Monday, March 9, 2009

An Amityville Horror in Jersey

As The Haunting in Connecticut feature film adaptation (I have to admit, the A&E made-for-tv version was very creepy) is about to hit theaters later this month, I thought it would be interesting to take a look at another well known adaptation of a reputedly true story in the original 1979 The Amityville Horror. In this case, the house and storyline needs little introduction, as most are now very familiar with the house formerly on 112 Ocean Avenue (see Amityville Horror House). The alleged story of the Lutz family and their short stay at the house was documented in the 1977 book, The Amityville Horror by author Jay Anson, that went on to sell a total of three to ten million copies depending on the source.

Given the surge of the horror genre in the 1970s, it isn't all that surprising that Hollywood quickly moved in and turned that book into a full-length feature film. Naturally, the filmmakers turned their eyes immediately to the town where it all happened and sought permission to shoot in the New York village, but ran into a few issues. It turns out that the Amityville officials were less than thrilled about the attention they were receiving because of the Lutz's story and Anson's book and were openly skeptical of the truthfulness of the account. Needless to say, the filming permits were turned down.

Film producer Samuel Z. Arkoff and American International Pictures then turned their attention to Toms River, New Jersey - approximately 60 miles away from Amityville. There they were greeted with open arms and found a suitable home to double as the infamous house, after $15,000 of remodeling. Various other locales throughout the town were utilized for the film and several of Toms River citizens appeared as extras. In total, it is estimated that the production pumped a quarter of a million dollars into the local economy. After filming had wrapped, several sources report that the filmmakers honored the town by giving them a special screening of The Amityville Horror in March 1979 - though no specific date is mentioned.

The film would later see a wide release in July of the same year and the story of the haunted house on Ocean Avenue would be known around the world. We'll revisit the film later this year as it reaches its 30-year anniversary to study the aftermath and subsequent sequels. In the meantime -

Pay a visit to the "Amityville House" in Toms River.

-Casey H.

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