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The Amityville Horror - 7/31 Days of Halloween

Well, we've made it through the first week, and today's film is a favorite of horror fans and paranormal enthusiasts alike... The Amityville Horror!

Based on the Jay Anson book of the same name, which in turn was based upon both true and allegedly true events, the film opens as a young man shoots and kills his parents and four siblings in their sleep. A year later, newlyweds George and Kathy Lutz (played by James Brolin and Margot Kidder respectively) move into the house with their three children, getting the house for a bargain because of its bloody history. Almost immediately, strange things begin to happen in the house. A priest, come to bless the home, is driven from the house by a disembodied, demonic voice, and becomes severely ill. In the following weeks, the paranormal disturbances become more bothersome and even violent, resulting in one of the children being injured by a window. George becomes detached from his family, stricken by a mysterious illness and rapidly degrading mental health. Finally, after only a month, the Lutz family abandoned their dream house, leaving all of their possessions behind... and they never looked back.

Whether you believe in the paranormal or not, the events surrounding the case and the resulting book and film are puzzling and disturbing. The circumstances of the DeFeo murders just don't quite add up, and are terrifying enough without demonic influence. The details of the case sprang to mind when my hometown was rocked by a similar murder case in 2006, one that took place a mere three miles from my home.

While the film is a masterpiece of classic horror and suspense, I've always found Anson's novel to be more entertaining and terrifying. To date, The Amityville Horror is the only book to actually frighten me. I remember reading it cover to cover in less than a day... in one sitting... never leaving the couch, unable to put the book down. While the dubious disclaimer "Based on a true story" may have had a hand in it, I would assign more credit to Anson's talents as a storyteller.

Do yourself a favor and skip the 2005 remake with Ryan Reynolds and watch this film with the lights off instead, and then read Anson's novel with the lights on. You know, because it's easier to read that way. Not because you're scared. Right? Right?

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