Horror? Or Hoax? Unfortunately, The Answer Eludes Us All
Aug 25, 2013
I’ve always been intrigued by stories of the paranormal, and what took place in the film THE AMITYVILLE HORROR – or what’s been alleged to have taken place to the Lutz family – fascinates me. If they experienced what they claim to have, then there’s something more to our universe than meets the eye – a sentiment I’ve always struggled to personally reconcile. MY AMITYVILLE HORROR – as a documentary – does what it can to peel the layers of fiction away from the house in Amityville that have been attached to it by the various film versions and the conjecture of average folks. Instead of presenting us with the bare truth, the producers have served up an angry soul – this one alive and well and still reeling from the aftermath of events he can no more explain than the average person can believe.
And that’s a story worth telling.
(NOTE: The following review will contain minor spoilers necessary solely for the discussion of plot and characters. If you’re the kind of reader who prefers a review entirely spoiler-free, then I’d encourage you to skip down to the last three paragraphs for my final assessment. If, however, you’re accepting of a few modest hints at ‘things to come,’ then read on …)
The real guts – do you believe or don’t you believe “all of it” took place – boils down to a revealing moment in MY AMITYVILLE HORROR’s final scene when the cameraman/producer asks the midlife Daniel Lutz – deep in manhood and four decades away from the young child who experienced paranormal phenomenon firsthand – if he’d be willing to take a polygraph test to silence his critics. Clearly, Mr. Lutz is offended by the suggestion, but it’s his stated reasoning that raises a good point: do you think he needs it in order for you (the audience) to believe? That means – as he points out – you wouldn’t otherwise believe – you wouldn’t take his word for it – but you’d take that of a machine? Because the machine couldn’t be wrong … could it?
Despite laying all of the facts bare, there’s sadly nothing else to know about MY AMITYVILLE HORROR. Its singular purpose is to look back on the legend of the Amityville house – more uncharacteristically known as 112 Ocean Avenue – and try to make sense of it all. What really happened to the Lutz family that’s apparently happened to no other occupants of the place? And why is it that it’s never been repeated? If a house is truly ‘haunted,’ then wouldn’t it? With Daniel Lutz disclosing his version of the events, the audience is minimally given a chance to put a face to this decades old mystery, and they’re encouraged to make up their own minds about it from the inside instead of from the out.
And because we’re finally given a first-hand accounting of some truly bizarre experiences, it doesn’t stop there. We follow Dan on his journey, learning more about what happened after the incidents of possessed – how and where he grew up, what effect the entire matter had on his development, and his ongoing battles in therapy to come to terms with his own history and, perhaps, his place in a larger, broader one. While I’m no more inclined to believe all of the events of his youth any more by knowing him personally, I’m still averse to labeling it as pure fiction.
That’s probably because – like many people – I choose to hold out hope for there actually being something larger in all of the cosmos than we sometimes small, sometimes shallow, and sometimes pitiful human beings are. I refuse to accept necessarily that this is it, and, instead, I cling to the idea that things like ghosts and angels and aliens aren’t all that different from one another but they’re vastly different from us. I think that’s a position Dan might agree with, so I’ll have to leave it all at that.
Much like he has.
MY AMITYVILLE HORROR (2012) is produced by Film Regions International (FRI) and Lost Witness Pictures. DVD distribution is being handled through MPI Media Group. As for the technical specifications, the film looks and sounds solid throughout, though there’s an obvious reduction in quality when it employs some dated film footage (not a distraction). As for the special features, the disc includes a commentary with Director Eric Walter and Producer Andrea Adams; a “Living with Amityville” short; and the theatrical trailer … a nice collection for those interested in exploring the subject matter just a bit more than this largely conventional documentary.
RECOMMENDED. As documentaries go, MY AMITYVILLE HORROR is pretty benign. Those of us who grew up in the era fascinated with the Lutzs’ story about the possessed house will probably find as much to like about it as we’ll be disappointed with. There really isn’t any big reveal here – four decades later, we still don’t know if it was horror or a hoax – but it’s still a fascinating rumination of what may’ve taken place, and, if anything, Daniel Lutz certainly puts a human face on one of the seminal ghost stories for a generation.
In the interests of fairness, I’m pleased to disclose that the fine folks at MPI Media Group provided me with a DVD copy of MY AMITYVILLE HORROR by request for the expressed purposes of completing this review.