Amityville Horror (The) [Blu-ray]
Blu-ray A - America - Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment
Review written by and copyright: Noor Razzak (30th December 2008).
The Film

Some of the scariest horror films are those "based" on true events, or "based" on real people. This provides a realistic grounding for the gruesome and terrible acts that occur in the film, no matter how over the top or unbelievable the "based" on tag somehow provides a free pass for filmmakers to take audiences to the edge, and subconsciously we bite that bait. No matter what creative license is taken or whether facts are blurred we can forgive that because in our minds these events could happen and thus the real scares are suckered out of us. Horror films, much like romantic comedies play the manipulation game, playing with our emotions, and the better horrors do it without it seeming obvious. "The Amityville Horror" is not one of those "better" horrors, but it does use the "based" on real events tag to its advantage.

For those unfamiliar with this film, or rather the history behind the film, it follows a family who move into an old house. The house was the site of a gruesome murder, but for the Lutz family it's a slice of heaven. Unfortunately for them the house is haunted, and what they endure over the next few weeks is a hellish nightmare. The film was the subject of a remake in 2005 and having seen both this original and the remake I'd have to give it to the newer film, "The Amityville Horror" is not a great horror film; there isn't anything particularly inspiring, the effects aren't that interesting and the whole haunted house scenario is very "been-there-don't-that".

Despite these surface flaws, the film does feature some fairly solid performances from our leads, the craggy James Brolin and the fresh-faced Margot Kidder work well on screen and their chemistry doesn't feel fake. They both deliver strong and believable turns as the husband and wife duo that deal with the strange and hideous events to come, there are some over-the-top parts like when Brolin shouts "I'm coming apart!" as he pulls at his hair, that was incredibly laughable. Supporting actor Rod Steiger does his bit and then get attacked by flies (awesome!), unfortunately the effect is silly and does take you out of the film... for the close-up it seems like the filmmaker's but honey on his face so they can crawl on him.

It's hard as an audience member to get scared of this premise, perhaps back in 1979 it was easier as there hadn't been too many haunted house style horror films. But as a reviewer and first and foremost, a film fan, I've seen plenty of films in this same vein. While there are stand out parts to the film, it's mostly manipulative - the building music before the scare indicates something is going to happen, the jolting music cue and sound effects etc. Every tired and obvious trick in the book is used here to scare the viewer. If you're new to the genre then it's quite effective, if you're a desensitized horror buff then it's pretty much wasted on you unless "Amityville Horror" happens to be one of your favorites.

Video

Presented in the film's original 1.85:1 widescreen ratio in high-definition 1080p 24/fps and has been mastered using AVC MPEG-4 compression. The film is nearly 30 years-old but the image look damn good if not for a few flaws such as a few instances or dirt and specks and some heavy grain at times. The image is mostly sharp although there are some soft spots littered throughout, colors hold up well, especially skin tones which appear natural. Blacks are a little flat, but I was impressed with the depth, detail and textures of the transfer. It does look good but could be a tad better in some instances.

Audio

Four audio tracks are included in English DTS-HD Lossless Master Audio 5.1 mixed at 48kHz/16-bit, as well as standard Dolby Digital 5.1 tracks in English, French and Spanish as well as the original 1.0 mono track in English. For the purposes of this review I chose to view the DTS-HD track, the audio is mostly clear and distortion free, music is well rendered but there's an overwhelming lack of depth, range and suitable force behind a lot of the more "scarier" scenes. It feels hollow at times and a bit tinny. It's not an aggressive track when it should be, you're better off watching the film with its original mono track.
Optional subtitles are in included in English, Cantonese, Korean and Spanish.

Extras

The only extras on this disc are the film's original theatrical trailer which runs for 2 minutes 29 seconds. There are also bonus trailers for:

- "The Terminator" which runs for 1 minute 57 seconds.
- "Species" which runs for 1 minute 50 seconds.

Overall

The Film: C- Video: B- Audio: C Extras: F Overall: D+

 


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