Whether you agree with the press release blurb, that The Amityville Horror is ‘one of the best horror films ever made’, really depends upon how old you were when you first saw it. If you saw it upon release, as an impressionable teen, and got carried away by all the hype, then yes, you may very well treasure it as one of your favourite horror films… but if you were late to the party and are only seeing this for the first time, comparing it to horror films that have come since, you’ll think it a load of schlocky nonsense. To be fair, it doesn’t exactly hold up that well compared to other horrors from the Seventies; The Exorcist and Halloween in particular knock it into a cocked hat.
That said, it’s still a pretty fun film, with a few decent scares and an often powerful atmosphere, which all builds to something of an anti-climax, it has to be said. There are also several moments of high camp melodrama, which may feel almost embarrassing to the modern viewer; Rod Steiger especially ladles on the cheese as Father Delaney, literally bringing the church down around his ears with his constant squawking. But James Brolin and Lois Lane – sorry, I mean Margot Kidder – both give good value as the Lutz couple, who move into a haunted house with a passageway to hell in its basement, Brolin channelling Jack Nicholson’s Jack Torrance as the voices in his head encourage him to sharpen axes and hack through bathroom doors.
It’s highly unlikely that you haven’t already either seen the original, or the so-so remake, or one of the many dog shit sequels, but the original movie remains the best, and it’s safe to say that this latest version from Second Sight is easily the best way to own it. It looks and sounds good on Blu-Ray, and there’s a wealth of extras, including a feature-length documentary with the intensely uptight Daniel Lutz (the actual kid from the actual Amityville house the film was based on), an introduction and audio commentary from Dr. Hans Holzer, the parapsychologist who wrote the Murder In Amityville book, and various other documentaries, trailers and TV spots. The blood-red steel-book and reproduction promo postcards look great too, so if you have a soft spot for this hoary old chestnut, and a high tolerance for OTT claps of thunder, grab it while you can. Ian Glasper