Disturbing and spooky things? Well, there’s bleeding walls, vomiting nuns, flies a-plenty, black goo in the toilet, an imaginary friend who turns out to be not-so-imaginary…and yes, the house does actually intone “GET OUT!” ominously. Throw into the mix the possibility that George Lutz is turning into a homicidal maniac and you’ve got yourself plenty of disturbing and spooky things, I'd say.
When I was but a wee bonny lass, The Amityville Horror scared the living crap outta me. The masses of flies were gross, windows closing on their own were dangerous, Jody the Imaginary Friend’s evil red eyes staring at Margot Kidder through the window was horrifying. The fact that it was all true was the icing on the cake! I pored over Jay Anson’s trashy paperback of the same name repeatedly, scared to death of Jody. Watching the movie recently, well…it turns out that...Jody is a giant purple pig. Yes, I hadn’t seen this flick in ages, and when we got the long-distance shot of Jody in the window, his fat purple pig ass filling up the entire room, I giggled. When the house told the priest to “GET OUT!”, I giggled. James Brolin is still menacing as he clutches his axe and grimaces, but when he grabbed big fistfuls of his afro and screamed “I’m coming aparrrrt!”, I giggled. The bleeding walls, however, still rock.
There’s been a lot of back and forth about the veracity of all these happenings and whether something actually happened in the house or the Lutzes were simply out to make a buck. Regardless, this movie is still fun- and somehow, all the silliness and disparate elements come together to make a movie that’s unsettling, if not scary. And how can you not love a movie with an evil, giant, purple pig? I do! I give it 7 out of 10 vomiting nuns.
In his non-fiction book on horror, Danse Macabre, Stephen King offers up an interesting interpretation of the movie- one that makes The Amityville Horror a film that goes beyond its inherent late-70s schlockiness. The movie, King argues, is an allegory for economic insecurity and stress:
Here is a horror movie for every woman who ever wept over a plugged-up toilet…for every man who ever did a slow burn when the weight of the snow caused his gutters to give way…As horror goes, Amityville is pretty pedestrian. So’s beer, but you can get drunk on it…The Amityville Horror, beneath its ghost-story exterior, is really a financial demolition derby.In other words, the Lutzes bought a money pit. Whether this subtext is intentional or not, who knows- but it’s there. The house is always cold- it needs insulation. I mentioned the black goo- the house has bad plumbing. The bills pile up, they can’t afford the house, George isn’t working, and $1500 goes missing. George Lutz gets increasingly stressed out as the family falls further and further into financial ruin, until eventually they flee from the house and creditors alike. In today’s economy, where people work 40-60 hours a week and still can’t get by, The Amityville Horror may be more relevant than anyone thought it ever could be.