The Amityville Horror appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 1.85:1 on this single-sided, double-layered DVD; the widescreen image has been enhanced for 16X9 televisions. Despite some niggling concerns, most of Amityville looked pretty solid.
One of the more consistent distractions came from the consistent presence of edge enhancement. The haloes stayed generally mild, but they appeared during much of the film, and they rendered the picture less detailed than I’d like. I thought matters usually seemed acceptably concise and distinctive, but wider shots took on a moderately soft tone. No issues with jagged edges or shimmering occurred, though, and source flaws stayed reasonably minor. The occasional speck or piece of grit cropped up, and some light grain also was visible. The defects were less prevalent than I expected for an older flick, though.
The film's palette seemed fairly subdued but was generally nicely-saturated and realistic. Within the visual design, the colors appeared realistic and solid at all times. Black levels were a little soft and mushy, and contrast appeared a little overly dark much of the time. This affected shadow detail, which came across as acceptably visible but not as clear as I'd like. Still, despite these criticisms, I found The Amityville Horror to provide a pretty positive viewing experience that almost made it up to “B+” territory.
I felt no qualms when I decided to give a “B+” to the surprisingly effective Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack of The Amityville Horror. Remixed from the original monaural audio - which also appears on the DVD - the 5.1 edition gave us a 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 a lot 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 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 new 5.1 mix of Amityville was a real winner.
How did the picture and audio of this new Amityville Horror special edition compare with those of the original 2000 DVD? One major change relates to the soundtrack. While the prior disc offered only the movie’s original monaural audio, this one adds the Dolby Digital 5.1 mix. Not only does the track open up matters to all five speakers, but also it improves the quality of the old mix. That one tended to be somewhat harsh and edgy, but those concerns failed to materialize here. The new soundtrack is a marked improvement over the old one in many ways.
In addition, the new transfer definitely betters the prior version. The main difference here comes from its cleanliness. The original DVD suffered from many more instances of source defects that this one lacks. Definition also seems slightly improved, though both present some softness. The old version wasn’t 16X9, so this one’s anamorphic enhancement definitely makes it the tighter of the two. Colors and blacks remain about the same. The various improvements make this clearly the superior transfer.
Although the original Amityville DVD included only the flick’s trailer, this new special edition expands matters somewhat. 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.
Note that if you watch the movie with Holzer’s commentary, it’ll launch with an 82-second introduction. In that clip, Holzer tells us about himself, his work and his qualifications.
A new documentary called For God’s Sake, Get Out! appears next. This 21-minute and 33-second program mixes movie clips, archival materials, and interviews. We find notes from 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 nicely frank and open about their memories, and that leads to some fun details. The show doesn’t present a detailed history of the project, but it acts as a good glimpse at things.
In addition to the trailer for Amityville, a few clips appear in “Other MGM Release”. This area includes promos for Species 3 and Jeepers Creepers 2 as well as a pair of generic clips. We also find seven radio spots.
The DVD opens with some ads. As one might expect, we find the trailer for the Amityville remake, and we also get a promo for The Woods.
The Amityville Horror is nothing more than a silly trifle. It may have spooked me 25 years ago, but it couldn't muster even a minor rise now, and most of the film just seemed goofy and overwrought. The DVD provides pretty solid picture and audio along with a small but generally interesting set of extras.
Obviously I won’t recommend this terrible movie to those who don’t already know they like it, but existing fans should snag this new release. The special edition improves upon the picture and sound of the prior disc, and it also adds some decent supplements. The new release merits an upgrade for folks who own the old one, and it’s definitely the disc of choice for those who never bought the original version.
Note that you can find this DVD of The Amityville Horror on its own or as part of a boxed set called "The Amityville Horror Collection".
This package also includes Amityville II: The Possession, Amityville 3-D, and a bonus disc titled Amityville Confidential. The three films can be purchased individually, but Amityville Confidential is exclusive to that release.