My Amityville Horror: Film Review
DOC NYC (IFC Midnight)
One of history's most famous haunted houses casts a long shadow in Eric Walter's tantalizing doc.
NEW YORK — One of history's most famous haunted houses casts a long shadow in My Amityville Horror, Eric Walter's tantalizing doc about the eldest of the three siblings who shared that storied abode, Daniel Lutz. Whether seen as an investigation of the occult, a portrait of a deeply troubled man, or something in between, the canny and stylishly shot film has a broad enough appeal to justify a limited theatrical run before what should be a leggy video career.
Lutz speaks publicly for the first time here, having viewed his indirect fame as "an unfortunate gift" hovering over him for nearly four decades since the experiences that spawned the bestseller The Amityville Horror and its film adaptation. Now a UPS driver living in Queens, New York, he's undeniably haunted by something, be it ghosts or the memory of a stepfather he would have done anything to escape.
Walter's film initially looks like a credulous, creepy account of the extreme phenomena -- levitating beds, a plague of flies, a garage door with a mind of its own -- Lutz claims to have witnessed, and does a fine job in this mode. Given horror cinema's long-running infatuation with documentary style, it's easy to imagine fright fans embracing the real thing.
But the more we watch Lutz, who seethes at the memory of his mother's second husband George and carries a Long Island-sized chip on his shoulder when questioned about ghosts, the more we wonder how reliable his memory is. His stepfather, we're told here, had an interest in the occult long before moving to 112 Ocean Avenue (though he denied it at the time); could the supernatural be a convenient mental peg to replace memories of a different kind of domestic torment?
Walter interviews mental health professionals who clearly think so, but he also spends time with the journalists and paranormalists who covered the Amityville story in the first place. Though skeptical to varying degrees, many recount experiences they had in the house that defy easy explanation.
Lutz is a highly engaging subject who only becomes more fascinating as the doc progresses, but Walter's most colorful supporting character is Lorraine Warren, the "demonologist" who investigated the house in 1976. Now in her eighties, the true believer keeps roosters inside her house and has a basement stuffed with supernatural artifacts. Even viewers who wouldn't believe in ghosts if one tapped them on the shoulder will be fascinated to watch Warren and Lutz sharing a reverent moment with what she swears is a splinter of the cross Jesus died on.
Production Companies: Lost Witness Pictures, LLC, Film Regions International, Inc.
Director-Editor: Eric Walter
Producers: Andrea Adams, John Blythe, Eric Walter
Executive producers: Ronald Puleio, Michael S. Russo
Director of photography: Charlie Anderson
Music: Herman Witkam
No rating, 88 minutes