This week in movies you missed: Meet the real-life demonologist Vera Farmiga portrayed in The Conjuring in this documentary about one of the youngest victims of the famous Amityville house (or famous hoax, depending on your perspective).
What You Missed
In 1975, when Daniel Lutz (pictured) was 10, his family moved into a Long Island ocean-front dwelling that they'd purchased at a discount after one of the former inhabitants killed his family of six there. Twenty-eight days later, the Lutzes fled the Amityville house, telling tales of haunting and possession that would spawn a bestselling book, talk-show appearances and a string of cheesy Hollywood films.
This 2012 documentary from Amityville aficionado Eric Walter (who runs this site) is essentially a portrait of Lutz in his late forties. Despite allegations over the years that the "horror" was a hoax, Lutz insists it's all true, and more horrifying than people realize.
Why You Missed It
My Amityville Horror isn't listed on Box Office Mojo, though it played at festivals, generated some publicity and is now available on DVD, VOD, Netflix Instant, etc.
Should You Keep Missing It?
Lutz is an interesting case study, whether you believe his tale of paranormal activity or just see him as a victim of a dysfunctional family dynamic and intense media attention.
After the movies began appearing, Lutz says in the film, everybody called him "the Amityville Horror kid," or by the name of whichever fictional or semifictional kid appeared in the current Hollywood offering. His association with supernatural trauma became more important than his particular identity or story. So it's really no surprise that, at 47, the guy is scary intense. When the off-screen filmmaker asks if he "believes" that something happened, Lutz growls, "I don't believe it. I know it!"
But how credible is this tale of levitating beds and glowing "evil pig" eyes, really? Lutz clearly has it in for his stepfather, George Lutz, who isn't alive to defend himself. (He accuses George of messing with the occult and even making tools levitate in his garage before the family moved to Amityville.)
Walter doesn't do a great job presenting an overview of the case: Perhaps he assumes viewers already know all about the "Weber interview" that Daniel Lutz dismisses. (William Weber, the lawyer who helped the Lutzes get their book contract, would tell People in 1979 that he helped them "creat[e] this horror story over many bottles of wine.") The movie is also missing the testimony of the other surviving Lutzes, who declined to be interviewed.
As a result, the doc isn't exactly balanced. The creepy music and dramatic lighting nudge us to give at least a moment of credence to Lutz's story. We do, however, get to hear from some moderating voices, including a TV reporter who has been on the Amityville case since the beginning, and a paranormal expert who thinks a combination of real phenomena and suggestion was at work.
As for Lorraine Warren, the demonologist? She's a memorable person, no doubt about it. And it's clear that Lutz is haunted by demons, be they real or metaphorical.
Verdict: Fun, but just a tiny piece of a frustrating puzzle. Nobody who's lived in the Amityville house since the Lutzes has been haunted by anything but curiosity seekers. Some would call the story thoroughly debunked, yet it survives almost intact in popular folklore. A meatier documentary might ask why.
In Theaters This Week
Check out this post and help us caption the week's most memorable movie stills.
On Video This Week
A Band Called Death, The Big Wedding, The Company You Keep, Emperor, Olympus Has Fallen, "Girls," season 2.