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Film / The Amityville Horror (1979)

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The first film in the Amityville franchise, The Amityville Horror (1979) was directed by Stuart Rosenberg and stars James Brolin, Margot Kidder, and Rod Steiger.

Based on the 1977 novel of the same name by Jay Anson, it chronicles the (supposedly true) events that befell the Lutz family, who moved into 112 Ocean Avenue in Amityville, New York only to move out 28 days later, claiming to have been terrorized by paranormal phenomena there.

In December 1975, recently-married couple George (Brolin) and Kathy Lutz (Kiddder) move into the Amityville house along with Kathy's three children from a prior marriage. The house was available at a bargain price, and for a very good reason: it was the scene of a multiple murder, when the previous owner, Ronald "Butch" DeFeo Jr., shot and killed six members of his family on November 13, 1974. During their stay in the house, the Lutzes — along with local Catholic priest Father Delaney (Steiger) — start to experience various phenomena that tell them that whatever malevolent force drove DeFeo to such violence might still be there...

This film has examples of:

  • Aborted Arc: Many arcs are abruptly aborted in the climax, but the most glaring ones:
    • The entire movie builds up on the idea that George is getting possessed by an evil entity and he's going to cause a mass murder similar to the one in the prologue. He slowly goes mad from staying in the house, complete with nightmares, axe shots, and and eventually gets aggressive towards each one of his family members, plus Kathy discovers that he has an uncanny resembance to the mass murderer who previously lived in the house. He snaps out of it after almost killing Kathy with an axe in the climax and goes back to his normal self for no apparent reason.
    • Jodi, Amy's imaginary friend. She shows up at the window staring at George, and neither shows up again nor takes any part in the climax.
    • The Hell Gate in the basement is apparently just a pond of blood, as George is pulled out of it unharmed.
  • Adaptational Name Change: Father Mancuso from the book becomes Father Delaney in the movie.
  • Arbitrary Skepticism: For men who have devoted their lives to God, the priests in this movie have an awfully hard time accepting the existence of Satan.
  • Arc Number: Bad things happen at 3:15 AM, which is the exact time the DeFeo mass murder took place.
  • Ax-Crazy: George is implied to become this over the course of the movie and he develops an overwhelming fondness for chopping firewood.
  • Based on a True Story / Ripped from the Headlines: The movie is based on a book about the accounts of the Lutz family as they move into the house Ronald DeFeo Jr. killed his family in.
  • Bloody Horror: A specific part of the wall in the Amityville House's basement starts dripping blood at night, and forming a stream leading George to it. It's revealed later on that the basement used to have a morgue, and that people were also tortured there.
  • Cat Scare: George Lutz, lost in thought, is playing with one of his cigarettes when suddenly a cat pops up in his window and scares the hell out of him.
  • Cut Phone Lines: In every conversation with Mancuso ends up like this.
  • Distressed Woodchopping: As life in the new house gets progressively more strained, George starts spending more time in the backyard, chopping wood manically and obsessively.
  • Evil-Detecting Dog: The family dog scratches at a part of the basement wall. When the wall is torn down, it is revealed to lead to a Hell Gate.
  • Evil Is Deathly Cold: Inverted. George feels cold everywhere, except in the evil basement of doom.
  • Fan Disservice: James Brolin in saggy briefs.
  • Get Out!:
  • Glowing Eyes of Doom: Pig!Jodie appears to Kathy as a pair of glowing eyes in the dark, complete with "Psycho" Strings.
  • Hell Gate:
    "Find the well... it's the passage... to hell! COVER IT!"
  • Identical Stranger: George Lutz looks similar to Ronald DeFeo Jr., the man who killed the previous family who lived in the house.
  • Indian Burial Ground: According to the crazy psychic lady, the Indians dumped their crazy people on this land to die and that the bodies are still there, effectively making it an Indian Burial Ground, even though they didn't bury the bodies.
    • Also a bit of a subversion in that the white guys aren't getting punished for being 'disrespectful' so much as for being dumb enough to build a house right atop Angry Demon Central.
  • Make It Look Like an Accident: Father DeLaney's car flies to pieces when he's on the way to visit the cursed house, almost killing him and Father Bolen.
  • New House, New Problems: And how. It's almost heartbreaking to see how happy and excited the family is to finally own their own home (Kathy in particular mentions that her family has "always been renters") and how quickly it goes downhill.
  • Nightmare Fetishist: George's business partner's wife appears to be sexually excited by the bad vibes emanating from the house.
  • No Shirt, Long Jacket: George checks the boathouse in nothing but jeans and a jacket, bare-chested despite it being winter. He even returns to the house this way.
  • Sinister Swine: In the climax, Amy's 'imaginary friend' Jodi, heavily implied to be a demon with some degree of involvement in the supernatural happenings unfolding at the house, is briefly seen looking out a window at George, revealing herself in the process to be a massive red eyed and purple skinned demonic pig-like creature.
  • The Stoic: Father Bolen invokes this pretty hard. That or he's half 2x4, on his mother's side.
  • Thousand-Yard Stare: George develops one of these. Or maybe he's just squinting to keep the splinters out of his eyes
  • Trauma Conga Line: The entire film is one for Father Delaney. Over the course of the film he's lost his faith, gone blind, and rendered catatonic with no end to his suffering in sight.
  • What Happened to the Mouse?:
    • What happened to that police officer that staked out the Lutz house, tried to talk to Delaney, then disappeared into thin air?
    • What about the drunk with a six pack of beer that shows up at Kathy's door, then disappears a moment later without explanation? One theory is that he was supposed to be the ghost of Ronald Defeo, Sr.
    • What happened to the 1,500 dollars from the wedding that disappeared? And what would a house do with 1,500 dollars anyway?
    • What happened to Jodi, Amy's imaginary friend/the evil pig? The moment Kathy walks in, she vanishes from the plot outside of a later brief shot of her staring out a window at George.