Synopsis: For the first time in 35 years, child eyewitness Daniel Lutz recounts his version of the infamous Amityville haunting that terrified his family in 1975. His parents story of their 28 days in the allegedly possessed house on Ocean Avenue went on to inspire a best-selling novel and subsequent film series that have both captivated and frustrated the public since their release. MY AMITYVILLE HORROR is a gripping documentary that details the struggle behind growing up as part of a world famous haunting and shows that while Daniel’s facts may be other’s fiction, the psychological scars he carries are all too real.
eyelights: its presentation of the “facts” of the case. the many interviews with the people involved.
eyesores: the dubious nature of the events.
“I just wanted somebody to believe me.”
‘The Amityville Horror‘ is based on a real-life story that took place in 1975, in Amityville, NY. The Lutz family moved into a massive lakeshore home at 112 Ocean Avenue after having purchased it at a reduced cost due to a ghastly mass murder there a little over a year prior.
Less than a month later, the Lutzes moved out: they claimed that, for the few weeks they were there, they experienced extreme paranormal activity, the likes of which had never been reported on before. There was a media frenzy, books were published, movies were produced.
And a family was demolished in the process.
‘My Amityville Horror’ is the story of Daniel Lutz, the eldest son of that family. While his parents had discussed the events at 112 Ocean Avenue many times through the years, he always remained silent. The stigma associated with that time in his life forced him to hide away.
For this documentary, Daniel Lutz came out of hiding. He had been laying low in a small town for many years, trying to lead as a normal a life as he could – even though he remains haunted by what took place. Through extensive interviews, he explains his take on the events and the impact that they had on his life.
From the onset we discover a decidedly troubled and worn Daniel Lutz. Clearly, life has not been easy on him, but he remains defiant, taking refuge in his work and in playing guitar. His home life seems to be shattered, with divorce having been the outcome of his marriage.
He talks about how hard the whole experience was and how even talking about it is a challenge for him. He tells us about his relationship with George Lutz, his stepfather, how they were always fighting and how much he hates the man. He talks about his family history a little bit, to give us perspective.
He also goes over some of the particulars of what took place in the house. For instance, he describes moving in, how a priest there to bless the house left unexpectedly, the swarm of flies he found in one room (500 of them! He claims to have killed 100 of them with a newspaper!).
But there was no sign of that when he brought his mom up to see. And many other terrible things happened in that house afterwards.
After leaving the house, his mom went to the media, presumably to clear up falsehoods that were already spreading around. But, with the attention that the case drew, they ended up on a media tour, dumping the kids in various boarding schools. Daniel was left in a monastery where he was beaten and subjected to exorcisms.
‘My Amityville Horror” is bolstered by more authoritative material. There is archival news footage about the DeFeo murders, as well as some bits about the subsequent events, including interviews with the Lutzes – most notable some audio recordings that George Lutz did as recently as 2002.
We are also introduced to Laura Didio, an investigative journalist at the heart of the case back in 1976. For the film, she is reunited with Daniel, whom she hasn’t seen in 35 years. It’s with her help that the pieces of the puzzle are put together, that we get broader insight.
There are roundtables with journalists who covered the story at the time, as well as interviews with other scientists. They discuss the theories behind the events. There’s talk of George being into the occult and of possibly triggering the house with his personality.
The Warrens, noted paranormal investigators were called in by DiDio back in the day. She brings Daniel to reconnect with Lorraine Warren. He tells Ms. Warren that he left home at 15-16 and went to live in the desert, homeless – which he thought was better than staying at home. Anything was.
Lorraine wants to bring out a small crucifix carved out of Jesus’ cross, but the two get upset because there were unbelievers in the room; she felt it would be disrespectful. DiDio convinces Lorraine that Jesus never balked at mingling with non-believers, so it should be okay. Very strange.
In any case, Daniel reacted strongly to the experience – to such a degree that I almost thought he was politely playing it up for Lorraine. But it may very well be that he is also a devout Christian and actually felt moved by the experience. He’s so prone to strong mood swings, it’s hardly surprising.
In fact, right from the start, he came off as deeply wounded, making me think that he might be suffering from some sort of mental illness. I’m not entirely convinced that the events happened as described. Of course, it doesn’t make the trauma less true for him, even if it didn’t happen as he believes it did.
One of the psychologists says that much of what he remembers might be through the power of suggestion, given that his parents believed so strongly in the paranormal; he may very well have absorbed much of what they discussed, believed their accounts and enhanced his memories.
DiDio did her job well: despite his temperament, she actually confronted Daniel about the possibility that he may not have experienced what he thinks he saw. He has always remained convinced that it happened. But he believes that George’s beliefs in the occult were the catalyst for what took place.
He also claims that George had telekinetic abilities and that he saw him move things in the garage while hanging out there with his own friends. He also says that, on the last day in the house, he and his brother experienced levitation when the bed they were on shook up in the air.
Interestingly, his two siblings were contacted for the documentary and refused to discuss the Amityville case with the filmmakers. But what of George’s friends, who might still be alive? Or the doctor that Daniel saw on the day he got to the house? These people might have important information…
But they aren’t in this documentary.
DiDio asked him, finally, if there was a silver lining in all of this. Daniel simply answered: “Strength beyond strength”, strength that he didn’t know he had. I have no doubt that his experiences at 112 Ocean Avenue toughened him up in ways that the average person couldn’t even fathom.
Whatever happened in that house, I dearly hope that Daniel will find peace one day; he’s survived a lot of torment. But survival simply isn’t enough. There’s a fragility there and unhealed wounds that are buried inside so much anger and fear. I hope that he heals from it all someday.
I truly wish him well.
Dates of viewings: November 8+9, 2014