John Baxter is a recently divorced journalist working for an investigative magazine called Reveal. Baxter’s latest assignment exposes a seance scam operating within the abandoned Amityville home on Long Island, New York. Afterward, Baxter finds that the house is immensely affordable due to its sordid history of terrible things happening to those who’ve been inside. Baxter, apparently needing to find a new place following his divorce that has fourteen rooms covering three floors, moves into the house certain that all prior calamities were coincidences, delusions, and hoaxes. That bottomless pit in the basement others have claimed a portal to hell? Oh, that’s just an abandoned well. It has plenty of space for himself and his teenage daughter when she visits, as well as solitude for writing the “great American novel” he’s been talking about for years. Others around him experience strange events and implore him to leave. He won’t because he’s convinced the house’s reputation is causing mass hysteria. Unfortunately, with his daughter staying with him on occasion, he soon discovers that being wrong might be dead wrong.
The Amityville Horror is based on a popular novel by Jay Anson with a little longer title, “The Amityville Horror – A True Story”. The true story is, at this point, well known to be fictitious, but it did give the public quite a rise for a while. In the story, a young man ends up shooting his parents and sibling while they slept in the middle of the night for reasons even he couldn’t begin to explain. The horrific events shocked the small town, but the house was still deemed worthy for sale. Enter the Lutz family, who buy the house because it is going for a relatively cheaper rate than if it didn’t have the malevolent stigma, but they can’t pass up the price. However, weird things start happening, starting with the fact that the preacher (Rod Steiger,) who comes to bless the house is scared out of his wits, soon after suffering from an unknown ailment he feels has been inflicted by the evil within the house. The Lutz family themselves start exhibiting weird behavior themselves, with the father, George (James Brolin), always feeling cold, and having little motivation to do anything more than chop wood for the fire. Doors and windows open and close, the daughter starts talking to an imaginary (?) friend, and the dog starts sniffing around the cellar trying to dig up something only he knows is there. Margot Kidder costars.