Review: My Amityville Horror (Directed by Eric Walter) (Fantasia 2012)

My Amityville Horror (Directed by Eric Walter) (Fantasia 2012)
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PLOT: The alleged Amityville haunting was a pop culture phenomenon that led to a media firestorm, a series of films, and a legend that continues to this day. Now, after more than thirty-five years of silence, Daniel Lutz- who was ten years old when his family fled Amityville, tells his side of the story.

REVIEW: I don’t believe in the so-called “Amityville Horror”. Sure- the movies were fun (well, the first one was), and everyone likes a good ghost story, but to me the Lutz family always seemed to be full of a lot of mumbo-jumbo. I used to work the graveyard shift at a talk radio station, and part of my job included playing “Coast-to-Coast”. Art Bell used to have George Lutz everyone once in awhile, and I never thought his story made a lot of sense- even if it was fun to listen to.

Thus, I went into MY AMITYVILLE HORROR as a skeptic. Lucky for me, director Eric Walter seems to be one as well, as more than just another piece of the Amityville franchise, this documentary tries to take a balanced look at what really might have happened, and its effect on young Danny Lutz. Estranged from his family, when we meet Lutz, he’s living a quiet life as a UPS driver in a small town, who passes his time playing speed metal in his garage (he’s actually a pretty mean guitarist), and trying to get a handle on his demons- both literal and figurative.

By his own admission, Daniel Lutz is an angry, possibly unbalanced man. He’s prone to fits of anger, and constantly tests anyone he feels doesn’t fully appreciate his stories- including psychiatrists, the documentarians, etc. For the first hour or so, what Lutz says is taken pretty seriously. More than anything, it’s obvious that Danny harbors a lot of resentment towards his step-father George, who he admits, exploited the Amityville story for all it was worth. But- he also reveals that before they ever moved into the house, George was obsessed with the paranormal, and that whatever happened was his fault. Apparently, he purposely chose the Amityville house due to the De Feo murders, but- while most would assume George made the whole thing up, Danny is 100% convinced that they were actually haunted.

His testimony is juxtaposed with the testimony of various journalists who covered the case- especially paranormal investigator Laura DiDio, who seems to believe Daniel, but is pragmatic enough to ask Daniel the tough questions that he’s not always able to answer. It’s around the forty-five minute mark when MY AMITYVILLE HORROR stops being about the haunting, but rather about Lutz himself- who probably believes that the story he’s telling is true- even if it’s all a hoax. Whatever the case, Lutz is a victim- mostly of his martinet step-father, George, who probably drilled the hoax into his brain, aided by quack “parapsychologists” like Earl and Lorraine Warren. His visit with Lorraine is the highlight of the film, where both she and Daniel verbally attack the cameraman for being an agnostic when she produces what she claims is a piece of the original cross Christ was crucified on.

From this point on, the film becomes absolutely fascinating, with it taking a pragmatic, skeptical approach most documentarians working in this genre might have been scared off by. While spooky things may have happened at Amityville, and the occurrences are far from definitively debunked, it’s obvious that Lutz has a lot of personal demons that likely have a lot more to do with the lingering effects of an abusive parent than the paranormal. But- Walter’s, like any good documentarian, lets you make up your own mind, so MY AMITYVILLE HORROR works from either approach. If you’re a true believer- MY AMITYVILLE HORROR provides plenty of spooky new stories for you to chew on. If you’re a skeptic like myself- this won’t convince you, but it will provide some interesting insight into the type of people that spread these stories.



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