Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.
Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.

My Amityville Horror

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To date, the spectral goings-on at 112 Ocean Avenue in Amityville, Long Island have been documented and mythologized in Jay Anson’s 1977 book (called The Amityville Horror: A True Story, yet classified as a novel), a spectacularly cheesy 1979 movie (plus eight sequels and a remake), and in countless articles and websites. One of those websites, AmityvilleFiles.com, is run by Eric Walter, the 27-year-old director of My Amityville Horror, a mostly tacky documentary that tries to reconcile the Amityville myth with the traumatic experiences of the Lutz family and the non-traumatic experiences of the five families that have occupied the infamous house in the decades since. Walter has the case down cold and arrives at suitably ambiguous conclusions about terrors both real and suggested, but he gets there through a mix of dimly lit interviews and ominous underscoring that wouldn’t be out of place on an episode of Unsolved Mysteries.

The “My” in My Amityville Horror is Danny Lutz, the oldest of the three Lutz children (the other two declined participation), now a 47-year-old with an undeniably bruised psyche. A volatile, sometimes-belligerent interview subject—though there’s an air of practiced theatricality to his performance—Lutz delves into painful memories of the 28 days his family spent in the Amityville house before splitting in the middle of the night. His mother and stepfather, Kathy and George Lutz, brought the spacious Dutch Colonial on the cheap, because only a year earlier, Ronald DeFeo Jr. murdered his parents and four siblings there while they slept. Mere hours after moving into the place, the Lutzes found hundreds of flies swarming in the playroom, and the list of paranormal happenings grew, including mysterious “cold spots” in the house, a cartoon demon pig with wolf fangs, and finally full-on Exorcist-style possession and levitation.

Danny Lutz recalls these incidents at separate times to Walter, a sympathetic psychologist, and a journalist who’s followed the story since the ’70s, and Walter even unearthed the elderly “demonologist” who grimly assessed the residence at the time. Most telling, however, are Lutz’s recollections of his fraught relationship with his late stepfather, a viciously abusive ex-Marine whom he remembers bitterly to this day. The combination of DeFeo’s crimes, George Lutz’s violence, and the impressionability of a young person suggest a more plausible explanation of the hauntings than genuine paranormal events. Walter doesn’t tip his hand either way, but his methods are otherwise crude, linking awkwardly premised and staged Lutz one-on-ones with the psychologist and the journalist with silly interstitials of Lutz playing metal riffs on his electric guitar. My Amityville Horror doesn’t go far in sussing out fact from fiction—it just adds more noise to the myth.