Directed by: Eric Walter
Starring: Daniel Lutz, Susan Bartell, Laura DiDio,
The paranormal goings-on at 112 Ocean Avenue, Amityville, New York are the stuff of haunted-house legend. While already an eerie address after Ronald DeMeo Jr. murdered his entire family there in the summer of 1974, it was what supposedly happened to the next residents, the Lutz family, that earned the house is reputation. Whether one believes the family’s well publicised account of terrorization by unseen spirits – and very few do, given that there have been no reports of unusual activity in the house since – it is unquestionable that the tale gave birth to one of modern horror’s most iconic and enduring franchises – the 1979 original spawning eight sequels and a remake .
The latest instalment, Eric Walter’s My Amityville Horror is something of an anomaly in the series – far from a suspense-filled chiller or haunted house thrill-ride, it’s a prosaic reflection on growing up with ones name as a byword for ‘hoaxer’, and an opus on self-identity. Or, at least, that’s what it seems to shoot for.
The subject in question is the family’s eldest son, Daniel Lutz, an 11 year old boy at the time of the incidents, now a chrome-domed 12 year veteran of the UPS service, and a father to two teenagers of his own. If the film manages one thing, it’s to contrast the picture-perfect family of the silver-screen versions. The George Lutz of Daniel’s recollection is an abusive and unloving Marine lifer with an obsessive interest in the occult. Viewer’s hoping for a juicy insight into the hauntings will be disappointed – the bulk of the film is Daniel’s self-read biography, as we learn of his turbulent upbringing, his parent’s divorce, his self-exodus into the desert as a young man. It is a shame that the two other Lutz children declined involvement with the production – that probably would have made it a little more interesting.
The overall feeling is that of being an intruding and unwitting viewer of someone’s therapy – not helped by the fact that Lutz is an inexplicably hostile interview subject – foul-mouthed, uncooperative and quick to resort to confrontation. Clearly a life spent as ‘the Amityville kid’ has left deep psychological scars – but when the film ends with its central figure literally threatening the reporter, it’s hard to rustle up too much sympathy. Style-wise, there isn’t too much compensation – mainly just lingering shots of Lutz’ monologues, interspersed with on-the-nose footage of him smoking outside his childhood home, or performing utterly irreverent guitar solos.
Anyone who has made a hobby of studying the Amityville hauntings might as well check My Amityville Horror out – it presents another angle on the case, and one that sharply contrasts with the one already presented. More casual viewers, however, could well be wondering why this merited a feature length documentary.