Toronto After Dark 2012: My Amityville Horror Review (Robert Harding)

Toronto After Dark Film Festival 2012

My Amityville Horror

Starring Daniel Lutz, Laura DiDio, and Neme Alperstein

Directed by Eric Walter

The “Amityville Haunting” seemed to spring out of nowhere. The novel The Amityville Horror: A True Story written by Jay Anson was published in 1977. This brought about many inquisitive minds who decided to look into the events to see if they were true or not. Lawsuits started flying, fingers were pointed and accusations made. In 1979 the Jay Anson book was adapted to film as The Amityville Horror. At this point the “Amityville Haunting” became a national phenomenon.  The original story has spawned over four pieces of written fiction, multiple pieces of written non-fiction, over eight films, not including the most recent one, and has been featured in multiple television shows.  But despite all these pieces of fiction and non-fiction there has continued to be doubts about the validity of the events.

For the first time in 35 years, Daniel Lutz recounts his version of the events surrounding the “Amityville Haunting”  that terrified his family in 1975 via this documentary from Director Eric Walter.  Using the knowledge he gained over many years of research, Walter set about capturing as much information via film as possible. This film is the culmination and product of his efforts.

While this film’s end result is a look at the event from Daniel Lutz’s perspective, it seemed like this was not the original intent of the director.  There is a lot of footage in the film where people are interviewed about the events that took place, the media attention the family received, and of course the 1979 major motion picture, but they aren’t questioned about Daniel specifically.  This would lead me to believe that Eric Walter had originally set out to make a documentary about the “Amityville Haunting” as a whole rather than a study of Daniel Lutz. I’d wager a guess that when Mr. Walter couldn’t get interviews with other family members still living or even footage inside the original house, he decided to shift focus.

The result of this shifting focus is an interesting look at Daniel Lutz and how events both before and after the Amityville situation shaped him into who he is today. The film often takes on an ominous tone and through manipulation via lighting and editing, manages to change the feel and perspective of Daniel to fit the particular situation being discussed in the film. At times he comes across helpless, sometimes distressed, and a few times as menacing.

Walter makes a few documentary mistakes when making this film.  Some may just be my personal preference but many others are things that should be avoided when making a documentary. As with most documentaries, the main source of information comes from interviews. As such, much of the film is what is called a “talking heads” piece. I’ve never been a fan of this type of documentary as it isn’t very entertaining, but it’s also where Mr. Walter makes several mistakes. Instead of sticking to facts, Eric allows hearsay and opinions to unnecessarily enter the film. At times the interviewer leads the interviewee with their questioning and sometimes they go as far as to give their own opinion.  Other times, interviewees are allowed to give their opinions about how things might have been, how circumstances might have affected situations, or what might have happened even if they had no direct involvement, weren’t professionals, or had no actual connection to the events.

But despite what anyone might think about the “Amityville Hauntings” there are a few conclusions clearly apparent from this film: Daniel Lutz does not like his step father George and probably never did; Daniel believes that he and his family were terrorized by something supernatural in their Amityville house; he has been severely affected by the events surrounding George Lutz and Amityville; and finally, we’ll never know the truth.

I’ll give director Eric Walter credit for managing to put together a film despite what I can only imagine were frustrating circumstances. But it’s clear that this was his first attempt at a documentary. Luckily for the Director, he’s very young and has a lot of filmmaking years ahead of himself. My Amityville Horror does show some promising elements which would lead me to believe that Mr. Walter has talent, he only lacks the experience. My Amityville Horror may not be the best documentary film or the film you would expect to see given the subject matter, but it is likely to be the only record on film that we’ll ever get of Daniel Lutz’s account about “The Amityville Horror” and for that alone, it is an important horror movie.

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