Dir: Eric Walter 88 mins.
Starring: Daniel Lutz, Lorraine Warren, Susan Bartell
Available on DVD now from Arrow Films
For most people, the events of the infamous Amityville haunting are considered to be little more than cleverly-constructed fiction, fantasy even, so diluted has the story become after Hollywood outing after outing (the most recent of which starred the dashing Ryan Reynolds in the lead role).
It’s easy to forget that there was a real family involved and, though attempts have been made to discredit their version of events, to varying effect, little thought seems to have been given to how the children, in particular, dealt with the experience in their later lives.
‘My Amityville Horror’, a puzzling, very strangely constructed documentary, features the first, on-camera interview with Daniel Lutz, eldest child of the family whose lives were ruined upon moving into what they assumed was their dream home. Lutz has vehemently refused for years to even be associated with the story, in spite of his stepfather’s apparent willingness to milk it for all its worth.
This, and several other, rather controversial, opinions are what Lutz chooses to put forth over the course of the documentary, alongside expert opinions from psychologists, and insights from the investigating reporter and the legendary Lorraine Warren, whose incredible, artefact-filled home is worth watching the film for alone.
Whether it is their intention or not, the filmmakers only really tell one side of the story and, although there are attempts made (mainly from the consulting psychiatrist) to debunk what she believes are detailed lies on the part of the subject, nothing new is really discussed therein.
Unfortunately, as a subject, Lutz is an incredibly unlikeable screen presence. Aggressive, edgy and very insecure, he seems on the verge of lashing out at the filmmakers at any moment and, at one point, even threatens violence after being probed about whether he’d agree to take a lie detector test – in spite of the fact that, he claims, he’s been asked to do so several times in the past.
Lutz may indeed be telling the truth, and he makes for a compelling storyteller, but it is impossible to escape the fact that he does not seem to be in his right mind, and appears quite unhinged throughout filming, particularly during his therapy sessions. Moreover, it’s very telling that his younger siblings refused to take part, and there is no mention of what they even make of the documentary, or other films, let alone how they feel about the experience in general.
The most interesting insights come courtesy of a group of bickering journalists, most of whom are sceptics and, essentially, believe that Lutz is full of shit. Once they go through what happened, juxtaposed against Lutz’s rather outlandish claims – such as a ghost walking into the kitchen and sitting down at the breakfast table – it’s difficult not to side with the non-believers, even when a creepy photograph is produced, which appears to show a ghostly child standing in a doorway, even though it is claimed there was nobody else in the house at the time.
‘My Amityville Horror’ is a frustrating documentary, not least because its’ chosen subject acts like a wannabe tough guy, and doesn’t seem as though he wants to give anything away, in spite of agreeing to take part. The main issue is that nothing new is really gleaned about this admittedly fascinating story, and, after so many Hollywood interpretations, we need to see/hear something really shocking, or exciting, or even upsetting, to be truly interested.
In the end, this is little more than a study of a quite possibly disturbed man, who either never got over a childhood trauma, or has chosen to deal with his anger at his stepfather by retreating into a fantasy world. Either way, ‘My Amityville Horror’ isn’t a particularly enlightening documentary, and the to-camera interviews, filmed head-on, are off-putting in their intensity, especially considering the topic is something that has been publically debunked, and is one which few people would even give much thought to outside of the context of a Hollywood film.