Saturday, January 17, 2015

Audiobook Review: The Amityville Horror by Jay Anson

Title: The Amityville Horror
Author: Jay Anson
Publication Date: August 1, 1977
Publisher: Pocket Star Books
Pages: 256
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The shocking true story of an American dream that turned into a nightmare beyond imagining...

In December 1975, the Lutz family moved into their new home on suburban Long Island. George and Kathleen Lutz knew that one year earlier, Ronald DeFeo had murdered his parents, brothers, and sisters in the house, but the property - complete with boathouse and swimming pool - and the price had been too good to pass up. Twenty-eight days later, the entire Lutz family fled in terror...

This is the spellbinding, bestselling true story that gripped the nation - the story of a house possessed by spirits, haunted by psychic phenomena too terrible to describe.

When I first grabbed an audiobook copy of The Amityville Horror, I was pretty excited about reading (listening to) it. I'm a huge horror junkie and I really loved the movie (2005) based on the book, even if some of the details were totally different. Of course I'd really enjoy the book, right? Well, this is one of the few times I can honestly say the movie was better.

I feel like I should preface the rest of this review with a kind of disclaimer. Yes, I know the book was presented as non-fiction when it was first released in 1977 and no, that doesn't bother me. I'm not a believer in ghosts and poltergeists and I'm very aware that this is, in fact, a work of fiction that is based on real events. This doesn't offend me as it seems to have some other reviewers. I'm totally okay with fiction "based on true events." Paranormal Activity, The Blair Witch Project, I'm cool with it. That isn't why I didn't love The Amityville Horror.

This book just didn't work for me. The writing style (perhaps because it was marketed as non-fiction) was very dry and "factual." The things that should have been terrifying, like an invisible marching band or a moving lion statue, were not nearly as frightening as they could have been. What really disappoints me about this book is the missed potential. This story could have been the kind that would keep me up late at night with the lights on! Instead, I was able to listen to this while getting ready for bed and then go right to sleep. The only truly scary scenes in this book had to do with the pig. Because... um... humanoid pigs? Nope.

The characters were fine, no real issues there. I could definitely feel the slow creeping insanity that came over George and Kathy as the book went on. I only wish the rest of the book was written in such creepy detail as the development of the characters as they discovered more and more things going wrong in their house. That being said, these characters are dumb. A normal person would leave a house as soon as basically anything in this book started to happen. But I can't really blame the author of this book for that since this seems to be the theme in most haunted house books and films. Father Mancuso seemed to be the only one with any common sense.

I really wanted to love The Amityville Horror! I chose it as my first Horror Challenge read of the year for a reason. Unfortunately, it was a total let down. I would definitely point others away from this book. There are way better horror novels out there. But the movie is still near the top of my list!