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September 23, 2015

My Amityville Horror

by Franz Patrick


My Amityville Horror (2012)
★ / ★★★★

Though more than thirty years has passed since Daniel Lutz and his family moved out of the now notorious Amityville house, he has been unable to fully recover from the trauma of having lived there. He claims that there were many more paranormal occurrences that happened to him and his family that the movies, ten in totality to date beginning with “The Amityville Horror” directed by Stuart Rosenberg, did not cover.

Although what the Lutz family said to have experienced sounds fascinating, “My Amityville Horror” is a weak documentary because it fails to go anywhere beyond Daniel’s recollection and Psychology 101. It goes around in circles for the majority of the picture which breeds a lot of repetition. Director Eric Walter is not in control of his material and there is no reason for it to run for almost ninety minutes.

A documentary is in trouble when the best bits involve the camera scanning over pictures. I enjoyed seeing Ed and Lorraine Warren, famous demonologists, standing in different areas of the purported haunted house. The pictures have so much character, reflected through a person’s body language or a special look in his eyes, I wanted to know what each person caught in that moment in time was thinking.

There is one very creepy discussion involving a photograph that happened to have captured a child’s face peeking through one of the doors. The investigator said that the Lutz children were neither there at the time it was taken nor was a child, a kid from the neighborhood or some sort, was present. And yet there he is on the picture. Who was that child? It is not mentioned if the photo had been tampered with. One would think the material would take advantage and explore this more because if the boy in the photo was, say, someone who lived in the house a hundred years before or a member of the family—victim of a mass murder—that resided in the house prior to the Lutzes, then Daniel’s recollection of horrifying events would have held more weight.

Initially, I found Daniel to be quite interesting because whether he likes it or not, he will forever be known as one of the Amityville kids. I liked hearing his take on what he believes he saw, heard, and smelled around the house. Eventually, however, I noticed that the more stories he told, the less invested I was to hear them. Instead, I noticed his aggression especially when a question is about his stepfather, George, is brought up.

The picture poses a question: Was Daniel’s animosity toward George an element that pushed the family’s stress level to a boiling point, that perhaps the supposed paranormal activities were simply physical manifestations of what they were unable to deal with directly? It is a good question, but the film is largely unfocused, interviewing Lorraine Warren in one scene and then jumping into a psychologist’s office the next, the latter being noticeably timid that I wondered if she was in charge or her patient.

In any case, “My Amityville Horror” does not seem to have a purpose other than to put Daniel in front of the camera and allow him to speak. Quite frankly, about half the time, I was bored and wondering if he was eventually going to say something worth sitting through.

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