The Amityville "Horror"

It’s very difficult for me to take this book seriously on a number of levels. First and foremost, I am an atheist. I do not believe in demons, and I do not hold up priests or other religious figures as moral and spiritual authorities. Contrary to Jay Anson’s claims, there is a great deal of material refuting the alleged activity in and around the house (not to mention evidence of outright fabrication), inconsistent testimony from those involved–most notably from Father “Mancuso”–and very little to actually corroborate their story.     

And then there’s the quality of the writing itself. Let’s just say it’s…not good. I like the original film, so I didn’t expect the book to be as badly written and unquestioningly subjective as it was (that would have been more in line with the remake, which we will pretend never happened except to note that it was my first date with my boyfriend, and it somehow did not destroy our burgeoning relationship). The most glaring issue comes from a seemingly innocuous punctuation mark. Jay Anson loves him some exclamation points. But they don’t create tension and fear! Except when they’re used in every paragraph! Because then I’m afraid of how much worse his writing will get! Unable to build tension with the events themselves–their utter ridiculousness doesn’t help–and having rather weak skills as a writer, Anson uses exclamation points as his equivalent of jump scares. Also, I don’t need to be reminded of the house’s address in every paragraph. I’m not that guy in Memento; my short-term memory is fine. The house is at 112 Ocean Ave. I GET IT.

I share Chris Shearer‘s theory that George, in desperate need of money and owning a house in which a terrible tragedy had recently occurred, saw an opportunity to ride the 70s horror boom. As far as I can tell, this story is exactly how George made a living for the rest of his life, going so far as to trademark the phrase The Amityville Horror and running a website devoted to it. I even saw Lutz at the Pittsburgh Comic-Con a couple of years before his death, sitting at a table piled high with books and videos about the Amityville house as he continued to whore out the tale for whatever money people would give him. As Chris noted, the Lutzes used every single haunted house trope you can imagine and then some (pigs, ceramic lions, and marching bands don’t scare me, but whatever), creating a story so over-the-top and insultingly stupid as to be completely unbelievable. One unintentionally hilarious episode came when Kathy threatened the children with violence over the green slime leaking out of the wall; despite her claims to have seen a demon in the fireplace and the various nonsense previous to this event, she couldn’t reconcile the slime with the other manifestations. Really? Either she’s an idiot, or just an asshole who likes to beat her kids.

Long story short, this book is terrible. Watch the movie instead (you may never read these words from me again), and don’t fall for the “true story” hype.

Published by Jennifer Loring

Jennifer Loring’s short fiction has appeared in the anthologies Tales from the Lake vols. 1 and 4, Nightscript IV, Dim Shores Presents Volume 2, and the Bram Stoker Award-nominated Not All Monsters and Arterial Bloom, among many others. She holds an MFA in Writing Popular Fiction with a concentration in horror fiction and is currently working toward a PhD in Interdisciplinary Studies - Humanities & Culture, focusing on queer possibility in fairy tales. Jenn lives in Philadelphia, PA, where she and her husband are owned by a turtle and two basset hounds.

6 thoughts on “The Amityville "Horror"

  1. I agree the movie was better than the book, and really not by much. What gives it an edge, I think, is how it combined some of the events of the book into the same scenes to keep the pace up and the tension mounting, including stuff that didn't even happen in the book. I guess it needed a little extra "ooomph" to work.


  2. Yeah, it was pretty bad, Jenn (!). Like, really bad. I love your suggestion that maybe the mom's just an asshole who likes to beat her kids. You just might be onto something there…


  3. "Also, I don't need to be reminded of the house's address in every paragraph."Love it. 🙂 I thought the same thing. I also thought, "Wow, if a book such is this can get published, I should have no trouble!!" I can't say it was the WORST I ever read. There are a ton of lame books out there, but it was not hitting on anything I'd ever want to read again. Not even close. Nice review.~Cin


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