My Amityville Horror
In the 1970s, "Amityville Horror" homeowners George and Kathy Lutz told tales of demonic possession, eyes in windows, hundreds of apported flies, items moving on their own, ectoplasm-like substances in the basement, cold spots throughout the house, manifestation of voices, and supernatural occurrences. Their son, Daniel, was ten years old at the time, and thanks to Samuel Z. Arkoff and Stuart Rosenberg’s Academy Award Nominated film of the same name, he and his family’s story was fully realized to the eyes of millions of filmgoers worldwide.
This week on DVD from IFC films is Eric Walter’s documentary "My Amityville Horror," focusing on a now-adult Daniel Lutz. Contractor Mike Russo befriended Daniel while Lutz was seeking a driveway to park his ’59 Chevy Apache Tuck. Russo opened up his newly-rented Bronx, NY property to Lutz, but also contacted "Amityville Horror" historian Eric Walter. Walter interviewed Lutz with a tape cassette recorder on a 6-hour boat ride, and creatively weaves these audio tapes within the documentary, telling Daniel Lutz’s first hand accounts of what he believes he experienced as a child in "The Amityville Horror" House.
Daniel appears angry, combative and down-right scary. The fear he believes he has carried into his adulthood cripples him, and his acutely detailed accounts of what occurred before, during, and after those 28 days in the possessed home sends chills up the spine of the viewer.
While one might accept that Lutz truly believes the events occurred, one has to ask themselves whether is this fact, fiction, or something in-between. Children remember things differently than adults, and this documentary does an excellent job of leaving it up to the viewer to decide if Lutz’s reality is rooted in fantasy or fact. Because of Lutz’s influences with media and creative retelling, as well as his own repeating of his stories, Daniel actually believes these things happened.
Daniel had a troubled childhood. Removed from his birth father’s life by his stepfather George Lutz, Daniel was forced to change his last name and move to Amityville with his mother Kathy, sisters, and step-father George. He tells accounts of George studying the Occult, which he feels was the trigger for their experiences, as well as a tempestuous paternal upbringing, leading to endless physical and mental abuse. Lutz also claims he begged his mother to let him run away from home, and shortly after leaving the house at 112 Ocean Ave., she gave in. Was Daniel’s abuse so intense that it sent him on the downward spiral of delusion and influence?
One of the highlights of Eric Walter’s objectively-told tale is Lutz’s reunion with some significant people from his childhood. Investigative reporter Laura DiDio seems to be the only person Daniel truly opens up to. DiDio investigated the family when their stories began surfacing in the ’70s. The other significant player in this tale is psychic and supernatural researcher Lorraine Warren. She and her husband, Ed, toured the house years ago, and she pantheistically recounts her stay at the dwelling on a meeting with Lutz and DiDio in her own poppet-filled basement museum. (The Warrens are depicted in this summer’s horror film hit "The Conjuring," about their work helping a family terrorized by a dark presence in their farmhouse.) In the most absolutely hair-raising moment of the film, Warren and DiDio share a photo taken the night of their stay, exhibiting the apparition of a child caught peeking around a staircase bannister.
Although IFC’s DVD release of "My Amityville Horror" sadly lacks much in the way of Bonus Features on the disc, this film is still a highly entertaining look at one man’s account of his devilish childhood.... if it’s true.