The Amityville Horror by Jay Anson
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Cannonball Read V: The Amityville Horror by Jay Anson

By badkittyuno | Book Reviews | March 13, 2013 | Comments ()


Wow, was this book bad. Look, I like horror. I picked up a copy of Tommyknockers when I was 12 and LOVED it. But The Amityville Horror attempted to straddle a line between "scary because it's true" and "not true enough to have ANY sources" and failed on both counts. It basically reads like someone retelling a story they heard from a friend of a friend. Lots of exclamation points (seriously-the exclamation points became distracting) and not a lot of content.

I assume everyone's probably seen the movie, but The Amityville Horror is "based on the true story" of the Lutz family. The newly married George and Kathy Lutz get a sweet deal on a house after the previous owners and their children were murdered by their son Ronald DeFeo in their sleep. Shortly after the Lutzes move in, crazy stuff starts to happen. 28 days of ghostly shenanigans, and they flee!

I had a couple of major issues with this book. The writing was dull (even! with! exclamation! points!). The main characters annoyed the hell out of me and I began to cheer for the demons. I think the biggest problem though, was that these were supposed to be real problems happening to real people. And I just couldn't buy it. I feel like Anson should have either provided actual proof of these events (but of course he can't, because according to pretty much all sources, not to mention common sense, he made it all up in conjunction with DeFeo's lawyer) or gone all the way and made up some actual scary shit.

I finished this book a week ago, and I've been trying to think up a review that isn't so much ranting and raving, but I'm still just annoyed. I'm annoyed that Anson marketed this nonsense as "true". I'm annoyed that the only scary part was me worrying about the dog. I knew going in that I wasn't going to be converted to the realm of demons-are-real, but I expected to be at least creeped out. The (first) movie scared the hell out of me. The book made me want to reread The Exorcist for some real thrills.

This review is part of the volunteer Cannonball Read V. Read all about it , and find more of badkittyuno's reviews on the group blog.

(Note: Any revenue generated from purchases made through the affiliate links in this review will be donated in entirety to the American Cancer Society.)

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Comments Are Welcome, Bigots and Trolls Are Not

  • kali yuga

    Good documentary on this:

  • I was also just flat-out annoyed with this book. The exclamation points! The super annoying characters, the non-scary 'horror', the overall dullness of it. Feh. I was very happy that I got it from the library instead of buying it.

    Is The Exorcist much better? I can get it for $2.99 on my Nook right now and I was curious.

  • badkittyuno

    I actually thought the Exorcist was pretty scary. Not as scary as the movie (although I saw the movie at age 12, then read the book at age 27), but gets more into the mind of the mother, and you end up really sympathizing with what she's going through. That makes it pretty effective horror. It's worth reading in my opinion.

  • ViciousTrollop

    I used to terrify my cousins by making them watch the original movie every New Years Eve with me when we were kids. Those were the days.

    I remember my Mom telling me about how she read the book when it originally came out and she was so frightened by it that she couldn't look at the thing. She had to cover it up with something on her bedside table.

    There is a house near mine that is a mirror image of the Amityville one. Every time I drive by it I look at those creepy eye windows. If I lived there I would light them up with red lights to freak out passers-by.

  • BlackRabbit

    You liked Tommyknockers? Really?

  • dagnabbit

    Seriously...meandering and boring as hell.

  • $27019454

    Horrible. Awful. Veddy veddy bad.

  • badkittyuno

    In sixth grade, with a history of reading Babysitter's Club, The Animorphs and The Boxcar Children, it pretty much rocked my world. Would probably be different reading it now.

  • $2786243

    I saw the opening scene of this movie as a little kid and spent the next several *years* afraid that somebody was going to shoot me in my sleep. AWESOME.

  • Captain_Tuttle

    I lived on Long Island whilst growing up. In high school, we used to drive out to the Amityville house and then dare each other to get out of the car & peek in the windows. I don't remember if anyone was living there at the time. We had all read the book, of course, and were scared stupid of the place. Ah, youth.

  • ViciousTrollop

    I would have done the same thing! Heck, I would still probably do the same thing. I've looked that house up on Streetview like 50 times.

  • Cazadora

    Interesting that such a poorly written, largely debunked story has become part of our cultural landscape.

  • dagnabbit

    It's all about those freaking eyes on that house.

  • Cazadora

    After reading the review, I wiki'd to see what had happened in the intervening years and found out that a subsequent owner changed those windows. I don't blame them.

  • Miss Kate

    I was 12 years old when I started reading this. One evening when I was at CCD (Catholic classes for public school kids), it was sticking out of my school bag. My nutty bible thumping lay teacher started scolding me in front of the class about how I was opening my self up to demonic possession by reading it. He even sited The Exorcist as an example of what could happen to me! (This was Maine in the 70s). I burst into tears, went home terrified and couldn't sleep that night. My (very devout, tithing) mother was so furious she called our parish priest the following day and gave him an earful about the lunatics he hired, and WHAT were you thinking don't you screen these people properly, Father? I never finished the book.

  • This is also the story that really got the Warrens on the map. I cringe every time she gets called in as an 'expert.' Although I guess the same applies to pretty much any expert in anything paranormal.

  • Neal Conner

    I loved this book as a teen and the original film is still one of my faves, but I reread it just a few weeks ago and was shocked at how dull and poorly written it was. $1500 went missing!!!! Of course the demons took it because I can't think of any other explanation either right? Anyway, I hadn't noticed the issue with the exclamation points until I read this review. Now they glare at me like grumpy cat.

    Supposedly Anson wrote this book based on a recorded interview with the Lutzes about their experiences, then he "spiced" it up to make it scarier. Kind of sad that this was the spiced up version.

    Great review!

  • badkittyuno

    Thanks! Now I'm imagining it re-written with grumpy cat INSTEAD of exclamation points. Not a bad idea.

  • BWeaves

    I always got the impression that the house was a money pit, and the demons were an excuse to get out of the mortgage.

  • ,

    Somebody somewhere said the real scary part of the story is the house's deterioration as an investment. "Think of the wainscoting," or something like that.

  • badkittyuno

    We bought a new house less than a year ago, and yeah, the financial implications of buying a new house and abandoning it did kind of freak me out.

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