The Amityville Horror (1979)

USA,
118m, 10,648 feet
35mm film, colour, 1.85.1
mono, English

An American horror film directed by Stuart Rosenberg. It was the first film to be shown on the HBO Cinemax channel on 25 August 1980.

Plot Summary

George and Kathy Lutz and their move into a new house on Long Island to start what they hope will be an idyllic new life together. They learn that a brutal murder took place there some year before and that the place is haunted by an evil force. The Lutz's call in a priest to perform an exorcism – but that will be enough to save the family from the evil?

Credits

Crew
Directed by: Stuart Rosenberg
© by American International Pictures, Inc.
Samuel Z. Arkoff presents a Cinema 77 film, a Professional Films Inc. production. Released by American International
Executive Producer: Samuel Z. Arkoff
Produced by: Elliot Geisinger, Ronald Saland
Screenplay: Sandor Stern
Based on the Book by: Jay Anson
Director of Photography: Fred J. Koenekamp
Edited by: Robert Brown
Music by: Lalo Schifrin
Sound Mixer: Maury Harris
Men's Wardrobe: Richard Butz
Women's Wardrobe: Cynthia Bales
Make-Up Artist: Stephen Abrums
Hair Stylist: Christine Lee
Special Effects: Delwyn Rheaume
Visual Effects by: William Cruse
Art Director: Kim Swados

Cast
James Brolin (George Lutz)
Margot Kidder (Kathy Lutz)
Rod Steiger (Father Delaney)
Murray Hamilton (Father Ryan)
Don Stroud (Father Bolen)
Michael Sacks (Jeff)
Val Avery (Sgt. Gionfriddo)
Helen Shaver (Carolyn)
Irene Dailey (Aunt Helena)
Amy Wright (Jackie)
Marc Vahanian (Jimmy)
Natasha Ryan (Amy)
K.C. Martel (Greg)
Meeno Peluce (Matt)
John Larch (Father Nuncio)
Elsa Raven (Mrs Townsend)
Ellen Saland (bride)
Eddie Barth (Agucci)
Hank Garrett (bartender)
James Tolkan (coroner)

Alternative Titles

Horror – Italian/German title
A Amityville, a Mansão do Diabo – Portugese title
Amityville, la maison du diable – French title
Demonene i Amityville – Norwegian title
Horror Amityville – Polish title
Huset som gud glömde – Swedish title
Luojan tähden, paetkaa! – Finnish title
Terror en Amityville – Spanish title

Sequels
Amityville II: The Possession (1982)
Amityville 3-D (1983)
Amityville: The Evil Escapes (1989)
The Amityville Curse (1990)
Amityville 1992: It's About Time (1992)
Amityville: A New Generation (1993)
Amityville: Dollhouse (1997)
The Amityville Haunting (2011)
The Amityville Asylum (2013)
Amityville Death House (2015)
The Amityville Playhouse (2015)
The Amityville Legacy (2016)
Amityville: The Awakening (2017)

Remake
The Amityville Horror (2005)

Extracts included in
Woodlands Dark and Days Bewitched: A History of Folk Horror (2021)

See also
History's Mysteries: Amityville 2000 (2000)
Scary Movie 2 (2001)

Press

1979
Variety 1 August 1979 p.20
The Amityville Horror has all the tingles and terrors of a classic haunted-house story, plus an address familiar to all the millions who bought the book. […] [T]he problem with the film, as with the book, is the lack of resolvable conflict. Without doubt, this is as written, a terrifying domicile, but so overwhelming there's no way to fight back. Brolin and Kidder can only suffer, taking out their fears on each other. As , Rod Steiger and Don Stroud are no match either for whatever inexplicable evil has gripped the home and Steiger finally overacts his defeat, as he has a tendency to do at the hands of a director who doesn't control him. Family friends Michael Sacks and Helen Shaver are good, she especially in one psychically vibrating scene. And Val Avery, as the cop familiar with the house's deadly history, also must stand by. Readers, to be sure, will know the weakness of the ending (made more so by post-Anson revelations that the next family to occupy the same house lived there happily ever after.) Nonreaders will at least have a visual buildup equal to the book. – from a review by Har

1980
Monthly Film Bulletin vol.47 no.552 (January 1980) p.3
The Amityville Horror proves the most satisfying excursion into no-frills spine-chilling for some time. […] The screenplay largely ignores conventional plot in favour of a nearly abstract succession of incidents structured by two recurring factors: the time of night at which ‘something happens' in the house, and – to a lesser extent – Kathleen's inability ever to make contact with the priest. There is, too a cunning formal paradox in the way the film takes place in its first half almost entirely in and around the house, and then ranges progressively further afield while ineluctably referring back to the starting-point. The claustrophobia of the earlier sequences ingeniously forestalls speculation as to why the Lutzes don't get the hell out of their uncongenial abode. […] Aided by the rumblingly discordant score, Rosenberg goes for an exclamatory chop-and-change – blunt framing, jagged editing – that constantly propels the plot forward. The film is also consistently well played and provides Rod Steiger with his best opportunity in ages for all-stops-out bravura. The attempt to extend the climax with George venturing back into the house is perhaps misconceived: interestingly, it is when a thematic gloss is attempted – the rescue of the dog providing redemption from the forces of evil – that the movie works least cogently. The concluding title is also needlessly bathetic-but by that time one is in no mood to complain. – from a review by Tim Pulleine

New Musical Express 19 January 1980 p.27
As far as it goes, it has its fair share of thrills and chills; the soundtrack, the acting, the special effects are what one might expect from AIP, but there is something missing. The role of the Church and its failure to cope with the events that take place is practically a side issue compared with the ‘something nasty in the cellar' schtick for example, and Rod Steiger as the unfortunate priest has to go over the top and back again to make anything at all of that particular plot line. […] The most effective piece of scaremongering is much closer to home and is simply that you never know when one of your family might lose his marbles and blow you all to Kingdom Come. […] As an ordinary horror film it's above average. From a more critical point of view it's a wasted opportunity, because inside this movie there's a better one trying to get out. – from an illustrated review by Neil Norman

References

Periodicals

  • Architectural Design vol.70 no.1 (January 2000) pp.36-41 – illustrated article (Evil Residence – The house and the horror film by Bob Fear)
  • Cinefantastique vol.9 no.2 (Winter 1979) pp.30-31 – review (by Steven Dimeo)
  • Cinema of the '70s no.1 (2020) pp.40-42 – illustrated article (The Amityville Horror by David Flack)
  • Film Bulletin vol.47 (August – September 1978) p.29 – note
  • Film Bulletin vol.48 no.5 (July 1979) pp.10-15 – illustrated production notes
  • Film Score Monthly vol.7 no.8 (October 2002) p.33 – illustrated soundtrack review (by Stephen Armstrong)
  • Film World June 1979 p.8 – review
  • Films and Filming vol.26 no.1 (October 1979) pp.36-37 – credits, review (by Julian Fox)
  • The Hollywood Reporter vol.254 no.20 (1 December 1978) p.10 – credits
  • The Listener vol.103 no.2645 (17 January 1980) p.89 – review (by Gavin Millar)
  • Monthly Film Bulletin vol.47 no.552 (January 1980) p.3 – credits, synopsis, review (by Tim Pulleine)
  • Music from the Movies no.37 (2003) pp.26-27 – illustrated soundtrack review (by Mikael Carlsson)
  • New Musical Express 19 January 1980 p.27 – illustrated review (by Neil Norman)
  • Photoplay vol.31 (January 1980) pp.23-25 – illustrated review (The horrors of Amityville by Dave Smith)
  • Screen International no.172 (13 January 1979) p.13 – illustrated article (Shake, rattle and roll is not for tuart Rosenberg by Quentin Falk)
  • Screen International no.198 (14 July 1979) p.6 – illustrated note (Amityville gets a $6m send-off by B.J. Franklin)
  • Screen International no.216 (17 November 1979) p.22 – review (by Marjorie Bilbow)
  • Screen International no.224 (19-26 January 1912) pp.2; 10; 15 – note (London box office: ‘Amityville' hits a high); illustrated article (Marketing matters: Putting the heat on the Press by Colin Vaines); illustrated article (The Amityville Horror takes London by storm)
  • Screen International no.226 (2-9 February 1980) pp.72-73; 76 – note (Success is freedom for Geisinger); illustrated note (UK provincial box office by Chris Brown)
  • Screen International no.253 (9-16 August 1980) p.6 – note (HBO movie-only service)
  • Variety 1 August 1979 p.20 – credits, review (by Har)

Books

  • American International Pictures: A Comprehensive Filmography by Rob Craig p.34
  • American International Pictures: A Filmography by Robert L. Ottoson pp.322-323 – credits, synopsis, review
  • The Aurum Film Encyclopedia: Horror by Phil Hardy (ed.) p.333-334 – illustrated credits, review
  • Euro Gothic: Classics of Continental Horror Cinema by Jonathan Rigby pp.391
  • Faster and Furiouser: The Revised and Fattened Fable of American International Pictures by Mark Thomas McGee pp.294-295; 300
  • Horror and Science Fiction Films II by Donald C. Willis p.8-9
  • Horror Films of the 1970s by John Kenneth Muir pp.586-589 – credits, synopsis, review
  • Introduction to Japanese Horror Film by Colette Balmain pp.128, 143, 147
  • Retro Screams: Terror in the New Millennium by Christopher T. Koetting pp.253-266; 377 – illustrated essay; credits
  • Rock ‘n' Roll Monsters: The American International Story by Bruce G. Hallenbeck pp.275-278; 295
  • Science Fiction, Fantasy, and Horror Film Sequels, Series, and Remakes: An Illustrated Filmography, with Plot Synopses and Critical Commentary by Kim R. Holston and Tom Winchester pp.31-32 – credits, synopsis, review
  • Screen World vol.31 (1980) by John Willis pp.58-59 – illustrated credits
  • Terror Tracks: Music, Sound and Horror Cinema by Philip Hayward (ed) pp.188,