THE AMITYVILLE HORROR – Story Beats

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The Amityville Horror is a classic example of the stock haunted house movie and as such everybody steals from it. Based on a “true story” that was first a best selling book – Amityville is not just a haunted house story but also a classic cautionary tale about things being too good to be true and the evils of owning more house than you can afford. It sets up the story perfectly opening with the shock brutal murders of a family – a classic horror story trope. This is a visual, action based story opener that tells us all the backstory we need and leaves us wondering with a teaser – WHY?  Why did this guy in this perfect suburban house brutally murder his entire family? This is the HOOK of the movie and we get it in the first few minutes. Next we have the classic arrival opening – introducing our main characters – the innocent family who buys the house a year later – knowing that it is too good to be true – and makes the proposition – houses don’t have memories. It takes all of ten minutes before the supernatural events start popping up and the story is fairly relentless from here on out giving us all of the classic bumps, whispers and quiet quiet BANG scares that we now expect in a haunted house film. What makes Amityville Horror one to study beyond the expert pace and plotting is the subtext. The underlying theme of Amityville Horror is a family man losing his mind after the dream house he bought literally steals his money and wrecks his life. It is a very effective classic story that has some truly great bits in it – leaning heavy on The Exorcist and The Omen to some extent, but really, a pretty good film in it’s own right and one that deserves to be studied. I’m not a huge fan of the actual ending here – but these are the types of things you can get away with  when you are making a movie based on a best selling novel and no one will call you on it. And it is not terrible, it works for the movie and certainly completes the story – however unsatisfying it feels. Another trope of the horror film – the stop ending. The roller coaster is done – get the fuck off. Here are the Story Beats for The Amityville Horror.

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