The Lion revisits the original “Amityville Horror,” a 1979 zeitgeist hit, in a DVD boxed set that hit shelves shortly before its remake arrived on the bigscreen. Also along for the fright: a pair of lesser sequels and a bonus disc of History Channel docs on the infamous Long Island, N.Y., haunting. Horror fans should relish the still-chill-inducing original, whose 1970s undercurrents are of a piece with “The Exorcist,” “Rosemary’s Baby” and “The Omen” in their exploration of the modern American family under siege by supernatural forces and societal change.
Pic, in a sharp video transfer and 5.1 Dolby Surround that renders all of the creepfest’s spooky noises and Lalo Schifrin’s score in full, jarring detail, delivers plenty of tension via smart framing (lots of low angles) and escalation of unnerving encounters at the Lutz house once occupied by mass murderer Ronald DeFeo.
By the time the ooze starts flowing from the walls and the family has begun to see demonic eyes in the home, the film has unearthed enough ’70s angst (divorce, secularism vs. the church, institutional cover-ups, even Vietnam) to have most viewers screaming along with the Lutzes.
The two docs and audio commentary by parapsychologist Dr. Hans Holzer add some historical perspective to the hauntings and make a stong case that the Lutzes actually fabricated (or at least embellished) their haunted-house story. Best of the supplementary material are new interviews with stars James Brolin and Margot Kidder recounting the pic’s impact and their on-set conflict of styles (she wanted to improvise while he was a stickler for the text).
Sequels “Amityville: The Possession” and “Amityville 3D” (not in 3D on disc) are little more than sloppy exploitations of the haunted-house canon.