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Bizarre Things That Happened On The Amityville Horror Set

These days, the number of horror movies that claim to be based on real stories has gotten so out of control that the idea has become a little cliché. However, in 1979 when "The Amityville Horror" was released, the public had little doubt that the horrific tale was based on the truth. Not only was Ronald DeFeo Jr. clearly guilty of the heinous killing of his own family in their Amityville home, but the harrowing experience of the Lutz family — who moved into the house afterward the murders — was thoroughly detailed in the best-selling book by Jay Anson (per New York Post).

Following the success of the original horror film, the lead stars revealed that the studio was responsible for fabricating a lot of the so-called supernatural events that occurred during the production of the film. Still, there were some very weird things that clearly did happen, especially when shooting the remake of the classic in 2005. Overall, the Amityville saga may always be a blend of both fact and fiction, but here are some of the bizarre moments that occurred on the set of the controversial series.

A dead body was found while filming

By far the most disturbing event to occur during the productions of any of the "Amityville Horror" films happened near where the 2005 remake was shot. In an interview with Radio Free Entertainment, lead actress Melissa George revealed the shocking details and said, "We were filming at the boathouse, and the police came by. They were on the water there, and they said that they found a dead body that had floated to the surface. We were like, 'Awesome!'" She then nervously laughed and added sarcastically, "That's making everything much more comfortable in this movie!"

Neither George nor her costar, Ryan Reynolds, provided much information about the terrible incident, but the actor added what little he knew. When Reynolds was asked about it by Radio Free Entertainment, he attempted to keep the interview from getting too dark but did say, "This was a densely populated lake area as well. I mean, it wasn't like a secluded pond, and this mafia member floated up or something. A legitimate accident, I think."

The crew often woke up at 3:15 a.m.

Some of the chilling details from the horrific massacre of the DeFeo family that spawned the entire "Amityville Horror" saga were given by the killer himself in his confession. When explaining how he carried out the grisly murders, Ronald DeFeo Jr. stated that he began the slaying at around 3:30 a.m., as reported by Newsday.

That bit of terrifying information was included in the story of the 2005 remake and must have left a deep mark on the psyche of those on set. In an interview with MovieWeb, Ryan Reynolds said, "I think a lot of people make that stuff up to sell their movie, but there was some weird stuff that happened. A lot of the crew were waking up at 3:15 in the morning which was when all these atrocities in the house took place each time. I think it was a subconscious thing. You read the script and suddenly pop awake at 3:15 in the morning."

There was an eerie moment with the house lights

To Ryan Reynolds, the scariest part of filming "The Amityville Horror" remake was the creepy home that was used as the set. He told MovieWeb, "They found this house that they sort of retrofitted. It's terrifying. You walk up and it's just upsetting. There's something about the house that's upsetting. There's something about the colors around it, everything was just a little upsetting." When talking with Radio Free Entertainment, the actor was honest that he never personally saw anything in the building that he would consider supernatural, but there were those on set with experiences that might have led them to believe differently.

As if the central structure was not disturbing enough, Melissa George and several others in the production witnessed something inside it that freaked them out even a little bit more. While interviewed on "Meet the Stars," the actress was asked about any unsettling events that occured during filming. She replied, "The lights turning on in the middle of the house one night and nobody was in there. The guards were called and nobody knew what was going on, so that was frightening too."

Kathy Lutz died at the beginning of the production

While the brutal DeFeo murders in Long Island made headlines, it was not until the Lutz family moved in afterward and made public their strange experiences that the bizarre and terrifying story became widespread throughout the country. Kathy and her husband George first told their harrowing in "The Amityville Horror" book of 1977 before it was later expanded into a considerable amount of movie adaptations, as per the New York Post.

By the time that the remake of the original horror classic was being filmed nearly 30 years later, a somewhat ridiculous number of films had been released, many of which were not the best quality. So, the filmmakers strove to bring the story back to its roots and went so far as to credit both Kathy and George as writers for providing material for their updated version.

Tragically, Kathy was unable to view the finished product, as Melissa George explained to Radio Free Entertainment. The actress said, "She died the first week of filming. Yeah. She wasn't well. She had a breathing problem. She was 50-something, very young. We didn't expect it. It was a little weird. There's a lot of weird things that happened on that movie, actually."

Ryan Reynolds scared some of the cast and crew

As an actor whose breakout role was in the raunchy comedy "Van Wilder," Ryan Reynolds seemed like an odd option when he was chosen by producer Michael Bay to play George Lutz. Even director Andrew Douglas was skeptical at first and worried that the actor was too pretty for such an intense part in a film like "The Amityville Horror."

However, it did not take long for Reynolds to not only prove he could put on the right performance but also add a unique twist to the role because of his looks. When talking about the actor's portrayal of Lutz, Douglas told Dread Central, "He used his physicality and his handsomeness to create something far more chilling than somebody who already looks mean."

In fact, Reynolds was so good at playing the character outside of his normal style that he genuinely sparked some fear in his fellow actor, Jesse James. In the short documentary about the movie, "The Source of Evil," the young thespian admitted, "There are certainly a few points with all our chase stuff in the house where Ryan can get pretty scary, just cause this guy chasing you with a gun. You know the gun's rubber and you know Ryan's not really going to hurt you, but it's still scary because he really sells it."

Jesse James was accidentally struck by Ryan Reynolds

To get the right performance in "The Amityville Horror," Ryan Reynolds distanced himself from the child actors playing George Lutz's children and made sure not to get attached to any of them. Otherwise, it would have been more difficult to film the important scenes showing his character descending into madness. Steps like these led to the intensity required for the part, yet there was one instance when he almost took things too far.

In the heat of the moment during the filming of the incredibly tense wood-chopping scene, Reynolds lightly slapped Jesse James in the face — something that was not discussed beforehand. When talking about the shocking moment with Radio Free Entertainment, Reynolds made light of the incident. Before laughing off the incident by saying that he must have been possessed by malevolent spirits, Reynolds took a more serious tone and said, "It was actually horrible. I didn't mean to do it. It wasn't hard or anything. He looked up like he just won the lottery. It was just so cool to him."

Yet, the actor also admitted that he believed the extreme act ultimately improved the scene. Reynolds added, "In a perverse way, I was sort of excited by the fact that something happened on film that was just totally unplanned. And it just came out organically enough, and not so organically that it actually hurt anyone. So everyone walked away from it, but it was definitely disturbing."

The fear of a John Landis tragedy

In 1982, all of Hollywood was absolutely horrified over the deaths of two child actors, Renee Shinn Chen and Myca Dinh Le, along with veteran performer Vic Morrow, in a helicopter crash during the production of "Twilight Zone: The Movie" (via History). John Landis had helmed the film and ultimately approved the fatal stunt, so ever since directors have been fearful of similar, tragic accidents occurring during risky sequences in their own movies.

Therefore, when Andrew Douglas was in charge of making "The Amityville Horror" remake, it would be an extreme understatement to say he was nervous to work on the scene where a young Chloë Grace Moretz walked across the roof. In their interview with the director, Moviehole asked Douglas directly if he was fearful of being responsible for a Landis-level mistake, and he replied, "Absolutely. I was genuinely, I could barely sleep because that's what was mandated."

Especially as a newer filmmaker, it sounds like Douglas may have felt some pressure from the studio to follow through with the intimidating stunt, but in the end, Moretz's professionalism put the director a bit at ease. He continued, "It's on the d*** roof, and I was petrified, absolutely petrified. And nobody in the crew could walk that line, and the child got up there for twenty minutes, we're in our condors with her, she was on wires, but it still so high, after 20 minutes she was completely comfortable. It's astonishing. It's astonishing. It was high. It was really high."

A startling moment convinced James Brolin to take the part

James Brolin may have stated publicly how skeptical he was about aspects of the Lutz family's accounts within the infamous house, but the frightening story still made a profound impact on the actor. In fact, an eerie experience while reading the novel "The Amityville Horror" led him to seize the lead part in the original 1979 film.

In an interview with The A.V. Club, the actor explained that he had casually hung up his pants before diving deep into the pages late at night and something happened around 2 a.m. that instantly pulled him out of it. Brolin said, "I'd throw them over the top corner of the main door coming into the bedroom, and all of a sudden, the pants fell off the door onto the floor. How I didn't hit my head on the ceiling, I have no idea, because I was at a scary part of this book, and it so surprised me that I started laughing after I recovered." 

From that moment, the actor was certain that he wanted to appear in the movie, which is a bit odd for someone with such a cynical approach to the tale. 

The original stars never allowed themselves to believe

When asked about the authenticity of "The Amityville Horror" story, both Ryan Reynolds and Melissa George said they went into the filming of the remake not just with an open mind. In their interviews for "Meet the Stars," the actors even go so far as to say that they believe something extraordinary happened to the Lutz family. On the other hand, the same cannot be said for the cast of the original movie.

In a documentary about the making of the first film, Kidder did not take the story seriously to such an extent that she even admitted it may have negatively affected her performance. She said, "I was being actually quite naughty and not fully committing to the notion that this was all true. I really should have been doing my work in a more serious way I suppose. I don't know."

While the studio pretended that the production was full of bizarre and unsettling events to increase the publicity of the film, neither Kidder nor her costar really took part because it was all just silly to them. Plus, Brolin had become especially doubtful about everything once he realized how charismatic the head of the Lutz family really was. The actor explained, "George is a good salesman. He could sell a lot of Fords, this guy. You know, a charmer. You had to believe him. His story, the way he would tell it was great. But he was such a good salesman, you realize he could be selling his sand."

James Brolin's career was cursed

Although it is highly unlikely that any supernatural forces were responsible for James Brolin's career struggles, it would be understandable if the actor felt cursed after starring in "The Amityville Horror." For quite some time, the movie star waited with frustration as his part in the successful film did little to help land him his next major job. As Brolin told The A.V. Club, it was not until he was offered the lead part in the 1981 film "High Risk" that he was finally able to break out of that difficult period.

In a documentary about the classic film, the actor explained the predicament he was in from his perspective and why it took so long to end. He said, "Well, now do I go and play heavies because I'm not charming, or am I a leading man for another picture? I'll tell you, I didn't work for two years. We had a huge hit, one of the hugest hits in history in that time, and I couldn't get another picture. So, I gotta ask, either I was really lousy, or that character people just could not put together."

The long delay of Amityville: The Awakening

In one of the most recent major entries into the series, "Amityville: The Awakening," certain parts of the film feel somewhat bizarre to watch on screen. However, this was not intentional, nor due to any specific weird occurrence on set. Instead, the movie looks strange at times simply because it took five years to make, which means that the young cast looks noticeably different in various scenes as the film took such a long period to complete.

In 2011, The Hollywood Reporter announced that the production was ready to shoot that summer, followed by a theatrical release early in 2012. Unfortunately, that expectation was way off the mark as the movie faced delay after delay (via The A.V. Club). The lead star, Bella Thorne, would have only been 15 years old on the original opening date, so by the time the film was finally shown in 2017, she was 20. However, that discrepancy was even more pronounced for Mckenna Grace, who went from 6 to 11 in that time.