The Amityville Horror appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 1.85:1 on this Blu-ray Disc. This was a problematic presentation.
Overall definition seemed fine. Wider shots – and even some medium images – could be a bit on the tentative side, but the majority of the movie showed reasonable clarity and definition. No issues with jagged edges or shimmering occurred, and edge haloes remained absent. Grain seemed natural, so I didn’t detect any obvious noise reduction.
The film's palette seemed fairly subdued but was generally nicely-saturated. Within the visual design, the colors appeared appropriate and clear. Black levels were fairly deep and tight, while shadows showed fairly positive delineation.
So far, so good – so why did the image end up with a “C-“? Print flaws were the major problem, as the film clearly enjoyed no clean-up work. From start to finish, I witnessed a bunch of small specks, and bigger distractions like blotches and marks also appeared from time to time. This was an awfully dirty image, especially given its age; it’s not that old a movie. Everything else worked fine, but the source defects turned into a major issue.
I felt no qualms when I decided to give a “B+” to the surprisingly effective DTS-HD MA- 5.1 soundtrack of The Amityville Horror. Remixed from the original monaural audio - which also appears on the disc - the 5.1 edition gave us a fairly broad and natural soundscape.
The track used the sides to present a lot of good atmospheric information, and the surrounds kicked in with a fair amount of material as well. These added to the movie’s attempted chills. From a thunderstorm at the beginning of the flick to gunfire and other aggressive sequences, the track put elements in their proper places and blended them well.
Music showed nice stereo delineation as well, and the entire package was involving. Matters occasionally tended toward the “speaker-specific” side of the street, but not as prominently as I’d expect. We even got some good stereo surround usage, with a few elements that popped up in particular rear speakers.
When I accounted for its age, the quality of the audio was also pleasing. Speech lacked much edginess and consistently sounded relatively natural and distinctive. A few louder lines became a bit rough, but they were well within the realm of acceptability, and intelligibility remained good.
Music needed a little more range but was still quite satisfying for something from 1979, as the score usually sounded smooth and full. Effects failed to present much distortion. Those elements were usually nicely concise and accurate, and they packed a good punch in the louder sequences. All in all, the 5.1 mix of Amityville was a winner.
How did the 2013 release compare with those of the original Blu-ray from 2008? Audio was similar but visuals showed changes. On the positive side, I thought the 2013 disc was a little tighter and smoother, but unfortunately, it came with a much higher level of print flaws. While the 2008 Blu-ray wasn’t perfect, it provided the stronger version of the film.
Although the original Amityville Blu-ray included only the flick’s trailer, the 2013 disc restores extras from a 2005 DVD. We open with an audio commentary from parapsychology professor Dr. Hans Holzer. He offers a running, occasionally screen-specific chat that looks at the “truth” behind the story. Holzer gets into the specifics of the house’s history, the DeFeo slayings in 1974, and what the Lutz family claims happened to them. He also chats about concepts related to the supernatural as well as the liberties taken by the movie and some production information.
One must take Holzer’s remarks with a grain of salt, as his notions require one to buy into his ideas about the supernatural. These are quite specific; he rejects common religious beliefs and openly mocks concepts with which he doesn’t agree. Actually, it would’ve been cool to get a second commentary with someone who would try to debunk the ideas.
Nonetheless, Holzer gives us a generally interesting chat that covers a lot of intriguing topics. He repeats himself at times, and quite a few gaps mar the proceedings, especially after the first third of the flick. Despite those problems, I found much of the track to be quite interesting.
A documentary called For God’s Sake, Get Out! appears next. This 21-minute and 34-second program mixes movie clips, archival materials, and interviews with actors James Brolin and Margot Kidder. They discuss their early careers, how they came onto Horror, production notes and impressions of the real house, their research and impressions of the real Lutz family, the studio’s concocted spookiness on the set, conflicts between the two lead actors and their approaches to their characters, the film’s impact on their careers, and various production details.
While the lack of additional participants somewhat hamstrings “Sake”, it still provides some nice details. Both Brolin and Kidder prove frank and open about their memories, and that leads to some fun material. The show doesn’t present a detailed history of the project, but it acts as a good glimpse at things.
New to the Blu-ray, Haunted Melodies goes for nine minutes, 56 seconds and delivers comments from composer Lalo Schifrin. He talks about his career in music and his work for the Horror series. Schifrin’s heavy accent can make his remarks tough to understand at times, but he still delivers some useful material.
In addition to the trailer for Amityville, we get a TV spot and seven radio spots. Finally, a Still Gallery offers 98 frames of movie shots, publicity elements and behind the scenes photos. It’s a nice set.
The Amityville Horror is nothing more than a silly trifle. It may have spooked me 34 years ago, but it can't muster even a minor chill now, and most of the film just seems goofy and overwrought. The Blu-ray provides fairly good audio and some decent bonus materials but suffers from flawed picture quality. Though it lacks this set’s extras, the 2008 Blu-ray remains the superior release in terms of movie presentation.
Note that as of October 2013, this Blu-ray version of the film can be found only in a three-disc “Amityville Horror Trilogy” boxed set. This package includes the original Horror along with sequels Amityville II: The Possession and Amityville 3D.
To rate this film, visit the Special Edition review of THE AMITYVILLE HORROR