Fantastic Fest Review: MY AMITYVILLE HORROR Is Supernaturally Powerful

A documentary about Danny Lutz, the oldest child of the real Amityville Horror, reveals a truly wounded man wrestling with deep trauma. But is it demonic or even more sinister?

What happened in that house on Ocean Avenue in Amityville back in 1975? What really happened to the Lutz family in the month they spent there? Were they truly attacked by demonic forces, or were they just peddling a hoax to get rich and famous? George and Kathy Lutz have died, leaving their three children as the final eyewitnesses to the events of that month; while the younger children will not talk, eldest son Danny Lutz tells his story in My Amityville Horror, and reveals the traumas that still haunt him.

While the documentary certainly examines whether or not something happened in Amityville, the focus of the movie is truly on how the events impacted Danny’s life since. He believes - seemingly with complete sincerity - that the haunting did occur. He hasn’t cashed in on the phenomenon, and he lives now in Whitestone, New York, where he’s a UPS driver who plays guitar and collects antique cars. He’s doing okay, but to say that Danny is happy would be beyond a stretch - he is a man constantly on edge, brimming with anger and pain, and wrestling daily with memories that terrify him.

But more than any supernatural beings the demonic force that truly lurks in Danny’s subconscious is George Lutz, his hated stepfather. As the movie goes on and as Danny recounts both his experiences and his relationship with the abusive George it becomes clear that Danny has taken the feelings of helplessness, terror and hate he felt living with George and merged them with the stories of the haunting. And so whether or not the events were real - whether or not his bed levitated or strange voices called out to him or he was shoved by unseen hands - to him they are completely, utterly true.

The film is extraordinarily sensitive, and it never takes a hard line on the question of the reality of the event (in fact I walked out thinking that what happened was such a confluence of psychological factors that true or false feels too simplified). It lets Danny make his case, often to a therapist, and doesn’t judge him. Danny himself is an incredible character; looking like Ed Harris and delivering constant commentary in a thick Long Island accent, he’s a guy you feel bad for while being scared of him. His psychological wounds fester, and he always seems coiled for violence.

I’m not sure what director Eric Walter expected to get when he sat down with Danny; in his opening remarks Walter mentioned that he had grow up a student of the Amityville case, running one of the most comprehensive websites about the event when he was just 16. What he ended up with was not only a unique psychological spin on the entire story, but more importantly a truly heartbreaking examination of a 40 year old man who has spent his life trying to protect a wounded 10 year old boy within him.