“For God’s sake, buy this house!”

The house that was (is?) possessed is up for sale. In the 70s, this Dutch Colonial chilled the hearts of millions, first through the book The Amityville Horror and then via the 1979 blockbuster of the same name.

Anybody who lived through that decade will vouch that the whole thing was a freakin’ phenomenon. Jay Anson’s book was incredibly successful. It’s also, in a word, garbage. Written on a third-grade reading level, it has a font so big you’d swear it was published by Scholastic Books. Anson’s use of exclamatory sentences make him sound like a housewife describing a horror movie over the phone. (Here’s two of my favorite “shocking” moments, here! and here!) Irregardless, the book sold millions of copies.

Thanks to the book’s Da Vinci Code-like popularity, the film had tons of hype. My mother, brother and I were in the audience opening weekend, July 1979, and I’ll vouch for the communal vibe. (When that cat scared James Brolin, I felt the whole theater jump.) It was BIG.

I guess there was something low-rent about the Lutzes that tapped into a collective vein. They weren’t ambassadors living abroad (The Omen); they weren’t movie stars (The Exorcist); they didn’t live in an awesome Upper West Side apartment (Rosemary’s Baby). No, they were a struggling family who’s suburban home was tearing them apart. Babysitters were tortured, the basement was a gateway to Hell, and the walls bled. All of that scared the fuck out of me.

Shit, I still get upset if I look at the clock in the middle of the night and it’s 3:15. Don’t you? (Honestly, until I was a teenager, I didn’t even like 3:15 in the afternoon.)

So, what’s my Amityville Horror story?

Labor Day weekend, 1992. It was the middle of the night, and I was lost in the middle of Long Island. As is the case with most men driving lost at two in the morning, it was because of a woman. (Let’s leave it at that.) I’d been groping my way, town to town, for a couple of hours, looking for a bar or a diner to pass some time or get my bearings, and saw a sign welcoming me to Amityville.

Finally, my night had a purpose. First, I drove down side streets, certain I could find the house out of sheer geekdom. Once I gave up on that, I found a 7Eleven. Walking in, I said, “Excuse me. I’m looking for—“

“Head down this street three lights.” the bored guy behind the counter said instantly. “Make a right there onto Ocean Avenue, and go two blocks. It’s four houses after that, on your left.”

Wow, I thought, popular place. A few minutes later I was there, my generation’s 1313 Mockingbird Lane. In the dark, it was pretty unspectacular, but I was still scared. Naturally, I wanted to see the windows, aka the Devil’s Eyes, but didn’t dare sneak onto the property. I didn’t want Satan—or the Amityville police—to kick my ass.

Cautiously, I checked my watch. 2:45am. Whew. If it had been 3:15, I would have wet my pants. Speaking of which, I needed to pee like a gladiator, so I relieved myself next to the garbage cans in front of the house. Of course, in the dark, some of that made it onto the cans themselves, which prompted me to say, “Hey, I’m pissing on Satan’s garbage!”

Infantile I know, but what would you do outside a bona fide haunted house?

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And now for the requisite clips. First, the “tour” scene from the film. This happens in the first few minutes. Prior to this, we know a young man killed his family in the house, but we didn’t see it happen. Now, George and Kathy Lutz are seeing the house, as prospective owners. Thanks to the combination of hard cuts, jarring music and sound effects, this sequence has always scared the bejesus out of me.


Secondly, I think Lalo Schifrin’s score, with its choir of children’s voices, is as effective as the scores for The Exorcist and The Omen. (Yep, it was running through my head while I pissed in the streets of Amityville.) Here’s the theme song.

The Amityville Horror – Main Theme (2:27, right-click to download)

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So, quick, drum up 1.15 million bucks and this could be you…





But just remember one thing…

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4 Comments

Filed under Film

4 responses to ““For God’s sake, buy this house!”

  1. “She was shot in the head!” I’m 43 years old for Christ’s sake, sitting in my own house, sipping whiskey at 12:30AM, and when I heard that clip I looked over my shoulder to make sure Satan wasn’t coming in through the window. Thanks Altobello.

    • I’m just glad you stuck it out to the bottom of the post!

      • My personal favorite moment is when James Brolin is all worked up about — I think it’s his brother-in-law’s wedding? — and Brolin has to pay the caterer (he’s totally working class – pays cash) and he keeps counting and recounting the money, and then when it comes time to actually hand the money over he just can’t find it. He looks everywhere, but it’s vanished. Then he looks under the couch and finds the little paper band that was around the money… It’s then he realizes that the demons are just toying with him.

      • I have a soft spot for this film, though it’s hard to defend aesthetically. When it works, it’s a great haunted house film. When it misfires (which I think it does frequently), it’s pretty bad. I made a conscious decision to NOT discuss the film in those terms in this post. I’m content to overlook the film’s faults because the good parts STILL scare me, which is no small feat.

        Actually, I think James Brolin and Rod Steiger tied that year at the Over-Acties awards. (Boy, wouldn’t you LOVE to see their joint acceptance speech!)

        You know what’s crazy: right now, we could all get a FREE tour of that house. Jesus, think of all the yo-yos yanking the chain of that poor real estate agent. (“Poor” being a relative term here.) How cool would it be if she be if she purposely dressed like the lady from the film?

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