My Amityville Horror– film review
Film Regions International
Directed by Eric Walter
Reviewed by Anthony C. Francis
For 28 days in December of 1975, the Lutz family was terrorized by spirits and demons inside their house in Amityville, New York. Their horrifying tale has been the subject of a bestselling novel, a ten (!) film series, and countless speculation as to the validity of the story. Were George and Kathy Lutz making it all up to get publicity, or, perhaps, to get out from under their failing finances and overdue mortgage? These questions have lingered for over 35 years, and now a new film promises to shed some light over the proceedings.
In the new documentary My Amityville Horror, Daniel Lutz, the eldest son, recounts his own version of the terrifying events of the Lutz family hauntings. His own personalized remembrance of what happened is the main focus of the film.
Now in his 40s and looking worn beyond his age, Daniel Lutz has grown into a rough character. He is clearly emotionally damaged from a hard and misspent youth. He doesn’t mince words when speaking to a therapist, a former psychic, or the filmmakers who, after feeling like he was being pushed too hard in his questioning, says he will “have words with” when the film is finished.
Told on video and audio taped conversations, Daniel Lutz tells his version of the Amityville hauntings. Whether the events of the Amityville horrors were real or imagined, this man has certainly gone through something. Daniel is a survivor of something traumatic, paranormal or otherwise. We see it in his eyes as he recounts the tale of his family. His face is hard and cold, but his eyes show us a scared child who, to this day, longs for reconciliation with his mother and for his association as “the Amityville kid” to end.
The novel and the films have always portrayed George Lutz as a stepfather trying to connect with his new family and, once the hauntings begin, he becomes possessed by demons making him hard and violent. Daniel Lutz claims that his stepfather was, in fact, a hard and brutal man who was into the occult and was, in Daniel’s opinion, a large reason for the hauntings. The few other interviewees who give their two cents on George Lutz do concur that he was domineering and “someone you had to be a strong person just to deal with”.
Daniel describes his mother, Kathy, as being under George’s thumb and how she completely changed when they got together. He tells of beatings with wooden spoons on a regular basis. Again, this is all very different than how we have come to know the Lutzes due to the books and films.
I am glad the filmmakers chose to give another perspective by having the local television journalist that originally reported on the hauntings, Laura DiDio, accompany Daniel on his journey of interviews. This gives a good balance to Daniel’s accounts. DiDio basically stays neutral and feels that something did happen at the Lutz house but never fully states whether she believes it was ghosts and demons or mental and physical abuse at the hands of George Lutz.
The film is a mostly one sided point of view; Daniel’s side, as the other two siblings refused to participate in the making of the film. Daniel claims both paranormal disturbances and physical abuse at the hands of his stepfather. He charges that George conjured up the spirits and demons due to his obsession with the occult. Daniel basically states that George Lutz was himself a monster who destroyed their family and lives.
Lutz does speak on many of the familiar instances that we are aware of such as the demon pig with glowing red eyes, the window smashing his hands, and the hundreds of flies in the room. These are a part of horror culture and when Lutz speaks of them, he does not tell us anything we do not already know.
I have two big problems with the film. The first problem is that the film is marketed as finally being the truth about the Amityville hauntings through the eyes of the son, and how we will now understand and believe the events that have been debated for decades. Frankly, we learn nothing new beyond the fact that George Lutz was a bad man. The old arguments are addressed about it being a hoax or a real event but there are no new answers given beyond the testimony of Daniel Lutz. There are a number of original news reports, photos, and brief interviews with reporters and mediums who worked on the original case but I wanted, and was promised, more. There is absolutely no new insight into the Amityville hauntings.
The second problem I had with the film is that, when it comes down to it, the sad story of Daniel Lutz is not interesting. He has many tales to tell regarding the hauntings and we hear all about the pig eyes, the bloody walls, the window, the flies, the levitations and possessions and so on. These are things that anyone could have gotten from the book or original 1979 film. Listening to Daniel recount his story from frightened kid in the Amityville house to getting to charges of child abuse and witchcraft regarding his parents is a long haul. There were moments when my mind wandered.
I confess to not being a fan of the 1979 film version of The Amityville Horror and I utterly despised the wretched 2005 remake. I did enjoy the book and still have hopes that someday there is a good, spooky, movie to be made there. My point is that the hauntings in Amityville make fascinating subject matter, be they real or imagined. I was excited to see a documentary on the events, let alone from the eldest son!
Director Eric Walter has shown us some good archival footage to wet our whistles but, in the end, the film is just Daniel Lutz, a sad, shattered, and tortured man as he rants and curses about his past.
By the film’s conclusion there are still as many questions as there always were about what happened. The bigger picture is never revealed. We either believe the story or we don’t. For Daniel Lutz, the events, real or imagined, still haunt him and that makes him a damaged soul who earns pity. Unfortunately, it does not make him a very interesting guy.
2 ½ stars out of 5