The Amityville Horror (1979) and its 2005 remake focused on the supposedly true story of a supernatural attack upon one American family in the mid-70s. After moving into a former murder site at 112 Ocean Avenue, the Lutz family suffered a series of inexplicable and terrifying events. Until their recent deaths, George and Kathy Lutz remained adamant that their claims were 100% factual. In the thirty-five years since the media attention focused on the family, their son Daniel – who was ten at the time of the ordeal – has never spoken about his experience. My Amityville Horror (2012) is his side of the story.
Eric Walter’s intriguing documentary details the struggle behind growing up as part of an internationally renowned haunting. Famed demonologist Lorraine Warren features as she visited the Amityville house in 1975 with her late spouse, Edward Warren (both he and Lorraine were most recently the subject of supernatural chiller, The Conjuring). After meeting Daniel Lutz as an adult, Lorraine confirms that the only house that she will never return to again is the Ocean Avenue property, a house of terrifying proportions. Yet, the several families who have lived in the home since have made no reports of such activities.
Horror fans looking for sharp shocks and seismic scares may come away disappointed, as this intelligent documentary shifts the focus from traditional to psychological horror. Daniel Lutz drives the narrative. He’s a complex character, unpredictable, intimidating and frightening in his idiosyncrasies. In one scene, Walter speaks out from the third wall, only to be pushed back by an angry Lutz, who clearly owns the film and is adamant that the story is being told in his way and his way only. The tone of the doc – all lighting and foreboding atmosphere – proves that the director clearly knows his audience and, whilst exploring an alternate perspective, still maintains the weighty aesthetic of the chilling Amityville legacy.
Vintage news footage, interviews and snippets of editorial show Daniel’s parents, George and Kathy, as they sell their story and become international stars. These images juxtaposed with footage of their adult son show the detrimental effect that their celebrity had upon his development. When Daniel speaks of his stepfather George, the ringleader of the media circus, he suggests that the horror didn’t end when they left the house. Although not revealing anything new or in explicit detail, Daniel’s attitude and demeanour, especially when speaking of his parents, reveal more than words ever could. He’s an individual clearly haunted by his past and its the absence of detail in his testimony that make his story so frightening.
The narrative is admittedly biased as George, who died in 2008 is obviously not present to defend himself. As a result of this the first-person narrative becomes agitated and accusatory but, it’s a side to a story that has never been heard and that is what makes Walter’s documentary so compelling. Although Daniel confirms Amityville’s supernatural activity, with his first person account of what really happened, he really only adds further speculation to the myth. My Amityville Horror is not the definitive retelling of an infamous horror story, it’s a complex psychological and disturbing perspective of a familiar tale.