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Fantastic Fest 2012: Capone is left with as many questions as answers after seeing the fascinating documentary/psychological profile MY AMITYVILLE HORROR!!!

Hey everyone. Capone in Austin for Fantastic Fest 2012.

In so many ways, documentaries are the primary fuel of my ever-hungry curiosity. When I get a peak inside the familiar or learn something completely new in one of these films, I immediately want to learn more about whatever the subject. I'll admit to being something of an enthusiast about the events that occurred over the course of about a month at 112 Ocean Avenue in Amityville, New York in 1975. I wasn't even a teenager when it happened, but the idea of living in a house haunted or possessed by the angry spirits of the brutal DeFeo murders only a year earlier was just so daunting a possibility that I wanted to learn more. Strangely enough, I don't remember 1979's THE AMITYVILLE HORROR film having that much of an impact on me at the time I saw it; it was the real-life, overly exploited case that fascinated me.

While the focus of the real-life events (culminating in George Lutz, his wife, and his three step-kids abandoning the house and all of their worldly possessions in a hurry) was always on the George and Kathy Lutz, I'd never really considered the impact of the events and the subsequent press coverage would have had on the Lutz children, including eldest sibling Danny. The subject of director Eric Walter's new documentary MY AMITYVILLE HORROR is tough to pinpoint, but that doesn't make it any less watchable or intriguing. I couldn't take my eyes off the grown-up Daniel Lutz, a severely broken man who has likely been called a liar most of his life.

Although the filmmaker does go over the basic groundwork of what the Lutz family claimed happen to them in their home (swarms of flies, cold patches around the house, levitating beds, awful smells, floating spirits, doors opening and closing, and ectoplasmic goo on the floor), what the real centerpiece of the film is Daniel (the other two siblings refused to take part in the movie) and how he has been driven slowly insane, either by what he experienced in the house or how his life fell apart after. Daniel makes very believable claims that George was abusive to him long before the move to Amityville and never took on the father figure role in his life. But what's tougher to wrap the brain around is his belief that George's supposed dabbling in the occult triggered the violent events, or that Danny saw George move objects with his mind, or that Danny was possessed while in the Amityville house and was sent to priest for exorcisms shortly after the family moved out.

Walter also brings in some other players from Daniel's life at the time, including a local television reporter who spent several hours in the house and saw nothing, one of the mediums who spent time in the house during that fateful month (she now owns a small piece of wood from the "true cross," which she lets Daniel kiss, and keeps roosters in her house), and parapsychologists who worked with the family as well. And while their testimony is interesting, there's no real proof or evidence beyond their word. In fact, this is one of the worst-documented haunted house cases I've ever heard of, and one person in the film makes the true statement that were it not for the DeFeo murders happening so soon before the "haunting," this case would have been considered minor by any paranormal investigator.

But Daniel's true self in most consistently revealed during his interviews with both Walter and a new therapist brought in to have Daniel walk though the incidents one more time. The level of detail and his aside comments felt to me like man trying a little to hard to convince me of something. Lutz isn't a proper con man, because he stands nothing to gain from telling these stories except attention. He'd probably pass a lie detector test with flying colors, because there's no doubt in my mind that he believes everything he's saying. But there comes a point where his stories become so outrageous and out of left field that he becomes his own worst defense against claims that he's making some or all of this up. A few inserts of Daniel playing heavy metal guitar seem almost like a sad self-fulfilling prophecy.

MY AMITYVILLE HORROR is a tough film to review because it feels like low-grade exploitation that's so well put together that you almost don't care that the filmmaker may be fueling this insane man's beliefs. I'm not saying that something didn't happen in the Amityville house, but don't walk into this film thinking you're going to have any questions answered about what went one for those mysterious 28 days. The film is wonderfully put together, but I spent a great deal of time feeling embarrassed for Daniel Lutz as I chalked up this film as a profile of a life ruined boy a traumatic childhood. Is that a story worth telling? The question still haunts me.

-- Steve Prokopy
"Capone"
capone@aintitcool.com
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  • Sept. 24, 2012, 3:14 a.m. CST

    Capone -- take this down, PROOFREAD it, repost

    by Glenn

    I normally don't care or comment on such things but WOW...seriously, go in and fix the (at least) 10 glaring ones.

  • Sept. 24, 2012, 5:04 a.m. CST

    First....DAMMIT! Second!

    by foles

    Wasn't there some sort of 'pig' creature involved? I recall it from the film but not the book.

  • Sept. 24, 2012, 5:06 a.m. CST

    'The film' being the original of course.

    by foles

  • The whole Amityville thing was nothing but a con perpectuated by people desperate for attention and an atempt to escape responability because the bitted more then they could chew, basically a story of fiscal irresponsability from a man who had little capacity to deal with a family and a dumb wife who chosed his men very poorly. And it's the kids who payed the bill! Shit like this makes me furious! It's bad enough that superstition was perpectuated by all this Amityville bullshit, but that the kids got to pay too for the foolishess of his parents is just too much!

  • Sept. 24, 2012, 7:08 a.m. CST

    So many typos. Fix it.

    by Fries Against

  • Sept. 24, 2012, 7:22 a.m. CST

    If you believe in ghosts

    by Xen11

    you are a fucking idiot.

  • ...A group of the most easily frightened people imainable walking around an old house, in the dark, after being told it's haunted, a crazy nut job shouting "He's here! He's ver angry!" in your ear. Camera crew bumping into stuff making these easily frightened people shriek and snot cry. I watch it for the larfs.

  • Sept. 24, 2012, 8:20 a.m. CST

    Now, now... you guys are supposed to be tolerant and open-minded

    by Monroville

    You never know... the piano wires holding up the levitating objects could be pulled by ghosts you know.

  • Sept. 24, 2012, 8:31 a.m. CST

    Hoax

    by rockhpi

    There was a pretty good book called "The Amityville Horror Conspiracy" that documented the changes in the Lutz' story over time, the people who supposedly experienced things but never actually visited the place, and various other ways in which their story didn't match reality.

  • Sept. 24, 2012, 9:32 a.m. CST

    Old houses are scary and dangerous, but not because of ghosts!

    by albert comin

    Animals or bad people could be hidden or living in, or there's the risk of it all fall down due to poor maintence, and not to mention all the health hazzards due to deseases. But ghosts? No sir.

  • Sept. 24, 2012, 10:46 a.m. CST

    if you believe in ghost II

    by BikerZero

    yep, xen11, i am in total agreement with you. when i hear someone say i believe in ghosts, i think yep, fucking moron.

  • I don't, but I think a ton of people do. And even though I don't believe in that sort of thing, movies like Blair Witch and Paranormal are scary and plausible.

  • Sept. 25, 2012, 2:01 p.m. CST

    Does anyone bother to research any more?

    by Horrorfanatic

    I know you can't believe everything you read on the Internet, but snopes is usually pretty good at getting their facts straight. I quick Google search turns this up: http://www.snopes.com/horrors/ghosts/amityville.asp If the article is in fact correct, why on Earth would I want to subject myself to this movie?

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