TADFF 2012: ‘My Amityville Horror’ about deep emotional and psychological scars

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My Amityville Horror

Directed by Eric Walter

USA, 2012

It’s been said that truth is stranger than fiction, but for over 35 years, Daniel Lutz made the claim that it was much more sinister; especially since a slew of horror movies were based on his story. In 1974, Ronald DeFeo, Jr. shot and killed his family of two brothers, two sisters, and two parents while they were sleeping in their home on 112 Ocean Avenue, Amityville, New York. Autopsies would discover no traces of drugs or inebriates used, which was strange considering how the bodies were found: in their beds, apparently unmoved. Without the use of a silencer or intoxicants, many believed that supernatural elements were involved.

A year later, Daniel Lutz and his family moved into the home, which was marked at a discount price. They packed up and left 28 days later, claiming that they were terrorized by paranormal activity. In My Amityville Horror, documentarian Eric Walter lets Daniel Lutz, the oldest child at that time, to recount his memories and experiences of those 28 days in what is known as the Amityville Horror House.

In My Amityville Horror, the subject isn’t really the house or the alleged haunting; it’s really about Mr. Lutz. Believer him or not, Mr. Lutz is able to command the viewers attention with his detailed, confident, and impassioned recounting of what he believed happened to him. His stories about being exorcized, his turbulent relationship with his stepfather George, his strained relationship with his mother Kathy, and his claims of supernatural phenomena all grab the viewer because of how earnest and honestly he tells them, and director Eric Walter is prudent enough to limit his own questions and to let Mr. Lutz and other people in the film tell their own stories.

Whether or not one believes in the events that occurred during Mr. Lutz’s stay on Ocean Avenue is up to individual interpretation. The documentary does not try to verify or debunk the claims made by either side, although there are lengthy interviews with both skeptics and believers, and if you listen carefully, there’s some indication that the filmmakers are skeptics too; at its heart, the documentary is about the deep emotional and psychological scars inflicted on a ten year old boy, scars that remain untreated and raw. They may stem from an actual haunting, or it may come from the dark cloud of reputation that followed both the house and Mr. Lutz wherever he went. These scars are real to Mr. Lutz, and that’s all that really matters in the end.

– Justin Li

The 7th annual Toronto After Dark Film Festival runs from October 18-26. For a complete schedule and ticket information, please visit the offical website.

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