FINAL GIRL explores the slasher flicks of the '70s and '80s...and all the other horror movies I feel like talking about, too. This is life on the EDGE, so beware yon spoilers!

Jan 24, 2006

Supernatural 70s Week! Day 2

Purportedly based on a true story, The Amityville Horror (1979) recounts the 19 days the Lutz family spent in their new home in Amityville, Long Island. We all know the story by now- the portal to Hell may or may not be in the secret red room in the Lutz basement. Either way, enough disturbing and spooky things happen in the house that the Lutzes flee in the middle of the night, never to return- finally heeding the house’s command to “GET OUT!”

Disturbing and spooky things? Well, there’s bleeding walls, vomiting nuns, flies a-plenty, black goo in the toilet, an imaginary friend who turns out to be not-so-imaginary…and yes, the house does actually intone “GET OUT!” ominously. Throw into the mix the possibility that George Lutz is turning into a homicidal maniac and you’ve got yourself plenty of disturbing and spooky things, I'd say.

When I was but a wee bonny lass, The Amityville Horror scared the living crap outta me. The masses of flies were gross, windows closing on their own were dangerous, Jody the Imaginary Friend’s evil red eyes staring at Margot Kidder through the window was horrifying. The fact that it was all true was the icing on the cake! I pored over Jay Anson’s trashy paperback of the same name repeatedly, scared to death of Jody. Watching the movie recently, well…it turns out that...Jody is a giant purple pig. Yes, I hadn’t seen this flick in ages, and when we got the long-distance shot of Jody in the window, his fat purple pig ass filling up the entire room, I giggled. When the house told the priest to “GET OUT!”, I giggled. James Brolin is still menacing as he clutches his axe and grimaces, but when he grabbed big fistfuls of his afro and screamed “I’m coming aparrrrt!”, I giggled. The bleeding walls, however, still rock.

There’s been a lot of back and forth about the veracity of all these happenings and whether something actually happened in the house or the Lutzes were simply out to make a buck. Regardless, this movie is still fun- and somehow, all the silliness and disparate elements come together to make a movie that’s unsettling, if not scary. And how can you not love a movie with an evil, giant, purple pig? I do! I give it 7 out of 10 vomiting nuns.

Umm, is that a giant purple pig in my attic, or did I eat too many shrooms today?

In his non-fiction book on horror, Danse Macabre, Stephen King offers up an interesting interpretation of the movie- one that makes The Amityville Horror a film that goes beyond its inherent late-70s schlockiness. The movie, King argues, is an allegory for economic insecurity and stress:
Here is a horror movie for every woman who ever wept over a plugged-up toilet…for every man who ever did a slow burn when the weight of the snow caused his gutters to give way…As horror goes, Amityville is pretty pedestrian. So’s beer, but you can get drunk on it…The Amityville Horror, beneath its ghost-story exterior, is really a financial demolition derby.
In other words, the Lutzes bought a money pit. Whether this subtext is intentional or not, who knows- but it’s there. The house is always cold- it needs insulation. I mentioned the black goo- the house has bad plumbing. The bills pile up, they can’t afford the house, George isn’t working, and $1500 goes missing. George Lutz gets increasingly stressed out as the family falls further and further into financial ruin, until eventually they flee from the house and creditors alike. In today’s economy, where people work 40-60 hours a week and still can’t get by, The Amityville Horror may be more relevant than anyone thought it ever could be.

6 comments:

B.A. Slattery said...

Stacie,

You sound like a crusader "for the people" all of a sudden, with your economics jibe and what-not. Interesting take. I don't generally buy anything from Stephen King, but I like his line about getting drunk on beer. Yes, indeed, you can get drunk on beer.

Have you seen the remake? I wrote about it here - but really I wrote about how children should be abused in films more often because I think it's entertaining.

When I was a kid, The Amityville Horror bored the shit out of me. Nothing about that movie scared me. Friday the 13th: Part II, however, with our good friend Ginny, gave me nightmares.

O.K.,
Brennon

Stacie Ponder said...

Haven't seen the remake yet, but a movie that kills off the child characters is a movie with balls. Like Sleepaway Camp 2.

"For the people" indeed! What I'd really like is to teach the world to sing in perfect harmony.

I'm sure 50% of my enjoyment of Amityville is nostalgia talking. I'm a wistful old coot.

B.A. Slattery said...

Buy the world a Coke.

cattleworks said...

I'm glad you had a review of AMITYVILLE HORROR here. I just saw it for the first time and I was really curious what you or Mermaid Heather had to say about it.
Unfortunately, MH currently has nada to say about it!
I was kind of on hold for a bit when the movie finally ended. I couldn't quite make up my mind if I liked it or not... and then I decided I didn't.
It's a strangely put together film, I thought while watching it.
At the end, I decided the film was leaving it up to you as to whether or not you believed the house was haunted.
Which seems a strange way of putting it, because we obviously saw some paranormal crap going on.
But, that became a criticism, for me, of the film. I think they should've been more consistent showing things and you could arguably come up with a "reasonable explanation" for it. A good example is the car that the two priests are driving that goes extremely haywire. As violently in disrepair as that car becomes in a matter of minutes (the clincher for me is when the hood flies open), you could dismiss it as vehicle breakdown, the way the senior priest Murray ("Amity means friendship!") Hamilton completely blows it off.
That's why I don't think they should have overtly shown the empty rocking chair rocking when the little girl is talking to Jody, and then it suddenly stops when Margot Kidder enters the room.
That's OBVIOUSLY paranormal.
You know what I mean?
Even you're purple pig moment...
if they showed the pig, and then shadows on the wall and the pig never walks back in front of the window... did I see what I just saw? You know?
The other thing that got me is the overacting of Rod Steiger.
I like Rod Steiger, but he tends to go over the top, and among the film's cast he seemed solely over the top in this flick (except when the nun freaks out). Although his line about "I know the difference between the supernatural and a bad clam!" was pretty great!
And when the fleeing nun suddenly pukes out her car door!
We see her head dropping behind the open car door, and then we hear her hacking up, and boy do we! I almost started laughing out loud at that, but my wife was watching as well, and she was getting disturbed by the goings on, so I restrained myself.
But, I thought that could've been toned down a bit in the sound department.
Weird, weird movie.
Maybe I'll rant/analyze properly in my own blog, but I thank you for this quick indulgent venting opportunity.

Christopher said...

This is fun, dive-bombing in on reviews 2.5 years later ....

I had a similar experience to Stacie: Watched the move when I was a little too young and impressionable, devoured the book when I was a little too young & impressionable and didn't understand how to read the copyright page ... But King is right, this is "The Money Pit" as a horror movie. In fact, wouldn't it be a blast if we could just stick Tom Hanks and Shelley Long in the Amityville horror house, and put Brolin and Kidder in the Money Pit mansion (complete with Alexander Gudonov). ...

You forgot, though, to mention the absolute No. 1 most terrifying shot of The Amityville Horror. Forget the red eyes. I will never get the image of James Brolin standing in the front doorway in his tighty whiteys burned out of my retina.

Catherine said...

It's interesting what you have offered us in the way of the "horror" of the infamous financial blunder of buying a crappy house and suffering in terror of all consequences that follow. The reality is actually more terrifying than the made up story.

A similar thought crossed my mind when I read the original story of the Amityville house and what really happened there. A young man, being your typical run of the mill rich man's son (no offense to you rich kids out there- I'm sure there are some nice, charitable, hard workers among you), never having been accountable or responsible for anything he did, should have done, or should not have done, snorted some coke and shot his entire family after years of tension building up among them. The reality is, once again, more horrifying, because, well...it's reality.

On another level, I wanted to suggest Amityville 2: The Possession. Still to this day one of my favorite movies- and honestly, more true to the original story of what actually took place in the home before the Lutzes bought it, but of course only in the way of the relationship between the father and son, and the manner in which they were killed. Of course the majority of the movie is just good old fashioned scary-ass Catholic horror. Gotta LOVE it. And believe me, I do.

What I really love about the first one is that there is some genuinely good acting in it. Disagree away, and discuss. Don't have time to edit, so I apologize in advance for errors. Thanks for your site, Stacie. It's amazing!!