For some reason I take an awful lot of shit for being such a fan of this movie. When I was a kid, they ran this flick one Halloween night on one of the local stations and I capped off a night of candy piracy with it. It scared the crap out of me! When I was even younger, my mom would tell me about the house she and my dad lived in in Marblehead, Massachusetts before I was born. According to her and corroborated by my dad, the place was your stock haunted house with strange sounds, phantom scents, flashing lights and a golden retriever that seemed to interact with something that they couldn’t see. Being at the mercy of some unseen spook chilled me to the core and since then continues to keep me up at night. Recounting certain ghost stories (including my own personal tale of haunting) during last year’s Halloween blog-a-thon made me uneasy walking through my own completely not haunted house late at night as I tend to write these things at the last minute before today becomes tomorrow. I’m really not sure why haunted house flicks scare me like they do but horror movie-induced chills are a rare commodity in these jaded times so I take what I can get. The recent haunted house flick, Insidious, scared the fuck out of me upon watching it so it’s nice to know that I haven’t lost my weakness for a good spookhouse flick.
Of all the haunted house movies out there, I feel like The Amityville Horror mostly gets the formula right. You can’t be too explicit with one of these movies. The scares come when your mind fills in the blanks and while this one can’t help but sink into hokey territory, there are times when it’s unbearably fucking scary. Of all the Based On A True Story horror flicks out there, this has got to be one of the most famous ones among the bunch. It’s just too bad that it’s all bullshit.
On the night of January 14th, 1976, George and Kathy Lutz hurriedly gathered up their children and their dog and fled from their home on 112 Ocean Avenue in Amityville, New York, leaving all their crap behind in the house. The official line was that they could no longer bear to live in this house thanks to a demonic presence there which made their lives a living hell for the 28 days that they lived there. Their story is absolutely epic, the stuff of horror movies. The Lutzes’ youngest daughter immediately made friends with an imaginary person in the house that she named Jodie and described as a pig-like being with glowing red eyes. Father Ray Mancuso (not his real name) came to the house to bless it and reported being commanded to “Get out!!” in one of the rooms by the voice of an unseen presence. A room in the basement that was not in the house plans that was hidden and painted red had a noticeably freaky effect on their dog who wouldn’t go near it and acted visibly disturbed by it. The entire house was plagued by flies in the dead of winter. Something in the house smashed in doors and windows and on one night when closing the window that 5 year old Missy told her mother that Jodie had climbed out of, Kathy reported seeing a pair of glowing red eyes looking back into the house at her. The reports go on and on. Kathy reported being touched by something she couldn’t see, she reported being levitated off the bed and receiving welts on her body. Blood and gore oozed from the walls. There were awful smells that couldn’t be explained. It was all stock sensational horror movie stuff and what made things even worse was the arrival of celebrity demonologists, Ed and Lorraine Warren, a pair that would go on to perpetuate numerous high profile hoaxes even though they firmly believed in what they were invesitgating.
See, all of this happened for a reason. 13 months prior to the Lutzes buying the Ocean Avenue house at a serious bargain, the previous owners, the DeFeo family were murdered in their sleep by their oldest son, Ron DeFeo. Ron went room to room and shot them as they all slept in their beds. No reasonable motive was ever established. DeFeo was a trouble guy, too. Addicted to heroin and an alcoholic, he claimed that voices in his head compelled him to kill them all and this is likely to be true. Addiction does terrible things to people. He claimed that once he started, he couldn’t stop. The tragedy at 112 Ocean Avenue was no secret and even as they checked out the house while looking for a place to live, The Lutzes were made away of the murder. The compound matters, the Lutzes were in a bit of trouble themselves as George Lutzes’ business was failing spectacularly at the same time they bought the place. Financial pressure mounted quickly, George began to drink and as their new marriage and grip on their finances loosened, the Lutzes made a spectacular plan to get out of the mortgage and put the plan behind them. In the time they spent in the house, they had publicized the haunting with the local news crews. They made a big deal out of it and a couple of years later, Jay Anson published a book on the haunting that would eventually turn into the movie that we all know so well these days. Subsequent owners of the house report no weirdness and even people who supposedly corroborate the story back in the day claim that nothing strange ever happened there.
Sorry to be a bummer but this based on a true story is full of crap.