My Amityville Horror

| August 7, 2013

It may be a coincidence, but IFC’s timing for the home video release of My Amityville Horror is impeccable. Ed and Lorraine Warren, the paranormal investigators who were involved with the Amityville incident, were also the inspiration for James Wan’s massive hit The Conjuring. Interest in the Warrens’ 1970s work is high, and can only help bring more attention to this documentary, which features Lorraine Warren but focuses on Daniel Lutz. Daniel was a boy during the events described in the book The Amityville Horror, adapted into a popular film released in 1979 that spawned a franchise and remade in 2005. How many of these events really happened and how much of it was embellished by George Lutz, Daniel’s stepfather, has always been unclear. My Amityville Horror purports to take viewers inside the Lutz family and perhaps provide answers to some lingering questions.

Unfortunately, it quickly becomes apparent that answering questions is probably not at the top of the list of the filmmakers’ priorities. Daniel takes the opportunity to mostly rant about George Lutz, with whom he had a difficult relationship. Daniel provides little in the way of objective discussion of paranormal activity, instead mostly trying to articulate what it was like growing up with such a poor male role model. Lutz occasionally threatens the film crew when talking about particularly painful events, leading one to wonder why he agreed to do the filmed interviews in the first place. The bulk of the film is spent with Daniel, who is obviously trying to learn how to work through the pain he still feels from whatever it is that happened to him during these years. While the filmmakers may have thought this would be the most compelling interview footage related to the project (and perhaps it is), it also feels invasive and uncomfortably exploitative.

Much less uncomfortable is the time spent with Lorraine Warren discussing her experiences with the Lutz family and the Amityville house. Warren comes across as earnest about her faith and belief in the supernatural, although she also fails to deliver straight answers regarding what exactly happened to the Lutz family in the Amityville house. Her reflections on her work with the Lutz family are fascinating, but too brief. The scene where Lorraine is reunited with Daniel after decades of not seeing each other is surprisingly touching, giving what would seem to be a rare glimpse of Daniel in happier times. Still, when the film concludes, the only thing that it has conclusively proven is that Daniel Lutz is a very troubled man who had an exceptionally difficult and unpleasant upbringing, compounded by unwanted attention from the public following the publication of Jay Anson’s book. What really happened at Amityville will probably never be known, but My Amityville Horror makes a solid case for leaving any further questions unanswered.

IFC Films and MPI Home Video released My Amityville Horror on DVD on 6 August 2013. Special features include a commentary track, theatrical trailer and “Living with Amityville” featurette.

About the Author:

Jason Coffman is a film writer living in Chicago. He is author of "The Unrepentant Cinephile," and a regular contributor to Daily Grindhouse and Film Monthly as well as a member of the Chicago Independent Film Critics Circle. He is co-director of the Chicago Cinema Society and proud owner of 35mm prints of Andy Milligan's "Guru, the Mad Monk." Follow his long-form film writing on Medium:

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