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The Amityville Horror (1979)

20th Century Fox Home Entertainment
Blu-ray Disc Released: 10/7/2008

All Ratings out of
Movie: 1/2
Video: 1/2

Review by Mike Long, Posted on 10/13/2008

It's not that unusual for a horror film to create a national phenomenon. When film's like The Exorcist, Jaws, and The Blair Witch Project (Clap. Clap. Clap-clap-clap. O-ver-ray-ted!) hit theaters, they made the headlines because of sold-out shows and people reacting to the films. These films spawned numerous imitators which only helped to keep their legend in the public psyche. It's rare that this happens in reverse. While there are plenty of movies based on true events, it's not often that we get a horror movie which is ripped from the headlines. But, that was the case with The Amityville Horror, a film which came on the heels of news reports and a tell-all book which delved into the strange occurrences in the Long Island town.

The Amityville Horror tells the story of George (James Brolin) and Kathy Lutz (Margot Kidder), a newly married couple who move into a house on Long Island, with Kathyís three children from a previous marriage. The Lutzís are taking a financial chance on the large house, but the price is notably low and they love the structure. The Lutzís arenít even deterred by the fact that six of the previous tenants had been murdered in the house. However, soon after the Lutzís move into the house, strange things begin to happen. When a local priest, Father Delaney (Rod Steiger), comes to bless the house, he is besieged by flies and driven from the dwelling. When Kathy attempts to call Delaney, the phone is plagued by static. Young Amy Lutz (Natasha Ryan) begins speaking to an imaginary friend named Jodi, who tells her very bizarre things. The toilets run black and blood oozes from the walls. George is always cold and begins to bare a resemblance to the man who killed his family in the house. As the events begin to pile up, the Lutzís realize that they canít stay in the house.

Watching The Amityville Horror 29 years after its release, it becomes very clear that America MUST have been caught up in the publicity surrounding the ďTrue StoryĒ of the film, for this movie that grossed $80 million at the box office is incredibly boring. The movie walks a fine line of being both a supernatural thriller and a psychological horror movie and eventually succeeds as neither. All of the scenes that made the story and the film famous are here, but when strung together, they donít make for an interesting, cohesive story.

The movie also makes the mistake of diverting away from the family too often to focus on Father Delaney, seemingly to remind the audience of The Exorcist. Veteran director Stuart Rosenberg (Cool Hand Luke) manages to create very little tension and no suspense. If nothing else, the movie should be creepy, but it canít manage that much. The Amityville Horror is interesting from the viewpoint of popular history, but the film hasnít stood the test of time.

The Amityville Horror haunts Blu-ray Disc courtesy of 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment. The film has been letterboxed at 1.85:1 and the Disc offers a 1080p HD AVC transfer which runs at an average of 19 Mbps. This is a film which has historically looked very soft (especially when seen on broadcast television), but this transfer is pretty good. The exterior shots are very sharp and clear, showing only slight grain and very good colors. Interiors are noticeably darker, but not distractingly so. The softness is kept to a minimum and the detail level is acceptable. The Disc offers a DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track which runs at 48 kHz and an average of 4.0 Mbps. The track provides clear dialogue and sound effects. Given that this is a reconstructed mono (stereo at best) track, the sound is pretty good. The stereo effects are good and the score sounds particularly fine. During the finale, the thunderstorm sounds very good, as the rain fills the speakers and the thunder booms from the rear channels.

The only extra feature on The Amityville Horror Blu-ray Disc is the original THEATRICAL TRAILER for the film. To that end, Fox really dropped the ball here. The Amityville DVD boxed set which was released in 2005 contained two documentaries about the real-life events in the house and both were very good and educational. There was plenty of room to include them on this release.

Review Copyright 2008 by Mike Long