Thursday, October 17, 2013

Horror Thoughts ‘13—My Amityville Horror (2013) ***½

NR, 88 min.
Director/Writer: Eric Walter
Featuring: Daniel Lutz, Laura DiDio, Susan Bartell, Lorraine Warren

“My Amityville Horror” looks at the real man who was just a boy when his family went through the events that inspired the book and series of films known as “The Amityville Horror”. It’s a documentary that depicts Daniel Lutz as a troubled man who has never been able to escape his past, although he tried to for quite some time. Now, he says he is ready to address what happened to him in that famous house for 28 days so many years ago.

In many ways “My Amityville Horror” is the scariest movie I’ve seen so far during Horrorfest ’13. Daniel Lutz tells his stories with such conviction it’s as good a seeing the original movie. His horrors don’t just include a haunted house, but a hatred for a man who was not so much a replacement father as a drill sergeant, and a life long battle with the mental scarring that came along with his childhood terror and people forever seeing him as the Amityville kid.

Lutz seems to struggle with his stability. The director chooses to show him in three different interview stagings. One is a typical documentary set up where the interviewer is the camera and never interjects or asks questions, Lutz just goes. He’s also shown talking with a psychiatrist about his problems dealing with his past and controlling his emotions. The third interviewer is the most personal as she was the first and sole liaison the Lutz family had with the outside world during the Amityville events.

Laura DiDio was a reporter for a local news station who gained the Lutz family’s trust and was brought into their world to see first hand the phenomena that occurred in the Lutz house after the family had left the house as their residence and as the world looked on. DiDio appears to have a very personal relationship with Lutz. She was responsible for introducing the Lutz’s to the paranormal experts Ed and Lorraine Warren, who were just featured dramatically in the film “The Conjuring”. One of the more special moments in the film is when DiDio reunites Lutz with the now widowed Lorraine Warren. Lutz appears as if he might start a fight when one of the film crew admits to Warren that his jury is still out on God.

The film seems to take Lutz at his word for most of its running time. Only during the final moments of the movie does it even hint at the possibility that some of Lutz’s memories could be something of post-traumatic suggestion. Given Lutz’s demeanor I worry for the film’s director Eric Walter at even whispering the notion that some of what Lutz remembers might be fabrication, however unaware he suggests Lutz might be about it.

The only question I have about such doubts is inspired by the words of a news anchor who was invited into the Lutz house to witness the phenomena. Before the end of the film he speaks of first hand accounts of the cold spots and a boy that wasn’t there who showed up in a photograph that was taken while he was at the house. At the end of the film, however, the anchor all but says it was a hoax. How then does he explain the phenomena he witnessed himself? The film doesn’t ask.

I want to believe Lutz, and it is wise of the filmmakers to approach this subject with the understanding that most people will want to believe Lutz. I want to believe supernatural phenomena are real and I think I’m open to the possibility. However, if told the house down the street was haunted and even with knowledge of a long history of that belief by most of the people in the area, I would immediately think of logical explanations for the stories I’d heard, and I don’t doubt that I could enter that house with the utmost belief that I’d discover no such phenomena. Whether Lutz and his family really experienced what they and others claimed may only ever be known to the people who were there. Lutz certainly believes it happened, and if it didn’t, than his life really is a nightmare.

Watch the documentary in its entirety below.

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