Movie: The Amityville Horror (1979) – Questions and Answers
It doesn’t take much for the horror fans to crave something both old and new, and when someone says Amityville they either get it confused with Jaws (1975), which as Amity, or they tend to roll their eyes, mainly due to the numerous sequels the film spawned and practically destroyed the franchise. On Friday, February 8th, the next installment of this franchise hits the screen The Amityville Murders, and this year marks the 40th anniversary of the original The Amityville Horror being released, therefore no better reason to do a Q&A of this flick. Now, a few things, this article first covers the film from 1979, however it will also include the real backstory, plus other trivia aspects, I’ve taken the time to research numerous books, articles watched several interviews and even read the crime reports and photos, even extended that to parole board hearing’s transcript. Needless to say, this Question and Answer article will reveal details and spoilers galore, so be forewarned.
What is basis of the plot for The Amityville Horror?
It surrounds the Lutz family, namely George and Kathy (which James Brolin and Margot Kidder, respectively portrayed these characters) and their daughter Amy (Natasha Ryan) and sons Matthew (Meeno Peluce) and Gregory (K.C. Martel), who all move into an old lakefront Dutch Colonial house in Amityville, Long Island, New York. The sellers stating the house needs love to become a home, they get an awesome deal, but as anyone in real estate knows a great deal comes with great problems and warnings all of them ignored. They learn that the previous owner’s son murders his entire family, parents and siblings. Soon strange things begin to happen with George becoming obsessed with fire, Amy finds an imaginary friend named Jodie, the children begin to get harmed, as the evil grows in the house.
Who are the actors actually portraying?
They are all portraying the Lutz’ family only the lead actors use the real names of the parents the children do not, therefore, to clarify for children:
K.C. Martell as Gregory represents Daniel
Meeno Peluce as Matthew represents Christopher
Natasha Ryan as Amy represents Missy
Is the movie, The Amityville Horror based on a book?
The movie finds itself taking bits and cues from the novel The Amityville Horror (1977) by author Jay Anson, and then roughly adapted by screenwriter Sandor Stern, who took care not to embellish against the source material into making it a scare fest. There was a period of time the film was considered to be a made-for-television movie before others changed their minds, one wonders if the TV-movie angle occurred would a franchise existed at all.
Does the movie base itself on a real story?
Yes, it’s based on the Lutz’ account, but generated a lot of controversy, inconsistent interviews and stories, a few questionable evidence discoveries and many lawsuits. The Lutz’ claimed it all happened while witnesses and other facts disagree with the situations, other than the murders (brutally dreadful) nothing else occurred within the walls. When the house got blessed by Father Ray he stated that the experiences he felt were all very real, and that Kathy and George both passed a polygraph test. The story to this day is a very hotly debatable shouting match between realists and paranormal investigators as well as those interested in the testament of righteous religious beliefs proud to speak out and denounce the devil and his demonic influences.
However, money troubles never entered into the realm of issues for the Lutz’, they were a recently happily married family Kathleen with three children and the parents use their separate homes selling receipts to purchase the home in 1975.
What happen to the real house?
The original house still stands with a few changes to keep the nosey fans, the address underwent a change, as did the exterior color and the removal of the quarter moon winders, which is a common construction element found Dutch Colonial homes and sometimes appearing in Victorian and converted barns to homes. In fact there’s a home less than 150-yards from me that has those same windows.
Was the original house used?
No, the real house wasn’t used for the film, a few locations in NJ, some suggest Toms River and Point Pleasant area for the exterior shots, in fact a house that many claimed was used been located, although I’m not listing the address or location as it a private residence and none of them seek attention. However in an early trailer version the film showed the actual 112 Ocean Avenue, prompting a lawsuit from then current owners. All the interior shots occurred at MGM studios (which later would own the rights to the film) in Los Angeles, CA.
Rumors state James Brolin wasn’t interesting in doing the movie so what changed his mind?
Many actors often refrain or refuse to do a movie, but then it’s when they read the script or book as the source material they find themselves pulled into the story, which what happened to James, no script existed yet but the book did, in an interview James stated at home he hung up a pair of jeans and while reading the book until about 2am the pants suddenly hit the floor and he jumped and this was what sold him on doing the movie.
How long did the family stay in the house?
Just slightly less than a month, 28-days from December 18, 1975 to January 14, 1976.
Wait, what about the DeFeo murders, wasn’t that the basis for the movie?
Not exactly, the movie focuses on an evil living in the home, that influence the Ron “Butch” DeFeo to murder although it becomes more muddled as it the evil grew from weird connections to everything under the sun, devil worship, Salem witch trials, sacrifice, pagan Indian rituals. However the movie tries to tie to how George Lutz appeared similar to Ron, both in looks and reference lines in the movie.
Was there really a red room?
Kathy Lutz discovered the room according the book while stacking canned goods, it was further diagrammed in the book The Amityville Horror Conspiracy by Dr. Stephen Kaplan. In the movie, George’s psychic friend discovers the red room noting the find the well and it’s the passage to hell and cover it (this later becomes true in Amityville 3D (1983). It is later explained that room was used for devil worship and sacrifices the land where the house sits used by Shinnecock Indians, to bury their dead and abandon the mentally ill. However, according to historical fact, very little is known about the social dynamics of the Shinnecocks, leaving much to folklore and urban legends. One needs to mention that some attributes blame to the Montaukett Indians who use the area to imprison enemies and those possessed by evil spirits, with them left to die and later buried face down.
What about Jodie the pig?
Described by Missy as an angel, taking the name Jodie (spelled Joy in the film) who could take many forms and hence appeared as a piggy for her enjoyment.
Did the walls really bleed in real life?
No, this didn’t happen, the Lutz’ found a green substance on the carpet in various rooms, they blamed their children who all denied it (as children often do, using the “not me” defense). In the book Anson changed it to a green ooze slime on walls, it’s the movie that changed the entire incident into blood dripping down the walls and over the stairs.
Why does George awaken at 3:15 am?
George, in both the book and movie, awakens around this time, he often awoke between 3 and 3:15am, some connection this to the time of DeFeo murders. However, others point folklore and namely the Witching Hour (while common referring to as the time of 12 midnight to 2am, for a period it was considered at 2 to 4 am, when witches, demons and ghost roamed freely, and in the early 1830s if a woman is found outside of the home at that house without sufficient reason, they could be executed on suspicion of witchcraft. Although, another reasoning for this time, it’s the inverse time when Christ did, according to Mark’s Gospel the crucifixion lasted six hours translating the time from 9am of the start to 3pm, the inversing represent the Devil’s time.
Did the Lutz’ ever return to the house?
It is rumored they did briefly for clothing and very personal items, however some point to a garage sale held and later and auctioneer aided in selling the furniture and other household items.
Is the house still empty or haunted?
No to both of these, the Comarty ‘s bought the house on March 18, 1977, 14-months after the Lutz’ and bank ownership for $55,000 ($25k less than Lutz paid for it) then 10-years later the O’Neil’s purchased it for $325k, and 10-years past and Wilson’s and even later D’Antonio’s with the pricing rising to nearly $1-million. In fact prior to the DeFeo’s the home had at least three previous owners dating back to 1924.
Is the movie about ghosts or something else?
First, no actual ghosts exist in the movie, none show, all that is lent to the unforeseen evil forces. The movie actually appears to center itself around the evils of money, if you really think about, the debt of a mortgage, the costs of fixing up a house, where everything is sucking the life and soul, draining the bank account. The homeowner business is having problems, bills piling up, collection calls, and numerous other expenses. In one scene the money for a caterer goes missing the house loves tormenting one on the grounds on money and debt. Even he caterer goes on a rant over money, many references to cash flow perhaps in hindsight a reference to the production houses, the numerous buyouts and mergers that occurred after the film got released. The issue about the money angle presented by Stephen King which I agree with on many levels.
What were the production/distribution studio problems?
Well, this movie proved to become the last major film for the American International Pictures, by the late 70s they found themselves in major financial ruins, by trying to keep up with the Jones, in other words rather than keeping some maintainable budgets they kept trying to strive for the Big Money Film. This devilish movie could not save them and doom partnership with Filmways crush them, and swallowed by Orion, which then gobbled up by MGM and existing mainly licensing rights.
What problems do the fans often cite with movie?
The devilish influence extends through the phone calls to the priests, making them not be able to work properly and then there were the vehicles which was caused by outside forces. In addition, a few references to clergy but none of them truly having the courage or patience to battle the evil until it’s far too late. Although, the real priest stated he did encounter static over the phone when calling the Lutz family.
Lastly, the numerous shots of the house and glowing window eyes regardless of daylight or nighttime, were always on, never just slowing turning on, a constant on position. Curious many point to why did the costume department dress Kathy in an adult version a catholic schoolgirl, the pleated checked skirts especially worn when the priest and mysterious nun arrived. Lastly, the silly return to the house for the family dog and keys, it’s the common one last scare in a movie (this isn’t in the book) but the dog first attacks George and later helps out in oozing the black sludge.
How many sequels did the movie spawn?
There are 8 direct sequels and one remake and two spin-offs , they are as follows: Amityville: The Possession (1982), Amityville 3-D (1983), Amityville: The Evil Escapes (1989), The Amityville Curse (1990), Amityville 1992: It’s About Time (1992), Amityville: A New Generation (1993), Amityville Dollhouse )1996), and Amityville: The Awakening (2017). Then there is the remake The Amityville Horror (2005); and the spin-offs The Amityville Asylum (2013) and The Amityville Murders (2019).
However, the word ‘Amityville’ spawned many other movies, often the cover art shows the legendary house and the glowing quarter moon windows as eyes such as in The Amityville Haunting (2011), Amityville: No Escape (2016), and The Amityville Legacy (2016). A few others just used the word Amityville in the title to lure viewers in with titles such Amityville: Vanishing Point (2016) and The Amityville Playhouse (2015).
Then there’s the documentaries The Real Amityville Horror (2005), Shattered Hopes (2011), and My Amityville Horror (2012).
Now to expand past the confines of the movie and into the area of the backstory, the DeFeo murders.
Why did Ron “Butch” DeFeo Jr. kill his family? Who died?
Likely, insurance on his parents, namely his father first, as it was just one of the first questions, he asked investigators about how to collect, however no firm reason ever been present for the reason of the slaughter. The defense of “the devil made me do it” came much later after his stories started falling apart at a faster rate. Ron age 23 killed his parents Ronald, 43, 1930-1974 and Louise DeFeo, 43, 1931-1974; his brothers Marc, 12, 1962-1974 and John, 9, 1965-1974, then his sisters Allison, 13, 1961-1974 and lastly, Dawn, 18, 1956-1974. He’s come eligible for parole a few times, each time never taking responsibility for his crimes and yet providing an entertaining time to the parole board with new stories or versions of the crime, no one is buying any of them.
How many stories has DeFeo given?
There’s been at least 20 versions given, from Dawn committing the murders, and then they struggled for the gun to he was hired to eliminate the family, mob connections even to the devil. In fact to list all the stories, it takes 3-pages in a WORD file to attempt the feat with reasoning and detail.
Did the family all die face down and the opinion no one awoke during the shooting?
Yes, the crime scene photos show the impact of the bullets hitting each family member face down (this also connects for some to paranormal matters), it is believed Ron killed his father first and then his mother, next his siblings. It is also suggested that he possibly drugged each of them, as he had plenty narcotics to make that happened, however in the readings of numerous coroner reports account that no drugs were present in the victims, though it was first believed that only person had heroin in their system and that was Ron. As for not moving (which baffled police), unsure could have been to be frozen by fear, whichever the case its helps those believe in the devilish influence to conjure more paranormal theories. Neighbors heard no gunshots, only the family dog Shaggy barking a common occurrence for him, which also confused the police, however most likely the shootings of the children were done at extremely close range causing muzzle flash impact. Hans Holzer believed strong psychic energy caused a blockage in the sound traveling. Often the reason theorists point to the face down matter relates back to devilish manifestations as a rejection to Christ, on the belly as shame and full of sin. However, this fails when you try to relate it back to the children sins did they hold to damn their immortal souls for all eternity.
Is the land an ancient Indian burial ground?
There’s much conjecture over this aspect, the Amityville Historical Society used to have information on the area, but since lost or removed it, to remove any taint on the area, paranormal/ghost hunter Hans Holzer stated he was told by the society that a skeleton of an Indian Chief found in the vicinity during the 1900s however once again the information of this vanished into dust with passage of time.
How about the devil worshipper John Ketcham’s involvement?
Another legend, where believability becomes highly muddled, in legend John was a devil worshipper from Massachusetts who fled in fear, when the Salem Witch Trials occurred, relocating to Amityville and continued practicing the black arts. The historical evidence shows that a Ketcham lived in the area, a notable family, but none of them connect to the Salem area, or to the trials, in addition, never involving with witchcraft or satanism.
Did the Warrens investigate this house? Their findings?
Yes, the famous or infamous (depending on your opinion) couple Lorraine and Ed investigated the house on February 24, 1976 and once more on March 6, 1976. Lorraine stated she felt overwhelming sensations of dread and sadness and received nonstop clairvoyant images and sounds. Ed spent time in the basement who recalled seeing shadows and lights moving. They held two seances with one at 3:15a in the sewing room, a location that had a strong vibrations of doom, during the March 6th night an infrared camera set up on the 2nd floor landing by Warren’s friend assistant Gene Campbell a photographer which took random photos, which later revealed a possible ghost child that links back to DeFeo’s children, however some dismiss this as someone peering out because of the brightness of their eyes in the photo.
What do you believe?
I don’t think the house is or was haunted, I believe Ron likely murdered his entire family due his excessive mixture of drugs which cause paranoid delusions. As to what happen to the Lutz? I think after reviewing all the evidence, they knowingly came up with a plan to purchase the house then conjure the stories of haunting activities, to cash in on the potential windfall of notable rights. Recalling the house had numerous deaths in it, and trying to sell a murder house quite difficult, followed with the strange aspect of keeping all the future too, just new box springs and mattress. I base this upon no one before the DeFeos or after Lutz’ experience any strange going-ons, as for the Warrens, I think they got sucked into the mess, perhaps they found rituals of activity of the tragedy and even became influenced by the gruesome history. Nevertheless, it’s still a great storyline based in reality to debate.
Well, that concludes this month’s Q&A, if you know of a horror film worthy of in-depth Q&A let us know, until then know your home holds secrets, those creaks and cold spots may be more than just normal house settling aspects, rather your home or something might be watching you.