July 29, 1979
Before going to see The Amityville Horror adaptation, I was a serious fan of Jay Ansonís book. I can remember picking it up at the bookstore and going straight home to read it. I didnít put it down until I was finished. And honestly, I feel the book holds up to this day. Though I no longer believe the Lutz story, it makes for an interesting read and I recommend it as much as I do the film.
So being such a fan of the book, I had high expectations for The Amityville Horror. Though I donít think time has been too kind to it, I still enjoy watching it. James Brolin is simply a tour de force with his long, sweaty, shaggy hair and Margot Kidder... Wow. I donít care that they caught her a few years later naked and hanging out in bush without her teeth. The scene of her doing stretches in her panties... Well, my mouth is growing dry just thinking about it.
Anyway, there was a lot of hype leading up to the filmís premiere. There were stories about strange ghostly happenings on the movie set and you couldnít turn on the television without seeing George and Kathy Lutz telling their story. So it really shouldnít have been such a surprise that the line to get into the theater eventually stretched nearly half a mile from its front doors all the way down to the Baskin Robbins at the end of the parking lot.
Thankfully, I arrived early. My parents, along with the wife and I, had gone to Kentucky Fried Chicken before the theater. This was back when I actually ate chicken (nowadays I canít stand it). Anyways, I pissed and moaned that we needed to get to the theater early to avoid the line. I was a bit psychic for this episode, I suppose. Eventually, everyone got tired of listening to me and bundled into the car for the drive over to the Cinema. We got in line early and I got to boast a bit when everyone else saw how long the line began to stretch. So ha!
The theater was simply called the Cinema and has since closed its doors. The last films it showed were the Star Wars re-releases in the late nineties. Nowadays, itís a storage unit facility. I saw some good movies there and lament its passing. I always hope someone will revive the theater, but unfortunately I believe thatís simply wishful thinking on my part. Ah well, huh?
Finally, the theater doors opened. We were first in line so we got our pick of seats in the auditorium. We sat down and watched the rest of the crowd slowly filter in. To say it was a packed house is a vast understatement. Not only were there raucous teenagers in the mass, but there were also quite a few older folks. I also saw a few youngsters, which surprised me. Thankfully, there were no crying babies.
After a long time of waiting for the crowd to take their seats, the lights went down and the film started. And this is where the good times started. There were plenty of screams during the running time. I can remember the scene where Margot Kidder looks out the window and Jodyís blinking red eyes staring back at her really got the crowd into it. There were also quite a few nervous bouts of laughter. Again, Kidder stole the show. The scene where she appears to have aged badly brought a round of laughter from the teenage sect. Usually this would bother me, but I accepted it because there was such electricity flowing through the theater. It was all very palpable.
In 1979, I immensely enjoyed the film. As Iíve already mentioned, I donít believe it has aged very well. Two summers ago, I was admitted to the hospital. I finally got into my room at about three oíclock in the morning. When the nurses had left me alone, I turned on the television and wouldnít you know it? The Amityville Horror was playing. It was nice to reminisce about that theater experience so many years gone.
Anyway, there was a large crowd on opening night and it only helped the experience. Helping was also the fact that at the time I also bought every word of George and Kathy Lutz. Over three decades later, I no longer subscribe to their story. I know there are a few TBC members who do, though, so itís all good. Whatever helps you enjoy the film, the better.
I also attended the opening night for Amityville II: The Possession and Amityville 3-D. Unfortunately, there arenít any good stories associated with them. By the time of the second sequel, the joke was old and the audiences usually reacted with laughter than scares.
Still, Iíll always have the memories of that opening night in the summer of 1979. And to end, Iíll take liberty with the filmís tagline: "For Godís sake, itís time for me get out of here!"