In my life I’ve probably seen thousands of Horror films. Some of them have been truly frightening though, sadly, those are getting harder to find. As I’ve grown older it’s become more difficult to suspend disbelief and truly become absorbed in a story. Even the most well-crafted and ingenious Horror film is hindered by that nagging, jaded voice in my head that says “this is a bunch of nonsense and it could never happen”. At times, it’s not easy to reconcile the Horror fan in me with the skeptic in me.
There is one film, however, that to this day is one of the most frightening I think I’ve ever seen. It truly disturbed me on what can almost be called a primal level. If I’m watching this film alone at night I still have second thoughts about staying in the room it. That’s how much it got to me.
That film is 1979’s The Amityville Horror.
I was eight years old when Amityville opened. I was probably nine or ten when I actually saw it. Maybe even eleven. I don’t quite recall. What I do recall is that I most certainly should not have been watching it. It absolutely terrified me. The murder back story, the bleeding walls, the disembodied voice screaming at the priest…and the flies.
But the one thing that really got me–the one thing that absolutely pushed me past “I’m daring myself to watch this” straight into stark, nightmare-inducing terror–was this:
Jody. The malevolent little “imaginary friend” of the Lutz’ young daughter. “She” is mentioned several times throughout the film but doesn’ t actually appear until the scene pictured above, which is burned into my mind forever. This short scene had me afraid to look out dark windows for a long, long time. I was convinced I would see a pair of red, blinking eyes leering back at me.
Don’t even get me started about the rocking chair scene.
Amityville was all too much for my young mind. I had never seen a movie this scary before even with all those Saturdays spent watching Creature Double Feature. This movie–more than any other–is the reason I had to spend a moment carefully working out the path from the light switch to the bed before shutting off the lights at night. It was three steps: barely two seconds. I timed the flip of the switch with the first stride, then the second (and most vulnerable) took me to the midway point of the room and the third stride ended with a quick retreat under the turned down covers. Then there were a few seconds of breathless silence to listen for anything that might have followed me. A nervous hour or two later, sleep. Hopefully with no nightmares.
I think I need to rent it again.