Wednesday, November 1, 2017

The horror ... the horror

Just a few thoughts and a not very clever post title related to our Halloween night viewing ... though when I say "our," I am stretching the definition of that. (More on that in a moment.) I'm falling asleep on the night after Halloween as I write this, but I can't let Halloween completely leave us without telling you what we watched. (Again, "we" is not entirely accurate.)

The movie scheduled was The Amityville Horror, and it was the comparatively rare instance of a movie my wife had seen and I hadn't. It was playing on Stan, and she selected that over a contender that I had seen but she hadn't, Berberian Sound Studio.

The viewing got off to an inauspicious start when our children repeatedly interrupted our first 20 minutes, that crucial period when the mood of a movie is set, by running up and down the hallway and shrieking at the tops of their lungs. This was at least slightly better than the other thing they did, which was the older one getting up to some unspecified naughtiness, which would later be explained to us by the younger one, semi-unintelligibly, through tears. It wasn't the naughtiness that was the big distraction; it was the tears. And though in these troubled times you never want to blame the victim, I couldn't help thinking that if the younger one would just shut up we could watch this damn movie. I suppose we couldn't fully blame them, as Halloween does tend to be an exciting time, and the sugar they'd consumed excited their blood even more.

Well, all the pausing makes Stan a little cantankerous, and whether the pausing itself was to blame in this particular instance, we started having streaming issues on our TV. A number of resets of the device that manages the streaming later, it still had not significantly improved, and my wife, who was far more sleepy and far more reclined on the couch than I was, finally gave up on it, especially considered that it was now 9:30 and we had at least 90 minutes left in the movie.

I could have done the same, but could not tolerate the idea of not completing a viewing of a horror movie on Halloween. So I proved beyond a shadow of a doubt that it was the device connected to the TV, and not our internet itself, that was to blame for the performance issues by connecting up my laptop with an HDMI cable and playing it through there. At which point it played fine for the rest of the movie. (My wife was only a few minutes removed from having given up, but she could not be drawn back in at this point, already mentally checked into bed.)

The first substantive comment I want to make about this movie is how much of a debt The Shining owed to it a year later. Now, the actual novels on which the two films were based were both written in 1977, but Amityville made it to the screen sooner than the King novel, so the influence of one film on the other film is something that can reasonably be posited, though just barely. Both are films about families taking up residence in a building that had been the site of numerous previous murders at intervals throughout their histories. Both involve a dad slowly and surely going insane and threatening the safety of the rest of his family. And both dads even wield an axe to give themselves additional menace, even both using it on a door to the horror of the family member on the other side. Superficial similarities they may be in some way, but I couldn't help noticing them. (There's even a helpful outsider coming to bad ends in both films, played by Rod Stieger in Amityville and Scatman Crothers in The Shining.) The endings of the films diverge from one another in a fairly significant way, though that's all I'll say for those who may not have seen one or the other or both.

The other comment I wanted to make was how damn much James Brolin reminded me of Christian Bale in this movie. It was uncanny. The internet is of course well aware of this, so here, I've included one of literally dozens of side-by-side pictures of the two that someone else has gone to the trouble of constructing, even though this is not how Brolin looks in this movie:


Was that a "substantive" comment? I doubt it.

Okay, then I'll give you a few quick more.

How much of a knockout is Margot Kidder in this movie? I guess I always thought of her as attractive when she played Lois Lane, but I had never previously felt personally attracted to her before this film. There are some rather sultry still images of her available from this movie, but let's just keep it on the low end of the sleaziness scale by posting a picture where she's just plain darn cute:


Lastly, I should probably tell you how much or little this movie scared me. Well, I'm glad to say: much. I got the chills repeatedly watching this movie, from the opening shots of the famous house with its eye-like windows (and the gun shots ringing out during that stormy night), to the accumulation of flies nauseating the true believers, to the isolated strange noises and voices, to that flash of sinister red eyes by the window in that one scene (reminded me a bit of Suspiria).

This is one of the true granddaddies of horror, and it did not disappoint me, even though I too was succumbing to sleep near the end because of the aforementioned streaming delays and a couple of late nights in a row carving jack-o-lanterns and sewing Halloween costumes.

I'm glad to have finally seen it, and to have ended the month traditionally devoted to horror viewing on a good note.

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