Monday, October 1, 2012

Fantastic Fest 2012 Review: MY AMITYVILLE HORROR

Directed by Eric Walter
Starring: Daniel Lutz and Laura DiDio
Synopsis: A look behind the story of the Amityville hauntings through the eyes of the eldest Lutz sibling, Daniel. 

I went on this weird classic horror movie phase one summer in high school. I frequented my local Blockbuster (RIP), and rented a few films that I heard movie lovers need to watch. One was AMITYVILLE HORROR. I don't remember being overtly scared during the film, though the red eyes creeped me out, but the eerie factor that stuck was that this was based on the real experiences of Lutz family. Freshman director Eric Walter became obsessed with the film and the Lutz family as a teenager. He eventually got in touch with a cousin of the family, who suggested he tell the real story of what happened. What Eric Walter got was more than he probably bargained for.

Even though his younger siblings didn't want to share their story, the eldest Lutz child, Daniel, agreed to be the subject of Walter's documentary. I figured the film would explore what happened in the house from Daniel's perspective with clips from the film, reenactments, etc. But I was way off target. As the lens stares unwavering into Daniel's eyes in a very Erol Morris influenced style, he begins to weave together this story of a very broken family in the clutches of a menacing patriarch, George Lutz. There are many theories that the whole haunting experience was fabricated by a father looking to cash in on a quick 15 minutes of fame; it also doesn't help his case that he has dabbled in occult activities. George was psychologically abusive to his step children, but him and Daniel especially butted heads. So much so that Daniel asked his mother if Daniel could move out at a young age so he could get away from George.

What floored me about Walter's film was how objective it turned out to be. As a film maker he never takes a side in the debate of whether the Lutz's made up the hauntings. He presents the information through the people who lived the ordeal. Between Daniel's story, a reporter who interviewed the family, and parapyschologists commenting on both sides, the truth is lost with the house.

Through all the controversy, Daniel truly believes what his family experienced in that house was real. He is no where near okay with all that has happen to him. The children were not allowed to speak openly about the experiences once the media latched onto the story, so he has never had an outlet. His outlet got funneled into anger management issues that still resonate with him. His gaze is piercing, and when Eric Walter brings up a topic he isn't comfortable with, Daniel eyes flash and his mood shifts suddenly. It's very unsettling to watch.

It's difficult to decipher what Daniel is more upset by: the hauntings or the life he lived with his step father. What comes to surface is a damaged man with such psychological problems with family issues he never dealt with. Coupled with his experience in the house? His mind must be racing all the time. Eric Walter may have set out to uncover the truth behind those 28 days the Lutz family inhabited Amityville house, but instead he brought to light the real horror behind Daniel's experience.

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