One of the very first podcasts that I subscribed to (and the only one that I went back and listened to every previous show) is Night of the Living Podcast. NotLP is a weekly show hosted by a varying number of friends from Cincinnati, Ohio. Mainly a horror based podcast (with a splatter of Scifi tossed in on occasion), NotLP specializes in those those low budget, hidden gems. Unfortunately, the crew has to watch a ton of crap before they find a good movie. This is a more organized podcast, with each week featuring a ““Straight-to-Video Russian Roulette”, a “Main Attraction” segment, and other special segments including monthly listener feedback, “The Book Coroner”, and so much more. You can check out their webpage here.
Freddy, one of the founders of the show, joins me this week to review My Amityville Horror. Let’s see what he has to say!
For the first time in 35 years, Daniel Lutz recounts his version of the infamous Amityville haunting that terrified his family in 1975. George and Kathy Lutz’s story went on to inspire a best-selling novel and the subsequent films have continued to fascinate audiences today. This documentary reveals the horror behind growing up as part of a world famous haunting and while Daniel’s facts may be other’s fiction, the psychological scars he carries are indisputable. (summary from Fandango)
Freddy: My Amityville Horror is the first feature length documentary from writer/director Eric Walter. Walter’s film focuses on Daniel Lutz. In December of 1975, Daniel’s mother Kathleen and his stepfather George bought the now famous haunted house at 112 Ocean Avenue. The house was a bargain because 13 months earlier the previous owners’ son slaughtered his entire family in their beds. Daniel was 9 years old when the Lutz family moved in; a year later, they “fled” the house.
The murders of the DeFeo family were the last verifiable trouble at 113 Ocean Avenue. The events documented in Jay Anson’s book The Amityville Horror: A True Story, and later in the American International Pictures film of the same name, are based solely on stories told to the author by the Lutz family and a handful of paranormal investigators including Ed and Lorraine Warren (fictionalized versions of the Warrens are also featured in this year’s The Conjuring). Since the publication of the book, critics have easily poked many holes in the Lutz’s story. In 1995, Stephen and Roxanne Salch Kaplan published a book titled The Amityville Horror Conspiracy that pulls the entire hoax apart piece-by-piece like a loaf of monkey bread; a loaf made of two sticks of butter, a can of biscuits, cinnamon, sugar, and a generous helping of lies and greed.
My Amityville Horror is a series of talking head interviews with a grown up Daniel Lutz, psychologists, and several journalists and paranormal experts (including Lorraine Warren). The interviews are intercut with footage of Daniel playing guitar at home or driving around his neighborhood. Today, Daniel seems like an emotionally damaged person, but he’s leading a pretty normal life working as a UPS deliver driver in Queens. In the film, he admits to being abused by George Lutz and it’s easy to tell that he has many unresolved issues related to his uncommonly strange childhood growing up both in and out of the Amityville house. Daniel clearly hated George Lutz (now deceased). However, he defends his stepfather’s account of the paranormal events that allegedly occurred at 112 Ocean Avenue. When challenged on the validity of any of the paranormal events or his perception of those events, he becomes very aggressive and angry with the interviewer. Sometimes Daniel seems like he feels betrayed by the interviewer when pushed to consider more rational explanations for his experiences. The viewer almost expects Lutz to say “believe in ghosts or I’ll kick your ass.” The fact that Daniel Lutz looks and sounds like Vic Mackey, the tough and dirty cop that Michael Chiklis portrayed on “The Shield,” makes him all the more intimidating. These qualities also make him a fascinating subject for the camera. I bet that he could successfully pursue a career playing tough guys in low budget action films.
Overall, My Amityville Horror is a competently made documentary that is not so much about a haunted house, but about the consequences of child abuse. Amityville defenders will most likely write the film off as too skeptical while the skeptics will probably feel (like I did) that the filmmaker didn’t push back hard enough to challenge the claims of Lutz and the Warrens.
I highly recommend that readers interested in the Amityville case check out The Amityville Horror Conspiracy by Stephen and Roxanne Salch Kaplan. The book offers a more layered and entertaining experience that any other item on the topic has to date.
PJ: I can honestly say that documentaries are typically not my thing. I just don’t have the attention factor necessary for diving into a documentary. While that is so, I did find this film to be interesting and engaging. Seeing how Lutz developed into who he is now when compared to where he started as a child was a study in family dysfunction rather than just the supernatural. According to this film, Lutz had an incredibly difficult life which scars him to this day.
I did like how the film did reunite Lutz with Lorraine Warren (paranormal investigator). You might remember Lorraine’s name from James Wan’s The Conjuring which was based on the Warren’s case files. Husband and wife, Ed and Lorraine Warren were involved with the haunting of this house and helped with cleaning the house of evil.
I’m keeping my part of the review short. Overall, I would rate this a 7 out of 10 for information and sensation. The main thing that hurt the film was exactly what Freddy mentioned: a lack of direction as to which side to believe (was this all related to the family issues or was it really supernatural?). You can see the trailer below.