Title: My Amityville Horror
Director: Eric Walter
Over the past three-and-a-half decades, the paranormal events at a house at 112 Ocean Avenue in Amityville, a suburban tract along the south shore of Long Island, New York, have inspired all kinds of books — most notably Jay Anson’s 1977 bestseller — and 10 movies. Make that 11, now. Director Eric Walter’s new film, however, is a bit different. “My Amityville Horror” is a documentary look at the events that terrified young Daniel Lutz and his family in late 1975, as told from the perspective and recollection of Lutz himself.
In December of ’75, young Daniel, part of a newly blended family, moved into the aforementioned Dutch Colonial-style house with his mother Kathy, younger brother and sister, and new stepfather George, a burly, bearded ex-Marine. Thirteen months earlier, Ronald DeFeo had shot and killed all six members of his nuclear family in the home while they slept. The Lutzes knew of this before purchasing the home and moving in, and didn’t have a problem with it. Over the next month-and-a-half, though, they would report all sorts of strange disturbances and chilling incidents, from swarms of flies and pockets of cold and overwhelming odors to apparitions, green slime and demonic possessions. In mid-January they would leave, sending a mover for their possessions and never returning again.
Rather understandably guarded by nature, Daniel, now a divorced UPS driver and father of two teens, is a frequently sympathetic figure (“All I walk around doing is protecting that 10-year-old kid,” he says of his memories, and interactions with others). He relates some of his recollections of events with detail, confidence and emotion, all of which certainly underscore his belief in them. And yet Daniel also confesses to a tremendous antipathy toward his stepfather, who would later delight in introducing himself as “that Amityville guy,” only one of many things that disgusted him about George. Daniel also doesn’t seem to connect any of this – the weird and/or supernatural events he describes the entire family witnessing, or his relative state of mind at the time in question — to what he calls George’s obsession with the occult, and skill with telekinesis.
Director Walter flirts around all these bizarre incongruities and coincidences, constructing his film in an unusual tapestral manner. Sometimes he is the off-camera interviewer, asking questions of Daniel; other times it’s a psychologist with whom Daniel isn’t in regular therapy (which raises all sorts of questions about the analytical benefit or point of these sessions). Still other times it’s a paranormal investigator with whom Daniel is familiar from his childhood — a woman whom investigated the case years ago with the Lutzes. Also interwoven are a couple awkwardly structured roundtable-type chats with various academics and talking heads, like a local news TV crew who reported the original story, including the anchor who stayed there a night in the late 1970s, as part of an investigative report. (None of the subsequent five owners of the house since the Lutzes have reported any paranormal activity.)
The net result is a movie that tantalizes, but always feels just off its mark. Walter does a poor job in establishing a basic chronological timeline of events, and, time after time, doesn’t follow up on what should be obvious questions — Daniel’s offhand mention, for instance, that he tried to kill his stepfather “many times.” Perhaps needing to kowtow a bit to keep his sensitive and potentially volatile subject in the fold, Walter doesn’t want to put to him hard questions regarding the potential suggestibility of a disaffected and lonely child reeling from “losing” the special relationship with his mother. So many years later, there is probably no easy or pat explanation of all the events in Amityville, but the aforementioned and other details — along with the fact that Daniel’s siblings declined to be interviewed for this project — help contribute to a skeptic’s point-of-view with regards to some sort of demonic cursing.
NOTE: For more information, visit www.AmityvilleMovie.com.
Written by: Brent Simon