‘My Amityville Horror’
Director: Eric Walter
One of the more undying lines on the Lutzes — the family who claimed their house in Amityville, Long Island, in 1975 was plagued by irksome and sometimes belligerent spirits — is that they made their story up to get out of a pricey mortgage and, of course, to make some cash. The existence of no less than 10 films in the “Amityville Horror” franchise (the most recent a DTV affair from 2011), plus some bestsellers of questionable veracity, doesn’t exactly challenge that theory.
For what it’s worth (which is to say: not much), the Lutzes have mostly stuck by their story. That includes Daniel Lutz, who was 9 at the time, and whose testimony is slightly harder to write off as mere calculation. In the doc “My Amityville Horror,” Daniel, who has remained mum for 35 years, opens up, insisting to the filmmakers that the story is more or less on the level. There’s no strong reason for Daniel, now in his forties, to keep up a charade: the events have left clear, visible trauma, and he talks about levitation, possession and other impossible feats with the chilling authority of someone who has experienced something catastrophic. Even if that something is not what he says.
Of course, he also talks about the psychological trauma instilled upon him by a stepfather, George Lutz, who whisked away his mother and his two younger siblings (who declined to talk in the film) only to turn into a tyrannical patriarch. It doesn’t take a psychologist to tell there’s something else going on in Daniel’s head, although even the psychologist whose interviews with Daniel are peppered through the film can’t make much headway. He’s a temperamental, emotional, evasive man, going on the defensive at the slightest perceived slight, insisting his traumatized mien as proof enough of the tall tales he spins.
Director Eric Walter is not, evidently, the man to get to the bottom of all this, but who is? Daniel Lutz provides an ethical dilemma: his stories of evil ghosts toying and harming him and his family are, to any rational person, pure hooey, but few would willingly say that to his face. But that’s all there is to “My Amityville Horror,” which settles on the notion that we most likely will never know what really happened to Daniel, but fails to tie that to a deeper human concern. It’s not, when you get down to it, all that more enlightening than 1983’s “Amityville 3-D.”