For the past thirty-four years, all things Amityville have been such a pop culture staple that it’s easy to forget that the first film was based on a true story. With endless sequels and spinoffs, even an Amityville Dollhouse, the idea that the Amityville house still stands and is inhabited seems something of a novelty. Even stranger is the fact that the Lutz children depicted in the book and the films are ordinary people living among us. After years of silence on the topic, Daniel Lutz describes his experience in the new documentary My Amityville Horror.
Though only ten years old when the Amityville Horror took place, Daniel remembers the events with striking clarity and can recount them in vivid detail. His recollections, however, are marred and truncated by the palpable anger he still feels toward his mother and step-father. After an idyllic early childhood, Daniel’s world was shattered by his parents’ divorce. The extended family that had once made up his world quickly disappeared, and Daniel and his siblings were left living with their mother. She, in turn, began dating George Lutz, a financially stable former military man with “zero parenting skills”. They got a great deal on a house where a family of six had been murdered, and so began the twenty-eight day paranormal siege known as the Amityville Horror.
While we’re never given any answers as to what really happened in 1979, we do get Daniel’s firsthand account of the events that took place – the famous fly infestations, the cold spots, the apparitions, and the night his fingers were crushed by a window. Does Daniel swear that every single word of this is true? He does. Would he take a lie detector test to prove it? I caution you not to ask, for Mr. Lutz is quite likely to pound your teeth down your throat.
This reaction is not atypical, and Lutz proves to be a stubborn and largely inscrutable subject. Even as psychologists and investigative reporters press him for details, he resists steadfastly, sometimes growling, “Why are you making me do this?!”, sometimes blatantly refusing to give any answer at all. This makes for a lot of dead-end discussions and leaves many questions unanswered. Daniel’s main message seems to be that his stepfather was a despicable man who actively dabbled in the occult and very likely brought on the events that unfolded himself. Some experts suggest that George Lutz actually created the illusions the family perceived to be paranormal events. Others indicate that by toying with black magic, George provoked the spirits in the home. This would explain why none of the five families who have resided in the Amityville house since the Lutzes have reported paranormal phenomena.
My Amityville Horror isn’t the most revealing documentary, but it is a fascinating character study of a man damaged by events that are little more than urban legend to the rest of us. His demeanor is friendly and good natured one minute, threatening and unsettling the next. Also interesting is the film’s examination of memory. Regardless of what Daniel Lutz remembers, there’s no knowing whether he’s recalling something he was told by his family, something he saw in a film or read in a book, or something he actually experienced in real life. In many ways Lutz is a perfect example of the increasingly blurred line between reality and entertainment.