Whether it was a supernatural phenomenon or an elaborate hoax, one thing was certain; George and Kathy Lutz’s terrifying account of their 28 day stay in the house on 112 Ocean Avenue will forever be a part of American folklore.
Deviating somewhat from the events chronicled in Jay Ansen’s best-selling book, The Amityville Horror (which, itself, deviated somewhat from the family’s story) Stuart Rosenberg’s film of the same name focused more on the “demonic” forces, perhaps, in an effort to capitalize on the success of “The Exorcist” and its ilk. The result was an effective haunted house story that still manages to raise goosebumps nearly thirty years later.
George Lutz (James Brolin), his new bride, Kathy (Margot Kidder), and Kathy’s young children move into their newly purchased dream home; a sprawling riverfront house that they literally got for pennies on the dollar. They say you get what you pay for, but, in this instance, the Lutz family got quite a bit more, as their charming fixer-upper came complete with its own collection of angry demonic forces. As her daughter begins talking to a ghostly pig, and George becomes increasingly distant and angry, Kathy seeks the help of a kindly priest (Rod Steiger), who, in the film’s most iconic moment, is besieged by flies as he attempts to bless the house, and told, in no uncertain terms, to “get out”. Things ultimately get worse, and, as we all know, the family flees in terror after only a month in the house.
The Amityville Horror may not pack quite the punch it did during the height of “Amityville Mania”, but it’s still a solidly entertaining and unnerving tale that, despite my doubts about its authenticity, manages to give me the heebie-jeebies every time I watch it. Brolin, Kidder, and Steiger class things up tremendously with very assured performances, and Rosenberg’s taut direction keeps the boo-factor high and his audience consistently on edge. It’s a minor classic, but a classic nonetheless.
MGM scares up a solid, if not spectacular, 1:85.1 1080p transfer that hosts the expected amount of grain for a film of its age, as well as the occasional “pop”, scratch, and flicker. It’s not a restoration by any means, but it is the best visual representation of this title currently available, although hardly a major upgrade over 2005 DVD.
The 5.1 DTS-HD Lossless Master Audio track is fairly pedestrian, with a mostly front-of-the-house mix occasionally supplemented by the odd surround effect. The track is fairly trebly and the dialogue, while perfectly audible, sounds somewhat flat and distant. Bass response is also less than stellar, as things like shotgun blasts and the rumble of thunder lack any real punch.
MGM sadly opted not to include any of the supplemental materials from previous DVD releases, and, instead, drops this disc with merely an HD theatrical trailer, as well as a pair of trailers for other releases. Were this a "bargain priced" BD, I'd have no issue with the lack of extras, but, seeing as how this is a regularly priced Blu-ray release, the decision not to include the already available extras is a compelling enough reason to wait for a price drop before adding this one to your library.
How much The Amityville Horror will scare you is predicated on just how much stock you hold in the authenticity of not only this story, but of haunted houses/demonic possession accounts in general. I’m a bit superstitious, myself, so this sort of stuff generally scares the crap out of me. Whether or not you’ll enjoy the Blu-ray of it, though, is hardly as subjective, as the lack of quality extras, merely okay image quality, and the underwhelming audio presentation doesn't add up to much of an upgrade over the DVD.