The Amityville Horror was another book group pick (nominated by me as well). It’s always interested me as it is supposed to be based on real events from the mid 1970’s. There have been numerous films, sequels, magazines articles and books written on the subject but this is the original one that started it all, written from transcripts of conversations had with the protagonists. If you want to delve into the history and what not of it all, there is a good Wikipedia article on the matter here.
This is proper 1970’s horror fare, setting a lot of what are now clichés in the horror genre including that good old built on an Indian burial ground that seemed to be trotted out in every B movie for a decade. But to be brutally honest, unless you’re interested in the background and the surrounding events, this probably isn’t the book for you. It was written about 6 years after Blatty wrote the Exorcist, probably the seminal 1970’s horror story (ignoring Stephen King for a moment) and couldn’t be further away from it if Anston had tried. Put simply, the man cannot write. Any one that uses exclamation marks in general prose should be given a good kicking in my book and he does this frequently from early on.
One of the group did say he was scared by the book but I can’t help thinking this was despite the way it was written rather than because of it. Some of the aspects contained within the book are unsettling, the basic premise is fundamentally scary in itself but it is let down by the writing that veers from novel to commentary page by page, with comments like “later on when they discussed it the Lutz’s felt…” peppering the text. When a book is neither an intelligent written selection of transcripts (lets not forget Dracula was written as a variety of journal entries and letters) or a novel in its own right, it’s difficult to get fully immersed in the story. This is a shame really as the main protagonists, George and Kathy Lutz, do have some decidedly odd things happen to them. Phantom embraces, odd behaviour, flies infesting rooms in the dead of winter, it’s all there really.
It is a fairly short read, which is why the book group went for it. I can’t help but think if we could have looked past the page count, then The Exorcist or The Shining would have been a profoundly more rewarding read, despite not being based on alleged true events.
Is it worth as read? As I’ve mentioned earlier, if the actual story itself is of interest to you, if you like reading about real life hauntings and so on, it probably is but if you’re actually after reading a well crafted book, in my humble opinion, you’re better off looking elsewhere.