On the Nightstand: The Amityville Curse

The film based on this book is my least favorite of what I consider the original franchise films, meaning those made before the 2005 Dimension Films remake. I had not read the book in literal decades and I was hoping that maybe it would be better, as books often are. I was a fool.

The back cover copy for this one reads as follows:

The Amityville Curse is not a great story. I was too young in 1981 to be aware of the state of the American economy, but I certainly don’t remember loads of successful adult couples buying houses together to save money. Considering the rant that Holzer goes on concerning the economy in the first chapter I’m guessing this was his way of conveying that things in the United States were not great.

In Holzer’s America, a psychologist and his kooky wife combine resources with two successful restauranteurs, a teacher, a lawyer and an elderly author to purchase the most notorious haunted house in the world. That’s seven adults sharing this house. And despite the fact that Holzer has indeed been in the house before he seems completely unaware of how it is laid out. He invents a bedroom on the ground floor in what I can only assume is the sunroom, but describes it as connecting with the kitchen so….the maybe he meant the dining room. And let’s not talk about the “red tool shed” of evil and despair in the basement.

Once the sleeping arrangements are settled he spends the next few chapters having the wives seeing shadows and mists and having weird feelings in dark hallways. The lawyer and the psychologist then explain it was all in their heads and reminds them that “a young man killed six of his family members” there, so its not shocking they are jumping at every creaky board. If it were written better I’d say it read like one of those gothic novels from the fifties but that is being too kind. I struggled to get through this book, seriously struggled. My copy is 208 pages and took me two months to finish. I dreaded opening it up.

When the house takes its first victim the roomies enlist the help of a “famous” parapsychologist who determines the house is cursed by the Indian Chief who’s bones were found on the property at some point in the past. The only answer now is to apologize to said Chief and hope for the best. They hold a seance and let’s just say it doesn’t go well.

People love to say that everyone who has ever lived in that house has met with some tragedy, the inference being that the house or the evil in it was the cause of the tragedies. That’s the position Holzer takes, raining misfortune down on the characters simply because they dared live on his sacred land. If dead Indians ever start exacting revenge on white people living on their land we will all be in big trouble.

SPOILER ALERT: Nearly everyone dies in this book, even the nosy neighbor Mrs. Morriarty who popped in at the beginning to vomit exposition and then showed up at the end to vomit some more and drop a deus ex machina on the table. I won’t spoil the ending, but I will say it is exactly what you expect it to be.

The novel bears little resemblance to the film that it inspired. It is a much simpler story which is nice, but it isn’t especially interesting or shocking. I read that Tubi plans to make a new film based on this book in 2023 so we should probably keep a look out for that. For now, this tattered paperback is going back on the shelf where it belongs.

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