Wednesday, April 20, 2005

Amityville Horror

In honor of (or perhaps more accurately, despite) the recently released re-make of The Amityville Horror, I have decided to read the original book, by Jay Anson. Of course, what made the book and movie so scary in the first place was that it was supposedly a true story. I had heard over the years various claims about how the owners of the house had merely put on a hoax and that the supernatural events in the book were fabricated. Not really ever having looked into it, I thought that while it was possible that the whole thing was a hoax, some people are going to say that about pretty much any supernatural story. So, I never had a set opinion on whether the story was in fact true. However, I recently read this story on, which is a valuable resource tool for debunking urban legends, that reveals that one of the central individuals involved with the events has admitted that it was a hoax. Apparently, he was a lawyer for the man who had killed his family in that house, and he conspired with the new owners of the house to make it appear haunted and thereby provide justification for a new trial for his client. So that puts a damper on some of the excitement of the story.

Still, I want to evaluate the book as it stands on its own as a work of horror. Stories presented as being true, such as Blair Witch (which really seems to come up a lot on this blog) or the original Texas Chainsaw Massacre, can still be very effective even if it is well known that they were fictional. The directors of those movies maintained the illusion of reality well by the techniques they used in filming, a point to which the director of the new Massacre movie seemed totally oblivious. Like these two movies, the Amityville Horror book is presented as being true, in the fashion of a report or documentary (or of Truman Capote's In Cold Blood). We'll see what kind of chills it can produce when robbed of its original hook.


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