The Movie: 'The Amityville Horror' (1979)
The Scene: The Lutzes try to make a new start in their relationship by moving into a house with distinctive, quarter moon windows and a tragic past (modeled after a book by Jay Anson -- based on a true story). A boy murdered his entire family there and even though George Lutz (James Brolin) tells his wife, "Houses don't have memories," he turns out to be dead wrong.
Not long after they move in, Father Delaney (Rod Steiger) arrives at the Lutz's in order to bless the house per the missus' request (Margot Kidder). When he arrives no one's home, but he invites himself in anyway to perform his priestly duties. Father Delaney hears strange giggling upstairs and enters one of the bedrooms to check things out. Of course, this is where he decides to set up camp for the blessing ritual. A plague of flies have other plans for the priest and start to swarm him, not long after the door mysteriously slams shut on its own. A gallon of sweat and some scenery chewing later, Delaney watches in disbelief as the door slowly opens again and a demonic voice is heard demanding the priest leave immediately. It only takes two words from this malevolent, unseen force to make Father Delaney run: "Get out!"
Why It's Iconic: Whether you believe the terrifying events at 112 Ocean Avenue were real or just a figment of some overactive imaginations, there's no denying that 'The Amityville Horror' has woven its mysterious web around the pop culture masses. The film was not only one of the first to make horror franchises popular (there are seven sequels), it also remains one of the most widely recognized "haunted house" flicks in the American psyche. 'Amityville' was a genre defining moment for the "true story" horror subgenre – following 'The Exorcist' which was released six years prior.
Of course, any horror movie where God's messenger gets his ass handed to him in the first 20 minutes means business. It tells the audience that anything is possible. Rod Steiger, better known for playing some of history's famous baddies and other tough guys in films, made his horror movie debut in 'Amityville Horror.' Even though his performance is like constipation meets ham sandwich, Father Delaney and his legion of flies are probably one of the creepiest and most memorable things about the movie.
Imitators/Flatterers: Everything from the sounds of the chilling chorus of ghostly children in the film's main title song (thanks to award-winning composer Lalo Schifrin), to the house's bleeding walls ('The Simpsons: Treehouse of Horror II' and more) has been imitated and parodied. Father Delaney and his flies were the inspiration for a scene in 'Scary Movie 2' and 'Talladega Nights,' but the film itself has been mentioned in countless other media. Michael Bay and his buddies recently overproduced a too-slick remake of the film in 2005 and as of last year there were rumors about another direct-to-video sequel, 'The Amityville Tapes.'