peepers is from Tatiís Mon Oncle, what follows is an astonishing number of fumbled frissons. Unless... The loose staircase ornament? The brother-in-lawís misplaced cash? The little daughterís imaginary friend? Brolinís cuffing at the bar counter? If you want a lyrical-gruesome yarn about possessed realty, go ask Lucio Fulci. For an abstruse burlesque of Itís a Wonderful Life, look no further. With Don Stroud, John Larch, Michael Sacks, and Amy Wright.

--- Fernando F. Croce

Back to Reviews
Back Home