My Amityville Horror DVD Review
What’s it about? In 1975 the Lutz family moved into 112 Ocean Avenue, Amityville, New York, where Ronald DeFeo had murdered six members of his family in their sleep a year before. Twenty- eight days later, the Lutzs fled the house after being subjected to a barrage of unexplained incidents, which they believe were supernatural in origin. The Lutz family’s experiences made the headlines and became the basis for The Amityville Horror (Stuart Rosenberg, 1979). In this documentary, Daniel Lutz, ten years old when the family moved into the house, tells his version of events.
Verdict: Eric Watson’s documentary portrait of Daniel Lutz, one of three siblings to have lived with their mother Kathy and stepfather George at the Amityville House in 1975, is the latest in a long line of feature films, books, TV specials and documentaries to have explored, traded off, sensationalised and exploited both the Lutz family’s experiences and the notorious DeFeo murders of 1974. My Amityville Horror, a straightforward documentary featuring photographic stills, archive and contemporary footage, talking head interviews and voice-overs, places Daniel centre-stage as he gives his account of what went down at 112 Ocean Avenue during those 28 days in 1975.
A clearly psychologically disturbed figure, Daniel comes across as an aggressive, bitter and irascible character, largely the result of his hatred of George, the domineering ex-marine stepfather who he readily admits to being happy is now dead. For someone apparently not keen to court media attention or relive the ‘supernatural’ experiences of his youth, Daniel also comes across as narcissistic, a fantasist and a little too eager to share his life story. A menagerie of people associated with the family and the story – from demonologists to psychics and reporters – all relive their memories of the period in question, and George and Kathy Lutz are represented via their numerous appearances on American chat shows and news broadcasts.
As another entry into the Amityville mythology, My Amityville Horror is only sporadically of interest, mainly due to the alienating presence of Daniel himself, a man so consumed by familial angst it’s hard to take anything he says without a huge pinch of salt. What the documentary does succeed in doing, pointed out by a psychiatrist interviewee, is highlight how fact and fiction bleed into one another on screen and off. Whatever may or may not have happened to the Lutzs at 112 Ocean Avenue – a house in which the five subsequent residents have lived happily without any reported supernatural events occurring – the property’s mythology has undoubtedly been influenced by the fiction features that took the Lutz family’s brief occupancy and the horrific DeFeo murders as their basis. As a stand-alone experience, however, My Amityville Horror is more in keeping with a low-rent, late-night Channel 5 documentary than it is with a serious investigation – supernatural or psychological – of the purported events and those affected by them.
Final Words: Neither engaging nor enlightening enough to be of much interest to anyone other than hardened Amityville completists, My Amityville Horror fails to satisfy. Watson settles for provoking Daniel Lutz, rather than coaxing anything of genuine interest out of him.
My Amityville Horror is out on DVD on 28 October.