The Amityville Horror: Special Edition (1979)
By: J.R. McNamara on August 30, 2005  |  Comments  |  Bookmark and Share
MGM (Australia). Region 4, PAL. 1.85:1 (16:9 enhanced). English DD 5.1. English (FHI) Subtitles. 113 minutes
The Movie
Director: Stuart Rosenberg
Starring: James Brolin, Margot Kidder, Rod Steiger, Don Stroud
Screenplay: Sandor Stern
Music: Lalo Schifrin
Tagline: For God's Sake, Get Out!
Country: USA
The Amityville Horror hit the cinemas in the seventies with a furore, the face of the haunted house staring out from posters with a lingering malevolence. It is one of those icons, like Jason's mask or Freddy's glove that even non horror fans can immediately identify. Using a background in fact, but with many embellishments, much like Texas Chainsaw Massacre with the famous Ed Gein case, The Amityville Horror, starring James Brolin and Margot Kidder, was much like the Blair Witch Project of its day. The hype surrounding it unfortunately became more important than the film itself. The performances in it swing between 'powerful' and hammy, with Brolin doing his very best take of a protagonist/antagonist role, and Kidder just looking on, but doing so beautifully and with much grace. Academy Award winner Rod Steiger as the local Padre really over-acts his role, becoming almost a caricature of the horror priest stereotype.

Based on the 'true account' book by Jay Anson, the film starts with the horrifying Defeo murders, where troubled youngster, Ronald Defeo, for apparently no good reason, murdered his entire family, which after his incarceration, leads to the Amityville house being abandoned for 12 months. George Lutz (James Brolin) and his new wife Kathy (Margot Kidder) and her three children can't believe what a bargain they have fallen into with their purchase of the same house. Little do they know that within the next twenty eight days they will leave this house forever, never to return, forced out by strange happenings and evil occurrences. Not even the assistance of local priest, Father Delaney (Rod Steiger) can save them from the terrifying horror that they will endure.

Much like most haunted house movies, The Amityville Horror expects a load of suspension of disbelief to be effective. Brolin's performance is a highlight and at times is really gut wrenching, and was probably a difficult role to play, and through most of the film he is convincing, especially through his physical transformation.
A really nice and clear 16:9 transfer. The somber colors really suit the atmosphere of the picture and the image never fades or becomes indistinguishable.
An adequate 5.1 Dolby Digital soundtrack that really has no stand out points, of course this is a ghost story and not an action film so you wouldn't expect the sub-woofer to get a huge workout anyway.
Extra Features
On disc one there is only the commentary and an introduction to it by Dr Hans Holzer PhD Parapsychology. Dr Holzer introduces his own commentary with a bit about himself and what parapsychology is about. The subsequent commentary is unlike most commentaries in as so much as the good doctor relates events in the film to the actual events, or others that he has knowledge about through his extensive studies into ectoplasmic enterprises. It is a fairly sporadic commentary but informative and fascinating, if you are into real tales of ghosts and their kind.

Disc two has a great set of documentaries. The first is For God's Sake, Get Out! which runs for 20 minutes and 40 seconds, and interviews James Brolin (George) and Margot Kidder (Kathy) where they discuss everything from their beliefs in the Lutz's story to their very different acting styles. The doco is interesting just for Kidder's savvy filled comments about what horror fan's want from a scary movie.

The next two documentaries are from the History Channel's History's Mysteries. They each run for about 42 minutes and are both hosted by Arthur Kent. The first is Amityville: The Haunting, the doco is a look not just at the Lutz's experiences in the house but also its sordid history with the Defeo murders and its links to a Native American burial ground. It interview's the real George Lutz and his ex-wife Kathy, and others involved with the actual history of the house. It also goes into the history of the town of Amityville itself.

The second is called Amityville: Horror or Hoax, and explores not only the Lutz family, but also whether or not this family, with some outside assistance, would be able to establish such a massive hoax that has lasted so long and convinced so many people of its authenticity.

A 5 minute 30 second piece entitled The Amityville Horror: Sneak Peak is a look at the new Amityville horror. With interviews with stars Ryan Reynolds and Melissa George, this is a propaganda piece to advertise the release of the remake, and the difference between it and the original.

Also on disc two are a trailer and seven 30 second radio spots.
The Verdict
A nice piece of horror history based on fact and made to entertain. This film is much more thrilling if you believe the hype surrounding it. This DVD is an example of what a major studio can do with a film that deserves respect, actually it is so packed full of History Channel documentaries that I almost forgot it was a horror disc. Worthwhile for the extras alone!!
Movie Score
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