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Amityville Horror, The (1979)

The Amityville Horror is of course not the only horror film to inspire a collection of truly terrible sequels (eight in total), but it’s easy to forget just how effective the first one was.

Released three years before Poltergeist (1982) and a year before The Shining (1980), this movie foreshadowed both.

Based on supposedly true events, this psychological haunted house movie starred James Brolin and Margot Kidder as a young couple who find their Long Island (NY) home is haunted and get drawn into its terrible past, discovering the previous tenants had been murdered.

There were plenty of effective hair-raising moments: Toilets ooze black goo, the front door is mysteriously ripped from its hinges, and a rocking chair rocks with no one in it.


With a great performance from Brolin as he slowly loses his marbles, this is a great and unsettling movie that helped establish a new genre and puts the likes of The Haunting (1963) to shame.

Two sequels followed, Amityville II: The Possession (1982) – which is actually a prequel – and Amityville 3D (1984). The Amityville Horror was remade in 2005.

The real house at 112 Ocean Avenue, Amityville (New York) had been the scene of a massacre in 1974 when 23-year-old Ronald DeFeo Jr killed his parents, two brothers and two sisters after claiming he heard spirit voices.

The grisly account of the terror of George and Kathleen Lutz who moved into the Amityville house was written by Jay Anson based on 45 hours of tape-recorded conversations with the couple. The account became a non-fiction best-seller.

Oddly, subsequent owners of the house, James and Barbara Cromarty, never had anything vaguely spooky occur at the house . . . other than thousands of tourists flocking to see their reputedly haunted house.

Ronald DeFeo Jr’s lawyer, William Weber, later claimed that he invented the story of the house being haunted along with the new owners, George and Kathy Lutz, “over many bottles of wine”.

amityville6George Lutz
James Brolin
Kathleen Lutz
Margot Kidder
Father Delaney
Rod Steiger
Father Bolen
Don Stroud
Natasha Ryan
K C Martel
Meeno Peluce
Michael Sacks
Helen Shaver
Sergeant Gionfriddo
Val Avery
Amy Wright
Father Ryan
Murray Hamilton
Father Nuncio
John Larch
Aunt Helena
Irene Dailey

Stuart Rosenberg