Remember that scene when a possessed Sonny gets his sister, Patricia, to play a game where he is a famous photographer and she is his model, persuading her to take off her nightgown and leads to them having sex? What do you mean, no? Well, it turns out that it probably didn't really happen anyway. A work of fiction, apparently. Who knew? But with ten films released between 1979 and 2011, surely everyone has heard of The Amityville Horror. You may not have seen any of the movies, or read the book, but you will surely have caught something about the real-life paranormal experiences of the Lutz family.
In December 1975, George and Kathy Lutz, along with their three children, moved into 112 Ocean Avenue, a large Dutch Colonial house in Amityville, located on the south shore of Long Island, New York. The house was immense, and they got it for a steal. So far so good. But thirteen months before the Lutz's moved in, on November 13, 1974, Ronald DeFeo Jr. had shot and killed six members of his family at the house. While they slept.
It took the Lutz family 28 days to move out, leaving behind all of their possessions. They claimed to have been terrorized by paranormal phenomena. But the horrors they endured didn’t stop them from talking about it. The two parents, in particular, loved to talk about it.
Sadly, only two of the movies offer some kind of insight into the events that took place, but it's these two films that are fairly decent. The original outing, way back in 1979, and its remake in 2005, are acceptable horror fodder, even if they do suffer from poor final acts. But ten movies down the line, do we really need another interpretation? Well, perhaps. For the first time in 35 years, Daniel Lutz recounts his version of the infamous Amityville haunting that terrified his family in 1975. That’s right, folks, it’s a documentary. Where are you going?
While George and Kathleen Lutz were only too eager to go onto national television and tell their version of events, a story which went on to inspire a best-selling novel and subsequent films, this documentary reveals the horror behind growing up as part of a world famous haunting through the often hostile recollections of one of the children. Filmmaker Eric Walter has combined years of independent research into the Amityville case along with the perspectives of past investigative reporters and eyewitnesses, giving way to the most personal testimony of the subject to date - but do we finally discover the truth, and do we really care anymore?
Daniel does. Whatever his motives are (why he has chosen now to speak about it is unclear), he certainly has a few axes to grind. Even if the events he speaks of didn’t actually happen, and there are plenty who believe this to be true, the point is that Daniel Luz thinks it did, or wants us to believe that it did, which in its own way makes for an interesting personal study. The documentary even has its chilling moments, in particular when a news crew are reminiscing about their time spent at the house, and a photograph of the upstairs hallway which shows an uninvited guest. Old photographs are scary. Boom.
With both parents now dead, and other family members refusing to talk about the eerie events, Daniel is finally able to tell the story his way, and at times it all seems a little theatrical. He is unable to convince us that his stepfather – a man he utterly despises – has telekinetic powers, and Walter, the man responsible for this documentary, fails to deliver the doctor who Daniel confided in as a child, which in turn dismisses such intriguing events. It’s a pity, because the midsection offers questions that need to be answered. Is Daniel soaked in suggestion? Why would George and Kathleen go on national television to try and explain events they couldn’t explain? And did they go anywhere nice on the world tour which promoted the book?
Little time is devoted to the time priests apparently beat the shit out of Daniel, and lots of time is given to his impressive guitar skills and beautiful cars. Despite being a little bit traumatised, he seems to be doing okay out of it all. Even if his wife left him, and his children also refuse to spill the beans on their slightly odd father. The truth is that the Lutz's could have kept the whole debacle quiet. They didn't have to tell anyone. Because some of them did, we are led to believe that Daniel's hand is forced. But is it?
The fame that came from his parents revelations almost extinguishes some of more interesting points Daniel tries to make. Did his stepfather traumatize weak-minded and easily scared children for his own gain? Was he also the trigger for what happened in the house? Could the old man really move wrenches with his mind? And why suddenly speak about it after all these years? If Daniel really just wants someone to believe him, and deep down, we probably all want to, this documentary doesn’t really help his case. Worst of all, Patricia isn’t even mentioned.
The Amityville house is in its fifth occupancy since the Lutz’s departure. There have been no further repeats of paranormal phenomena. My Amityville Horror concentrates on the events we know about, when it should really be questioning Daniel Lutz’s motives. A fascinating guy, this could have been so much better, but without the other living family members (or dead for that matter), we’re left with even more questions. Bring us the shotgun. DW