Almost 40 years later, no one knows for sure what happened to the Lutz family inside the Amityville house. After spending a month there the family fled, claiming that they were attacked by demonic forces. The parents, George and Kathy Lutz, have since died. Did they make these claims in order to get rich and famous? Their surviving three children are the only eyewitnesses alive to what actually happened in that house at 112 Ocean Ave and although the two younger kids refuse to talk, eldest son Danny Lutz reveals all in the documentary My Amityville Horror. He was 10 when the events allegedly happened, and now, as a middle-aged adult, it’s clear that whatever went down has haunted him ever since.
Briefly, for those who haven’t seen the movies or read up on the events, in 1974 inside the house in Amityville, Long Island, an entire family was mass murdered – shot to death while they slept in their beds. How none of them heard the initial shots and fled, no one knows. A year later, the Lutz family moved into the house. Shortly thereafter, they began to encounter some heavy poltergeist shit. Infestations of flies in one room, levitating beds, voices, being shoved, ectoplasm in the boat house, a genuine smorgasbord of horrible shit. The family fled after a month and went public with their claims – sparking book deals, movies, and global press tours.
The documentary speaks with paranormal experts and journalists as it examines whether or not the Lutz’s claims are false. The focus of the film, however, is something much more powerful: the impact the events had on Danny Lutz’s life. As he recounts the events of 1975 one thing that becomes perfectly clear is that he’s 100 percent sincere. There’s no doubt in his mind that everything happened, no matter how much stubborn skepticism and criticism he’s met with. It’s also clear that I wouldn’t want to fuck with him. He looks like a more athletic Michael Chiklis and speaks in a no-nonsense, Long Island accent. He’s very confrontational, always on edge, and boiling over with pain and rage. When the director asks if he’s willing to take a lie-detector test, Danny looks like he’s going to take his head off.
More than any demon or poltergeist, what’s seems to be really haunting Danny is his stepfather, George Lutz. He hated the man with a deep, deep passion and oftentimes felt helpless as George absorbed the rest of the family into his twisted world. As he recounts his experiences he details the relationship he had with George, whose background in the Marines bled over into his “parenting” skills. He had to refer to him as “sir” and was often subjected to degrading military-style marching through the house. When he would ask about the satanic books George kept in the house, he was met with anger.
One thing I found interesting was that despite Danny’s powerful hatred for George, he totally backs up his claims. You’d think that as a rebellious teen he’d want to blow up his shitty stepfather’s spot and expose him for the charlatan he was. The fact that he to this day states that it all really happened despite hating George’s guts was curious to me. Experts in the film note that Danny took these strong feelings towards his hated stepfather and merged them with what allegedly happened during the haunting. They explain that this combination of memory and malice makes the events real in Danny’s mind, even as an adult.
The film never passes judgement on Danny nor does it propose a final solution to the reality of the haunting. I’m not sure what director Eric Walter’s original intentions were for the film, but instead of some revelatory expose on the Amityville Horror, the documentary is a heartbreaking, powerful examination of Danny – a man who has spent his entire life as “the Amityville kid.” In one of the most tragic parts of the film, Danny explains how he’s always known by different names – the names of the fictionalized versions of him in the films. It’s horrible that he’s had to “protect” the 10-year-old in him his whole life against the media and an unbelieving world. Whether you believe him or not, what the film makes clear is that something happened in that house in 1975, and it’s going to haunt Danny for the rest of his life.- Patrick Cooper