The Amityville Curse (1981) Book Review

Hans Holzer | 1981 | Tower Books Image result for the amityville curse novel

Tagline: “The Horror lives on…”

Hans Holzer, notable paranormal researcher of the 20th century, couldn’t pass up the urge to exploit the Amityville phenomena. In 1979, he released a non-fiction book (Murder in Amityville) asserting Ronald Defeo, Jr. had murdered his family due to possession from the dwelling evil on 112 Ocean Avenue. A patchwork of partial investigative research embroiders his haunting theories, claiming the site had a vile curse inflicted by restlessly aggrieved aboriginal Indians. It was Medium Ethel Meyers who had fueled him on this trailblazing path after the two had visited the house. However, these claims remain uncorroborated by local historians.

The Amityville Curse is Holzer’s pastiche piggyback effort off of Jay Anson’s The Amityville Horror, the smashing best seller that launched the lucrative franchise in 1977.

Three couples pool their money together to purchase a residence within close commute to NYC, all of them relatively successful professionals –a lawyer, psychologist, and restaurant owner.

Although aware of the haunting, the hysteria and interest surrounding the household has waned.  Along with their bland wives, they shun any potential superstition attached to it. It’s only been six years, yet they go at it with a “oh, it happened so long ago” attitude. the first bit of horror involves a crucifix, gifted by a gracious old lady down the street, falls off the wall. How minimal this strange incident seems in hindsight for what’s to come.

Despite his vast experience in researching the paranormal, Holzer bombards the readers with a salvo of nonsensical tropes. Everything plus the dishes in the kitchen sink get thrown at the characters. As expected, the psychologist plays the rational naysayer whenever unexplainable harassment happens.  Social activities among the characters are a parade of cliches, overstuffed with vapid platitudes. The only intriguing character is the elderly father Blaine Carter, a writer of mystery fiction, who’s severely under utilized while spending the majority of the book writing in seclusion in the legendary half-moon windows room on the 3rd floor.

A young beat writer’s article in the daily express sparks a new sensationalism among the public before anything astonishing really even occurs. Then, like a myriad of careening dominoes, hell unleashes its attack in rapid succession; the lawyer nearly drowned out back, Carter dangles out the half-moon window, Indians invading dreams, dogs howling down the street, pots fling off the burning stove.

The lawyer Frank’s research uncovers the legend of an Indian Chief interred on the grounds. At the turn of the century, a kid had unearthed it and played football with its skull. Yep. Henceforth all white men shall be the recipient of his vengeance.

It takes some broken bones and a few more strange accidents before they ask: ‘What should we do?’ They visit Dr. Cole, parapsychologist in NYC, who informs them they aren’t living in a haunted house, they’re living in a cursed house. The fool babbles on about how he can help, but he won’t confront the spirit.  Basically he does nothing at this juncture. Since it’s an Indian curse, the residents then decide to seek out an Indian medicine man. They call up a member of the benevolent Indian society of Brooklyn named Black Eagle. His customary routine is burning incense and placing feathers around the house. Finally he instructs them to plant a sacred tree in honor of the tribe. Of course, his ceremony was all in vain.

The writer Blaine Carter dips into his collection of books to find the Amityville Horror by Jay Anson. Sadly, this angle leads no where, for Hans Holzer hastily Sheppards us readers down many abrupt dead-ends. Not too long after, Carter is found stabbed to death in his room by one of his oriental daggers. There goes the only potential delight of the book.

The group decides to go back to Dr. Cole. ‘Oh, there’s something we can do. Let’s try a medium and sacrifice.’ Now there’s suddenly an option? He brings over a nubile young Medium. She channels the chief, uttering ‘No treaty, no white men.’ Abigail, the lawyer’s wife, puts forth a cross that shoots out a searing pillar of fire. Dr. Cole and the Medium leave shortly after, saying ‘well, we’ll see what happens.’ A few chapters later, the medium gets her purse stolen in the city and Dr. Cole’s office burns down.

Fed up without having a solution, the group begs the help of the church. This is the element the Amityville series is known for. Unfortunately for them, the parish priest they summon ends up crashing his vehicle on Ocean Avenue, dying instantly.

Halloween in Amityville brought only a few Trick r’ treaters. The sole incident being Blaine Carter’s African spear projecting into the floor, nearly hitting Frank. Weeks later, Frank shoots a possessed Bill (the restaurant owner) after he finds him strangling his bare-breasted wife Abigail

At this point, you might be wondering what the local police think about all this mayhem and murder. Mostly they hold no suspicion against them, justifying each tragedy as an accident or it being an unknown intruder. Another wife dies from evil consumption and Marvin (the psychologist) drops dead from shock.

Remember the superstitious old lady that gifted them the cross in the beginning? She shows back up, suggesting they hang garlic in the house as if it’s vampires they are trying to exterminate. The Alraune root she presents them with ends up aflame. She dies days later, of course.

With the characters dwindling, the semi-lead of the book Abigail gears up for an old kindred ritual to banish the evil hex for good. With the aide of the ol’ family bible, she lights black candles and sketches pentagrams. Calling on a wide-range of pagan gods and goddesses to exorcise the turpitude.

Meanwhile, the real estate agent from the opening gets robbed and shot to death by a band of thugs in search of the house on 112 Ocean Ave. With Abigail still performing the rites, they burglarize the place, heading upstairs to Blaine Carter’s room. Loading up his ancient weapon collection, a Turkish sword leaps off the wall to decapitate the intruder. This scene is a major indicator of how haphazard and absurd this book has been.

But wait, let’s jump across town where the police inspector gets crushed by a train after his car stalls out. Also, we get introduced to the town mayor visiting the Amityville library. He pressures the head librarian to suppress  the records of an Indian burial ground in Amityville. After the two exit the building, the entire structure collapses as if detonated. I’d say the robbery scene was still more laughable.

In the climacteric stage of her ritual, Abigail is crushed to death by a stone figure of the Indian on the altar. She was the final sacrifice to be made. Frank, freshly exonerated from murder, strolls in as this takes place. The Indian chief possesses him as he succumbs to a dormant state. A good rest returns him to his previous form. Everyone is alive again, visiting the house for the first time. A dreamlike reset of the events happens as Frank talks everyone in to not buying the house. Leaving it behind, he witnesses the illusion of a spirit in the upstairs window, a dead girl glaring out.

Conclusion: Hans Holzer shows that he’d clearly ventured too far out of his forte by attempting to write this fictional thriller set in Amityville. I enjoy his non-fiction books on the occult, many of which you can obtained in abundance on ebay. However, he fails to hit on numerous facets that are vital to fleshing out the suspense and drama of an engaging novel.  The book screams of a bad echo of Jay Anson’s novel motivated by the jealousy of its success.

Grade: D+

 

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JBM

Literary Heathen

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