I consider myself a nice person. I try to avoid bad reviews whenever possible because even if a book is “bad” a lot of people worked their butts off to make it the best that it could be. That being said, Jay Anson’s The Amityville Horror didn’t work for me on several levels.
It starts on the syntax level. There are no emotions in the story that aren’t filtered through the omniscient narrator of Anson, and because of this the book has almost no tension. The story is told to the reader, meaning that the reader does not get to experience any events. Anson wrote the novel based on several hours of audiotapes provided by the Lutz family, but the account of events comes across as more of a list. Because of the structure of almost every sentence this story comes across as a newspaper article.
This choice of narrative structure sort of makes since if you consider the context in which the book was marketed. There has been a lot of fuss over this, but at the time of publication this was touted as a true story. It grabbed the public’s attention and has sold an estimated 10 million copies.
I think it’s a real shame that more attention wasn’t given to the narrative because this book, if written from a limited point of view, could have been a legendary story. Granted, it was a financial success, but it wasn’t written in a way that would ever make a reader pick it up twice.
My favorite parts were the history involving the previous owners, the DeFeo family. Ronald DeFeo Jr. murdered his entire family with a high-powered weapon as they lay face down in their beds. Nobody heard a shot and none of the family woke up. This, along with several other creepy elements, is a horror goldmine! It actually makes me angry that a story with this much potential wasn’t given enough respect.
Another huge disappointment for me was that Ed and Lorraine Warren didn’t appear until the epilogue. In case you’re wondering, they were the paranormal investigators featured in the recent film The Conjuring. They were also the source material for the film Annabelle. While their professional careers in the real world may be somewhat suspect, they do provide a good fictional element whenever they are featured in stories.
But like I said, I’m a nice guy. I’m guessing that Anson did the best he could do and so did the editors who pushed this book through so they could get it out before Halloween in 1977… nice guy, right. At this point the story has been trampled through the living room of people’s imaginations to the point where it has become a cliché. Mud on the linoleum and snow in the carpet mar what was poised to be a legend of horror.
Instead, we got a newspaper report.