PLOT: Daniel Lutz was only ten-years-old when he and his family notoriously fled the house on 112 Ocean Avenue in what is known as THE AMITYVILLE HORROR. In this documentary, filmmaker Eric Walter spends time with the now older Lutz who has a family of his own. Still haunted by his childhood, he talks candidly about the nightmare.
REVIEW: THE AMITYVILLE HORROR terrified me in my formative years. This story of the Lutz family spending 28 terror filled days in a haunted house not only made for a scary novel, but one of my favorite horror movies as a child. For anybody playing along at home, this “Based on a true story” seems to have been anything but. For the most part it is considered one of the most famous hoaxes in history thanks to conflicting stories and questionable proof of the mysterious events. Yet this did not stop documentary filmmaker Eric Walter from spending time with Daniel Lutz, one of the children who lived in the infamous house on 112 Ocean Avenue.
True or not, moving into a house where six people were murdered in cold blood only a few years before will probably have some sort of effect on anybody. Add to that the three children saw their parent’s divorce and according to Daniel, dealt with an abusive father figure thanks to step-dad George Lutz. That is what is terrifying about MY AMITYVILLE HORROR, the examination of Daniel as an adult. Walter’s takes a close look at the man in a series of interviews as well as some time spent with a psychologist and a journalist who had covered the events early on.
Daniel Lutz is clearly scarred as he recounts nights at the famed address where terrible things happened. He speaks of his bed shaking in the dark as if being moved by some force and a window mysteriously closing in and crushing his hand. Yet it is his description of his step-father George and the stand-off the two constantly had which is far more horrific. Listening to this now middle-aged man talk about having to grow up quickly always at odds with the man of the house is where the heart of MY AMITYVILLE HORROR lies.
In this day and age most people feel that what happened to the Lutz family had nothing to do with the supernatural, yet seemingly Daniel feels it was absolutely real. One thing Walter’s achieves here is remaining open to the mystery of what might have happened. He doesn’t necessarily try to convince the audience that the movie and the novel it was based on were actually true. At the same time he does open the door to the idea that Daniel was an abused child who may have been led to believe in the supernatural occurrences that never really happened. This is about a scarred man who is still living with the demons of the past who perhaps cathartically [and possibly in hopes for a little notoriety] is opening up to a documentary filmmaker to share his story. This unbiased nature is at once a blessing, as well as the movie’s curse.
While his story is interesting, MY AMITYVILLE HORROR isn’t nearly as compelling as it could have been. Spending an hour and a half talking to Lutz is oftentimes repetitive and dull. We have moments of him speaking to a therapist and there is also a journalist who knew him as a child, but this examination simply drags on and on. In the end, this is merely an average look at one of the most famous “haunted house” scenarios in history. With the focus remaining on Daniel however, it feels much too long and never really sheds light on the event. For Lutz it is clear that those 28 days (and more) have haunted him throughout his life, even if this story on the subject keeps the viewer in the dark.