Tuesday, October 01, 2013

The Amityville Horror

**1/2 (1979)

In 1979, on Long Island, you could get a big waterfront home with a garden shed and a boat house for $80,000. Granted, that's with the mass-killing discount, but still, it's too great a bargain for James Brolin and Margot Kidder to pass up. You know you've been watching too much HGTV when you see the Amityville Horror, and you're nodding furiously when the Brolin character is pricing out how much the house is really worth ($120k, by his guess), and you're thinking, "dude, you could totally flip that!"

This is one of those that I thought I'd seen way back when, but that I'm pretty sure now I'd never seen until tonight. And after all that time, my main thought was meh. There's some good stuff, and I liked the 3 main leads (Kidder, Brolin, and Rod Steiger as a priest), but the story never really goes anywhere. And damn, it's pretty slow going for the most part--if this were made today, it would never be a bloated 119 minutes long. Actually I guess it was remade recently, so let me check how long that one was: ha, a cool 90 minutes...I rule!

So, what's good and bad here? Well, first, it does have a great early scene with Rod Steiger as a priest who gets attacked by flies, trapped in a room, and then told to "Get out!" by some voice. Which led to this awesome clip (possibly the source of my false memory syndrome about having seen this movie).

There's also a racy early scene with Margot Kidder, who I totally had the hots for from the first two Superman movies. Actually, it's not very racy, but you do get this:
Other than that, it's largely a matter of just making it through. I suppose I was fairly tense during the final scene, in which Brolin goes back into the house to save the dog, but yeah, by the time we'd gotten to that cliche, I was more interested in cliche counting than caring about the family.

There's also a cool subplot involving Catholic priests disagreeing over what to do about the house, but it sort of goes nowhere, and you never get an awesome exorcism as anticipated. The people just flee the house after 28 days of bleeding walls, windows that open on their own, and shaking chandeliers. And really, that's about the sum of the horror here--the damn chandelier shakes a LOT.

There's also never any satisfying big reveal like in Poltergeist when Craig T. Nelson realizes the whole development was build over a burial ground. Here, they sort of throw in a disgraced Salem witch dude who built his house on that spot, which is now some sort of portal to hell.

Whatever. It's not terrible by any means, but I was hoping for better. Sort of. Really scary haunted stuff movies kind of do freak me out, so maybe I needed a sissy one like this to build up my thon tolerance.


JPX said...

Landshark I completely agree with your review and rating! I remember first seeing this on television when I was 11 or 12 and it scared the hell out of me. When I watched it as an adult I was struck by two things; its sloooooooow and NOTHING HAPPENS! How this film earned a “scary” reputation is beyond me. True, the priest scene is pretty effective, but what else? As you note, it’s a movie about people being scared by things that go bump in the night for a month and then they leave. All the sequels are awful as well.

AC said...

agreed and agreed and love that eddie murphy routine. this is one classic I never need to see again.

Trevor said...

My favorite part of your review is the picture of Margot Kidder. I had no idea she ever looked anything like that. Then I google-imaged her, and saw nothing but recent photos of her. Wow, that's depressing.

Octopunk said...

That is PERFECT to include the Eddie Murphy clip, which is probably more iconic now than the movie itself.

And yes, why so iconic? The Devil. I've never actually seen this flick, but I remember everyone talking about it when it was out.

Margot Kidder side boob! I was crushed out on her during the Superman II era but now my favorite thing about her is how she went nuts and wandered around people's back yards. I love that because of the following hypothetical dialogue:

"Honey, I think there's someone in the back yard."
"You're right babe! I think it's.... Yes, I think it's Margot Kidder!"

JPX said...

I've always felt that Margot Kidder was way too old to be playing Lois Lane. Not that 30-years old is old but Kidder was clearly a heavy smoker and she looks weathered in those films.

Octo, her crazy behavior is explained by un-medicated bipolarity!

Johnny Sweatpants said...


Sorry, had to get that out of my system.

So Landshark is it safe to assume that you're gonna pass on the 10 sequels/remakes?

JPX said...

I vote that Landshark cover all the sequels including the remake!

DCD said...

I must now watch that Eddie Murphy special. I still frequently quote that show.

Excellent review, Landshark! I feel like I have seen parts of this, but never the whole movie.

I second JPX's vote!

Catfreeek said...

Man I am do far behind! Day two and only one movie in. Great review, highly entertaining.