Friday, October 22, 2010

Bald Mountain Night 22: The Amityville Horror

Each day in October, intrepid blogger Alex Boivin will watch a horror movie. These movies are all new to him and are part of his month-long effort to fill in his gaps in the horror canon. If he doesn't die from fright, you just might get to read about about his exploits in cinema during the Halloween season.

When I was growing up, one of my favorite books (which of course only came out of its box during the Halloween Season) was Jan Pienkowski's Haunted House pop-up book. Since those early days, I've always had a thing for old, haunted houses. Thusly, I approached The Amityville Horror with great enthusiasm.

Supposedly based on True Events, Amityville is the tale of George Lutz (James "P.W. Herman" Brolin) and his new wife Kathleen (Margot Kidder!). Along with Kathleen's three children, the new family moves into an old Dutch Colonial in Amityville on the south shore of Long Island (the film serves as good metaphor of the stress and anxiety of starting a new life). Of course, the house comes with a history: about a year earlier in the house, a young man had murdered his parents and four siblings in their sleep. Soon, strange voices are heard, doors are locking without locks, the dog is going crazy, flies are swarming, and curatesd are becoming violently ill upon setting foot on the property.

As far as haunted house movies go, Amityville has all the standard tropes: bleeding walls, built on a burial ground etc. And while it was fine experience, I couldn't help but think of better iterations of the haunted house subgenre. A scene involving the children locked in a closet with Brolin busted down the door with an axe conjured up fond memories of the far superior The Shining (though in Amityville's defense, Shining wouldn't come out for another year).

Also, I'm always bothered by films that claimed to be based on True Events. The problem is that this is all based on a family's story that their house was haunted (for which they were of course compensated when they sold the book/movie rights). At the end of the movie, what happens? Everyone is really scared and runs away. No one dies, nothing changes. The moral of the story? Some people got scared once- it might have actually happened, who knows?

The point is, whoever decided to shoot the side of the house so the windows look like the eyes on someone's face in every shot was a genius.

But was it scary? The house's "GET OUT" voice was really creepy. But the film relies on cheap scares sometimes. Example: Brolin kicks back and relaxes with a cigarette by a window. All of a sudden: "MEOW!", a random black cat jumps at the window, giving him a startle. Boy, you must be legitimately scared now, right? Now whose cat was that? What's that? It's never seen or mentioned ever again?

Final Verdict: 38 Congos