If you’re a horror fan of a certain age, then chances are that you’ve seen The Amityville Horror. The original one, I mean, the one with Margot Kidder and James Brolin. I know there’s a remake but why would you want to watch that? Anyway, as someone who grew up in the eighties and nineties, The Amityville Horror was definitely slumber party fodder. As we got older, we’d make fun of it but there’s a perfect moment in my youth where this movie was really, really scary. The flies! The pig! The whole “gates of hell” thing! And there’s just James Brolin’s natural creepiness.
Nowadays, the whole “based on a true story” idea is really overused and usually means that some writers truly had this idea that this story could happen. When The Amityville Horror came out, it was based on a true story when saying that meant something. I can’t speak for the rest of the country but growing up between New York City and central New Jersey, I was actually pretty familiar with the Amityville story. For those who don’t know; Ronald DeFeo Jr. killed his entire family at 112 Ocean Ave. in Amityville, New York, in 1974. In 1975, George and Nancy Lutz moved into the house with their three children. They stayed there for twenty-eight days before leaving, saying they were overwhelmed by paranormal forces. The book by Jay Anson was the basis of about a gazillion movies.
My Amityville Horror, the 2012 documentary is about Daniel Lutz, the oldest of George and Kathy’s children.
Basically, Dan tells his account of what happened during the Amityville Horror. We learn that George Lutz wasn’t his biological father but his stepfather, who adopted Dan and his siblings. According to Dan, he expected military discipline from his children. Also, Dan and George clashed constantly.
Dan insists that everything that happened is true and that the haunting basically ruined his life. The filmmakers basically take no opinion and basically present what Dan tells the audience, along with taped sessions with his therapist. There are also interviews with reporters who covered the story when it first broke, an interview with “demonologist” Lorraine Warren, and interviews with professional psychologist Elizabeth Loftus.
What did I take from this documentary? One, Daniel Lutz is undoubtedly a damaged person. He’s hostile even towards people trying to help him, like his therapist. This raises the question, how much of the damage is from the alleged haunting and how much is from his relationship with George Lutz?
Two, it just reinforced my belief that Lorraine and Ed Warren are utter charlatans. That being said, I think they believe (Believed, in Ed’s case) what they were selling. I’m not opposed to the idea of hauntings, and can embrace the fact that there’s a lot that science understands, but saying that demons are responsible for something is as irresponsible and unbelievable as saying pixies or unicorns are responsible. The moment that drove home Lorraine Warren’s charlatanry to me is when she hands Dan a crucifix and asserts that it contains a relic in it–a piece of the cross that Jesus was crucified on. Based on the number of people throughout history who have claimed to have a piece of the true crucifix, I have to believe that the cross was thousands of feet high.
The most interesting thing I took from this are allegations that George Lutz participated in ritual magic.
Did George open a door that he couldn’t shut? Who knows? It’s so frustrating that this case and this documentary as a whole are so open-ended when so many participants are still alive. George and Kathy are dead but the children are still alive along with the reporters and Lorraine Warren.
The movie ends with interviews with Elizabeth Loftus, a professional psychologist whose field is memory. I’m actually familiar with her work debunking the Satanic ritual abuse movement. I actually really like that the documentary ended on this note because this is what you’ll remember. Basically, she says that Dan grew up in a household where the paranormal and occult were discussed and that we really don’t know what Dan overheard and remembered. We do know that it’s really easy to remember things wrong.
That being said, Dan truly believes in the haunting and truly believes that his life has been ruined because of it. I wonder if his life has been ruined more by George Lutz. Interestingly, his siblings declined to participate in the documentary.
I wonder if there will ever be an objective, definitive study of what really happened in Amityville.
- Scarina--the authoress and editrix of this site. I like scary movies and have dedicated my free time to cataloging horror--the good, the bad, and the ugly. Sometimes there are books too.
There's film criticism, literary criticism, and humor here. I can be highbrow but there's lots of pop culture too. And feminism.
I fervently love "Twin Peaks" and wish it were a real place so I could move there. I can't list my favorite scary movies because they change depending on my mood, the season, and how much coffee I've had.
I'm an artist looking for ways to blend creepy with cute. I try to channel my childhood nightmares, my love of horror, and my experiences with sleepy paralysis.
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