100 Days of Horror welcomes you to ... SATANFEST 2013

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"Y'all know me, know how I earn a livin'. I'll catch this bird for you, but it ain't gonna be easy. Bad fish! Not like going down to the pond and chasing bluegills and tommycods. This shark, swallow ya whole. Little shakin', little tenderizin', and down you go. And we gotta do it quick, that'll bring back the tourists, that'll put all your businesses on a payin' basis. But it's not gonna be pleasant! I value my neck a lot more than three thousand bucks, chief. I'll find him for three, but I'll catch him, and kill him, for ten. But you've gotta make up your minds. If you want to stay alive, then ante up. If you want to play it cheap, be on welfare the whole winter. I don't want no volunteers, I don't want no mates, there's too many captains on this island. Ten thousand dollars for me by myself. For that you get the head, the tail, the whole damn thing."

Thursday, September 9, 2010

100 Days of Horror Day Forty-Eight - "The Amityville Horror!"

Salacious salutations! I'm up early and highly caffeinated today, so I figured "IT'S GO TIME!"

As the Challenge reaches the halfway mark (this Saturday is the midpoint), I find myself looking back to when this began way back in July and the serious fun I've had doing this thang. The best times have been when people show up to watch with me - which quite a few people have either done or have offered to do so.

I almost bailed on this thing right at the start - in fact that was the most challenging time for me. There were doubts as to why I am even doing this, then the feeling that no one is even reading this blog (which there aren't many of you - I could probably count you all on one hand).

But despite those feelings, this has been a decent time so far. Let's hope it continues.

Today's feature is one that I remember scaring the living shit out of me as a child. Let's see how "The Amityville Horror" does this time around. Check The Skinny and prepare for tomorrow's 2000 remake of "House of Wax!"

The Amityville Horror (1978): Directed by Stuart Rosenberg. Starring James Brolin, Margot Kidder and Rod Steiger.

The Skinny: Based on the bestselling book (itself allegedly based on "true events"), this 70s classic follows the Luzt family as they move into their new home on Long Island. Less than a month later, they left in the middle of the night, the victims of paranormal events that threatened to tear their lives apart.

What's Good: This is the portion of the blog where you are supposed to start singing that ridiculously catchy and equally horrifying theme song written my Lalo Schifflin. Dear god, did that music scare the shit out of me as a kid! Because when this movie came out, I was like 8 or 9 and had already read the book. So when I finally saw the film, I thought I would know what to expect. Nah, that was a ridiculous concept. I was terrified. Mortified. And like my son has said about certain horror films, it was scary because I thought it could happen to me because of the relatively realistic way the events were played out. There were no ghostly apparitions, no demonic monsters, no serial killers in hockey masks. It was just a series of increasingly disturbing tableaus that built up complete and total terror in me. Now? Now it's not quite so scary, although some scenes are still quite intense (more on that below).

What's Bad: James Brolin claims that he couldn't find work in Hollywood for years after this film because of his lousy performance. Frankly, no one - not even the incredible Rod Steiger - put in an Oscar-worthy turn, but the performances aren't awful. Everyone just looks kind of ... I dunno, stoned or tired or something. And as with many films from that era, the lighting is a mess. If you happened to view this film in the 80s on a VHS copy that had already been watched a few dozen times, you couldn't even tell what you were looking at sometimes. The digital age has cleaned up some of that darkness when viewed on DVD, but there are still shadows that cover the entire production. There is also a lackadaisical approach to the dialogue - it's hard at times to buy that the two leads are a married couple, because they have no good interactions at all.

Why We Like Is: Actually, I do like this film - if only for nostalgic reasons. It makes for a good watch if you've never seen it before and don't know what to expect. Younger viewers who cut their horror teeth on flicks where the action is intensely kinetic and gory beyond belief may not have the patience for its hypnotic pacing and lack of action. They would be better off with the 2005 remake, that actually improves on the original by adding those very elements. Plus the fact that they took a real event - the 1972 DeFeo family murders, where a son systematically killed his entire family while they slept - and tried to build this mythos around it is fascinating to me. I read endlessly about this house and the family as a youngster and a teen and for many years believed it was all real as pie. Now, I look back and see a troubled youngster who was afraid of his own shadow ... but that doesn't mean I didn't have fun!

Memorable Stuff" The most memorable thing is clearly Schifflin's score - that haunting melody (Oscar nominated, I might add) will stick with you forever. As far as scenes in the movie, the obvious choice is the scene where Steiger's priest character comes to bless the house at the owner's requests. As he starts in with the holy water and the prayers, the room fills with flies - in the middle of winter - and a disembodied, demonic voice groans, "Get out! GET OUUUUT!" That shit scared the motherfucking holy shit out of my godless ass when I was 10. And I guess it still does, since I just got goosebumps just typing it. Good stuff.