Whatever Happened to the Marching Band?
The book, The Amityville Horror by Jay Anson was published in 1977 (the original movie was released in 1979, the remake, 2005). I read it back then, when it was a fresh best seller and it scared the living daylights out of me.
Recently, I was given a copy of the paperback by a friend who found it in the bargain bin at a used book store. Loving ghost stories as I do, I was thrilled to receive the gift.
I read it again and found my experience to be very different this time. Perhaps it’s because I’m a horror fan with many more years of horror experience than I had the first time I read it. Or perhaps it’s because with the advent of writers like King and Koontz, I’m used to my horror being a bit more real and engrossing.
Whatever the reason and despite its flatness in tone, the book contains some scenes that are much scarier than those in the movie. I’d always thought that the movie was much different than the book, but it’s really not. Of course, there are always differences between book and movie and just like The Shining there are scenes in the book that never made it to the screen.
For example, Kathy Lutz has a tendency to levitate, and on several occasions I found the levitation to be quite creepy. There’s nothing like floating around near the ceiling that cries out, “Demonic!” Yet in the movie, nobody does much floating, save the little red-eyed piggy who appears outside the little girl’s window.
Then there’s the marching band. On several occasions, George hears a marching band coming from his living room in the middle of the night. It’s loud enough to wake him and real enough to push the rugs back. Yet, the movie fails to use this creepy bit of horror in its arsenal of scares.
I think the movie (as you can see by my earlier comparison) is best the first time around and even better after reading the book. But the book is a definite scare-fest and seeing the movie puts some solidity behind those scares in print. But the book is better than the movie in that it really grabs your attention and holds it fast until the very end.
The fact that this terrifying book is a ghost story is a plus. That it’s supposedly a true ghost story drives the fear home.
In recent years, this true ghost story has been questioned. Apparently, it’s not such a true ghost story after all. Nevertheless, despite its shortcomings, the book makes for a very good read and is one all horror fans should have in their own horror library.