Monday, January 9, 2017

31 Days of Spooky Movies: The Amityville Horror (1979)

Day #20

The Amityville Horror

A man and his family move into a new home only to find out that it was built on the site of a grizzly murder / ancient Indian burial ground / former home of a Satanic worshiper / hell well.

Fright Factor:
1.5 / 5 Cases of Domestic Abuse

Gore Factor:
1 / 5 Backed-up Hellmouth Septic Tanks

Should you watch it?

Unless you are intrigued by its position of horror notoriety or interested in seeing what the 2005 remake was based on, then I’d probably recommend not bothering with this one.

But as for me? Well, after watching the 2005 version I was intrigued; I had enjoyed a lot of things about it, but it strongly had that overly-glossy feel that’s so common among  remakes of classic movies. “I wonder what the original must have been like?” I mused. Maybe it was just as good, but grittier and more original?

It turns out that I wasn’t giving the remake nearly enough credit, because damn! They trimmed the fat of this thing in a big way. I don’t want to write about this movie any longer than I already have to, so let’s focus on the two central parts of the story that make this version so very different from the remake / the main reasons why this movie is so ridiculous: the main character and the source of the evil.

Main Character:

I can’t believe they’re gonna make me say this, but Ryan Reynolds out-acted the shit out of James Brolin here. It comes down to one key difference: Reynolds’ performance actually managed to get the point across that the house was corrupting him. If anything Brolin’s character seems to be a stereotypical man from the late 70s who has developed a drinking problem and a tendency towards taking his anger out on his family. One of the these characters is supernaturally spooky. The other is a something better suited for a serious drama and not a movie full of priests getting repeatedly slapsticked by Satan.

The Evil:

2005 version:
The house is the source of the evil influence and it can only affect those in its presence.

1979 version:
The house/land/something-or-other is possessed (kinda?)...possibly by Satan/ghosts/ancient ritual magics? What’s more, it can supernaturally fuck with whoever the hell it wants to and there’s really no escaping its wrath...sometimes. I spent a fair bit of this movie trying to work out just what exactly the limits of its powers were, but I’m still none the wiser. It seems to go from utterly unstoppable to utterly inept in the span of seconds. I have come to the conclusion that the movie was just poorly written and thus trying to make sense of it is a fool’s errand.

So in conclusion: This movie is pretty stupid and hopelessly dated. If you’ve encountered domestic abuse in your life then some of these scenes might make you a bit uncomfortable and bring back some bad memories, but all the Horror-genre elements of the movie are far from scary. However, if you find bricks slathered in red paint and the cultural horror that was the 1970s frightening? Then by all means, enjoy The Amityville Horror.

“Jesus Christ, it gets worse all the time.”

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