The Amityville Horror

Perhaps the most iconic home in horror cinema history houses a terrible secret, one of the most talked about real-life horror stories of all time.

Based on the book by Jay Anson, which was released in 1977, The Amityville Horror was released on July 27, 1979.  The film featured James Brolin and Margot Kidder as George and Kathy Lutz, a happily married couple who move into Hell on Earth with their children, only to have their marriage – and sanity – torn to shreds.

Of course, the book and film are based on the terrifying real-life incident of the DeFeo family on November 13, 1974, when Ronnie DeFeo, Jr. shot and killed his mother, father, two brothers and two sisters while they slept in their peaceful Amityville home.  Rumors of demonic possession and paranormal activity playing a role in the murders swept through the media like wildfire immediately following DeFeo’s apprehension.  The home has been reportedly haunted since the night of the massacre and this is where the film begins.

Due to the ugly history of the enormous home, the Lutz family is able to purchase the property for a steal.  The couple is told what happened in the home but a deal’s a deal and you don’t pass up those beautiful upstairs windows!


It doesn’t take long before the family is thrown into complete chaos, complete with an insidious imaginary friend named Jody, glowing red eyes, walls that ooze and a suffocating sense of dread and rage under the roof, particularly with father George Lutz.

The family falls deeper and deeper into demonic madness while flies attack a priest and a bellowing voice orders the guests to “GET OUT!”  Of course, like any self-respecting horror film, the Lutzes do not, in fact, get out – rather, they stay until the very last possible moment before ol’ George decides to take off a few heads with his ax.  Fortunately for the Lutz family on camera, the film ends on a relatively happy note.  The Lutz family ditches the home in the middle of the night without even retrieving their possessions.  The film ends with a title card reading, “Today the Lutz’s live in another state”.

While both Brolin and Kidder have gone on record, even around the film’s release, claiming that they didn’t believe the story of the Lutz family and their haunted house, the movie was a smashing success, becoming one of the highest grossing independent films ever at the time of its release.

Originally slated to be a made-for-television CBS program, the rights to the film were snatched up by executive producer Samuel Z. Arkoff, who had read Anson’s book and immediately fell head over heels for the story and the prospects of commercial success that just about everyone involved knew it would enjoy.  The Amityville Horror has grossed over $86 million to date.


The film was nominated for an Academy Award (Best Music, Original Score) as well as a Golden Globe and quite a few of the infamous Stinkers Bad Movie Awards, which were basically the Razzies of the 1970’s.

Of course, Brolin and Kidder weren’t the only ones to think the story of the haunted home was a tad fishy and it didn’t take long before holes in the story told by the real George and Kathy Lutz began to be found.  There aren’t many people these days who believe an ounce of Anson’s book or the film, but when a fake horror movie is based off of a real-life horror story, there’s still plenty to be shaken about regarding 112 Ocean Avenue.

Is the film a gem?  Nah, but it is a creepy nostalgic trip down the Satanic panic lane and is significantly better than the 2005 remake starring Ryan Reynolds.  The hilariously weak ending and sloppy backstory to the house’s haunting in that one was the only thing horrifying about that film.




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