While attending High School I can remember a number of my friends carrying around a paperback copy of The Amityville Horror from which the movie was made. It was talked about in the halls and during lunch as to whether the events in the book, and subsequent movie, were "real." Most of us concluded that it was a true story, although a bit exaggerated for dramatic effect. As far as I was concerned, if I had heard a voice that told me to "get out" I would have packed my bags and left immediately. I remember seeing the movie in the theater and it gave me the creeps. It was a good old fashioned scare, made even more scarier by its claim of being based on a true story.
Well, here we are many years later. Sequels and remakes have been released. How does the original film hold up? Well, I think it holds up quite nicely as a classic piece of late 70's horror in the vein of Carrie (1976) and Halloween (1978). The Amityville Horror is the story of the Lutz family who bought a house where Ronald DeFeo had previously shot and killed six of his family members. The Lutz family lived there for only 28 days before fleeing the house, claiming to have been terrorized by paranormal activity.
Margot Kidder is perfect as Kathy Lutz. Her big, expressive eyes convey every emotion from wonder and excitement to absolute terror. Rod Steiger does a nice job as Father Delaney who seems to be in over his head with the demonic. The best performance is James Brolin as George Lutz. We watch him slowly loose his grip on reality in a way that is extremely convincing and not over the top. He keeps the tension and sense of dread mounting until it explodes toward the end of the film.
The special effects are simple but they work. The cinematography is really nice and the soundtrack really adds a great deal to the film. Kudos as well to director Stuart Rosenberg [Cool Hand Luke, Voyage of the Damned] who keeps things moving at a nice pace. Well done. You can't go wrong with The Amityville Horror. It's a powerful tale of the supernatural. Don't miss it. It's a total classic.
For more info check out the film's entry in IMDB.