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My Amityville Horror (2012)
MPI Home Video
DVD Released: 8/6/2013
All Ratings out of
Review by Mike Long, Posted on 8/8/2013
When it comes to documentaries, I feel that they fall into three categories. There are those which are about a subject when is completely new to me. There are those which deal with something which I may have heard of or know a little about, and I'm there to learn more. And then there are those which cover a topic with which I'm very familiar and I want to watch the movie to see if I can glean anything new from it. I was a child when the obsession with "The Amityville Horror" swept the nation, but I certainly remember hearing about it and seeing ads for the movie, which I saw years later and found somewhat dull. Over the years, I've seen some of the various movies inspired by the incident and I've checked out some TV specials on it. However, the newly made My Amityville Horror promised to shed new light on the events and I was eager to see if it delivered.
To review, in 1975, George and Kathy Lutz, along with Kathy's three children -- Daniel, Christopher, and Melissa -- moved into a house in Amityville, Long Island. The family only lived in the house for 28 days, as they claimed that a series of intense paranormal and supernatural events had caused them to flee. The story became the basis for a book and a movie, and the legitimacy of the Lutz's claims has been debated for years. George and Kathy made some public statements about the events, as did others involved in the case.
My Amityville Horror puts a new spin on things, as it focuses on Daniel Lutz, who has agreed to come forward and tell his story. Through interviews with Director Eric Walter and conversations with journalist Laura DiDio, who covered the story at the time, Daniel recounts his recollections of what happened in the house, as well as life before and after the family lived in Amityville. We also see some candid moments, giving us an idea of what Daniel's life today is like. In addition, there are some comments from other journalists and parapsychologists who were involved in the investigation.
As it offers access to someone who was an eyewitness to what happened in that famous house, My Amityville Horror promises to go further than many other Amityville documentaries have. But, the movie suffers from several problems. First of all, while Daniel Lutz has clearly agreed to participate in this and speak on-camera, he still comes across as an unwilling subject. His answers are often evasive, or he'll launch into a story which only briefly touches on the topic. He comes across as very angry and it can easily be said that he has a bad attitude. Now, given what he's been through, it's easy to understand why he'd be stand-offish, but he has the mannerisms of someone with some deep-seeded issues. The question is, how much of this is related to his experiences in Amityville? The bottom-line is that half-way through the movie, the viewer begins to cringe when Daniel comes on-screen, because we know that we may be in for another rant.
The other problem is that Walter has decided to edit the movie in a very odd way. Walter is the webmaster of AmityvilleFiles.com and My Amityville Horror is his first movie project. This shows in the cockeyed way he attempts to tell the story. In short, this is one of those documentaries where the director has decided to jump around a lot instead of letting things just flow naturally. For example, the story of a window slamming on Daniel's hand is told early in the film via a recording of George Lutz and then much later, Daniel gives his version of this event. The subjects discussed come and go at random, the interviews with others don't fall in organically, and we don't get a good idea of what Daniel's life is like today. (In Walter's defense, he probably had to edit down a lot of footage of Daniel being angry.)
So, the final question is, is My Amityville Horror worth seeing? Despite what I've said above, the answer is, sort of. The distributors have picked an interesting time to release the film, as it has an appearance by Lorraine Warren, the subject of the hit movie The Conjuring. She visited the house in the 70s and we hear about her experiences. In addition, Daniel visits Lorraine at home and we get glimpses of the real supernatural museum shown in The Conjuring. The other thing which puts My Amityville Horror on the fence is the fact that it does contain very small nuggets of interesting information, the best of which are revelations concerning George Lutz's interest in the occult. These tidbits are compelling, but the movie doesn't go as far into them as we would have liked. Nearly 40 years later, The Amityville Horror is still an intriguing story and having someone who was there sounds like a great idea for a movie, but for several reasons, My Amityville Horror is a missed opportunity.
My Amityville Horror does show that Daniel is a very good guitarist on DVD courtesy of IFC Films and MPI Home Video. The movie has been letterboxed at 1.78:1 and the transfer is enhanced for 16 x 9 TVs. (Although there is some footage here which is 1.33:1.) The modern-day interviews and footage of Daniel is very sharp and clear, showing no grain and no defects from the source material. These scenes are never overly dark or bright and the colors look fine. The movie contains a fair amount of archive footage, some of which doesn't look great, but that was out of Walter's control. The DVD contains a Dolby Digital 5.1 audio track which provides clear dialogue. Being an interview-based documentary, we don't get a lot of dynamic sound here. Those speaking are always audible and the sound is never muffled. The musical cues do create some stereo and surround effects.
The My Amityville Horror DVD contains only two extras. "Living With Amityville" (13 minutes) plays like somewhat of a "making of", as it explains how filmmaker Eric Walter got in touch with Lutz. This shows how some of the original interview tapes were made. We also get some background here on the making of the movie. This piece also feels like a deleted chapter from the movie, as we get more interviews with Lutz and hear from one of his acquaintances. We also get further comments from Laura DiDio who gives further insights on her opinions about the events. The other extra is the TRAILER for the film.
Review by Mike Long. Copyright 2013.