The Amityville Horror Blu-ray Review

by Chris McEneany
Movies & TV Review

The Amityville Horror Blu-ray Review
SRP: £24.79

Picture

Amityville definitely benefits from its hi-def evolution, though the improvements of this 1.85:1 MPEG-4 transfer aren't all that emphatic when compared against its previous SD R1 edition.

Detail is good, though patchy and the lack of grain and somewhat waxy looking faces made me initially think that the dreaded DNR had been applied with that over-judicial hand. But, when comparing this against the former SD version, the same “pinkish” lack of finite facial information is also apparent. Thus, the print used is probably the same and is certainly clean and lacking in overt age-related damage, and is free from speckles, pops and wobbles. But this is still not exactly the most glowing of transfers even considering the authenticity it shows to the original source.

Basically, I found the transfer to be quite inconsistent. We do get lots of close-ups that reward us with great detail - Brolin's phenomenal facial foliage, some intense eyes (human and fly), the beads of sweat on Steiger's head - but we also get some that lack the same level of finite information only a scene or a shot further in. Again, even the deeper shots can vary in their quality, too. Some of the broad frames inside the house can lose definition further back into the recesses and against the walls, whilst some exterior equivalents, which may be getting some benefit from the brighter daylight colours and contrast, reveal terrific clarity and sharpness all the way to the back of the frame. Scenes when George is out chopping wood, for instance, look quite splendid, with lots of clarity on the leaves on the ground and on the trees behind him, yet some scenes, such as when Father Delaney is arguing his point with his superiors in the confines of an office appear profoundly flat, bland and un-detailed.

Blacks are generally quite strong. One or two moments see them lapsing into less Stygian shades, but there are many occasions when their depth greatly enhances the atmosphere of the film. Scenes of George creeping about the house in the wee small hours and of the “ghostly pig” peering through the window have strong, satanic shadows. When the family return after the wedding reception and hear the babysitter's cries for help upstairs, the hallway is swathed with thick black murk, the faces of George and Kathy and the other two kids well lit and contrasted against them. The later scene of someone literally covered head to toe in vile black gunk from the bowels of God knows where exhibits a fine depth of shiny blackness, too.

Colours are well reproduced, but this is not a colourful film. The autumnal aspect of the setting is naturally adhered to and the disc does this justice, maintaining the earthy hues and bright, lower sunlight well. A couple of early evening sunsets are bright and brilliant, the spreading shadows genuine and convincing. Skin tones run warm with that pink look that often ruddies-up films from this period, so this is nothing especially worthy of note as being a trait peculiar to this transfer. The TV aesthetic is definitely in force.

I did detect some edge enhancement - some particularly glaring haloing around the edges of a nun, which I suppose is only appropriate - and some slight drag on motion. There was also an instance of some slight shimmering on the window-pane during a tracking shot. Artefacts and noise are not an issue, so there is really nothing much to complain about and, at the end of the day, Amityville's BD is a definite step-up from standard DVD, providing a lot more detail on the whole. If it still looks rather flat and un-involving for much of the time then this is down to the style of the cinematography which definitely favours imposing shots of both the house and Brolin, but remains quite lethargic and uninspired when focussed anywhere else.

The Amityville Horror

Sound

The DTS-MA 5.1 track is a disappointment, unfortunately. Whereas the added surround and increase in audio presence for both Texas Chainsaw and 7th Voyage Of Sinbad were actually quite respectful and enjoyable in their own right, Amityville doesn't really do much with the track. What you will hear is some occasional effect driven out to the rears - such as the moment when Kathy comes home (hmmm, that rings a bell) and George is chopping wood and the rear right offers up plenty of wood-cutting thunks! and thwacks! - but the problem is that these elements are so sporadic and, sadly, unconvincing that they can serve to take you out of the film. An unseen car trundling past, rear left to right, the phantom pig suddenly grunting from over your shoulder and the roar of George's motorcycle don't come over as having been generated from the actions witnessed on-screen. We also get plentiful storm effects during the finale - lots of thunder, rainfall and lightning flashes to leap about the speakers, as well as some tumbling masonry and an exploding window - but this all sounds over-egged and fake. And the pick-axing of the basement wall leading to the notorious “Red Room” is just woeful in its frantic attempt to sound aggressive. Plus, the dialogue in the surround mix is sometimes dialled-down, voices elsewhere not carrying too well and the moments of intense screaming - that of the trapped babysitter and the time when Kathy wakes up and shrieks “She was shot in the head!!!!” - have no weight or real presence, just tinny outbursts. Schifrin's score, however, is presented with suitable depth and clarity and becomes the highlight of the track. Well, all three tracks, actually.

The DD 5.1 option doesn't fare any better, just a quieter version of the lossless DTS, with the same lack of convincing envelopment going on. So, the best track here, certainly the most authentic and respectful, is the original mono. With this, there are naturally no bogus effects thrown out behind you and the sound is a lot better routed to what we are seeing in the film.

The Amityville Horror

Extras

Very poor indeed. What do we get? A couple of trailers and that's your lot.

The last SD edition had a commentary track from the psychologist who wrote the book “Murder In Amityville” and a nice little retrospective documentary about the movie. What we are handed here is nothing short of an insult.

The Amityville Horror
The Amityville Horror was, and still is, quite a popular haunted house offering. It holds up well today against the plethora of modern equivalents and even its own more visceral and dynamic remake by virtue of James Brolin's intimidating performance, Schifrin's terrifying score and some elaborate, if cliché-defining, set-pieces. Personally, I think of the film as a guilty pleasure - daftly overwrought and quite juvenile in its scare tactics, to be sure, but still highly entertaining. It's notoriety and the huge question mark hanging over the supposedly real events that took place in the house once the Lutzes moved in only add flavour to the pot, but it is best viewed as a pantomimic haunted house story - all the elements are in place and trotted out with well-rehearsed panache, fully anticipating the appropriate reactions from the audience. The finale is patently ridiculous but you can't deny the overall fun of this particular fright-fair.

Sadly, MGM's Blu-ray release leaves a lot to be desired. Shorn of extras and boasting some ineffective surround mixes and an image that may be better than its SD counterpart, but not by much, this falls far short of the boxset of the first three movies that also contained a bonus disc of features. Thus, really speaking, this edition is only for the most devout of fans.

The Amityville Horror

Scores

Movie

.
.
.
.
6

Picture Quality

.
.
.
7

Sound Quality

.
.
.
.
6

Extras

.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
1

Overall

.
.
.
.
6
6
AVForumsSCORE
OUT OF
10

Our Review Ethos

Read about our review ethos and the meaning of our review badges.

To comment on what you've read here, click the Discussion tab and post a reply.

Related Content

Eureka's The African Queen Blu-ray Review
  • By Casimir Harlow
  • Published
Monty Python's Flying Circus Season 1 Blu-ray Review
  • By Casimir Harlow
  • Published
DC's Legends of Tomorrow Season 4 Blu-ray Review
  • By Casimir Harlow
  • Published
Titans Season 1 Blu-ray Review
  • By Casimir Harlow
  • Published
Wonder Woman: Bloodlines Blu-ray Review
  • By Casimir Harlow
  • Published

Latest Headlines

Sky TV offers cheaper Sky Q box with updated features
  • By Andy Bassett
  • Published
Disney+ hits 10 million subscribers after first 24 hours
  • By Andy Bassett
  • Published
Disney+ unveils Maclunkey cut of Star Wars: A New Hope
  • By Andy Bassett
  • Published
Disney+ subscribers experience launch day technical jitters
  • By Andy Bassett
  • Published
Netflix to stop supporting older Samsung TVs in December
  • By Andy Bassett
  • Published
Top Bottom