Reviews - Specialty Releases


Film Review: My Amityville Horror

Unusual documentary should please both believers and die-hard skeptics.

March 14, 2013

-By John DeFore


filmjournal/photos/stylus/1373338-My_Amityville_Md.jpg

For movie details, please click here.

One of history's most famous haunted houses casts a long shadow in My Amityville Horror, Eric Walter's tantalizing doc about Daniel Lutz, the eldest of the three siblings who shared that storied abode. Whether seen as an investigation of the occult, a portrait of a deeply troubled man or something in between, the canny and stylishly shot film has a broad enough appeal to justify a limited theatrical run before what should be a leggy video career.

Lutz speaks publicly for the first time here, having viewed his indirect fame as "an unfortunate gift" hovering over him for nearly four decades since the experiences that spawned the best-seller The Amityville Horror and its film adaptation. Now a UPS driver living in Queens, New York, he's undeniably haunted by something, be it ghosts or the memory of a stepfather he would have done anything to escape.

Walter's film initially looks like a credulous, creepy account of the extreme phenomena—levitating beds, a plague of flies, a garage door with a mind of its own—Lutz claims to have witnessed, and does a fine job in this mode. Given horror cinema's long-running infatuation with documentary style, it's easy to imagine fright fans embracing the real thing.

But the more we watch Lutz, who seethes at the memory of his mother's second husband George and carries a Long Island-sized chip on his shoulder when questioned about ghosts, the more we wonder how reliable his memory is. His stepfather, we're told here, had an interest in the occult long before moving to 112 Ocean Avenue (though he denied it at the time); could the supernatural be a convenient mental peg to replace memories of a different kind of domestic torment?

Walter interviews mental-health professionals who clearly think so, but he also spends time with the journalists and paranormalists who covered the Amityville story in the first place. Though skeptical to varying degrees, many recount experiences they had in the house that defy easy explanation.

Lutz is a highly engaging subject who only becomes more fascinating as the doc progresses, but Walter's most colorful supporting character is Lorraine Warren, the "demonologist" who investigated the house in 1976. Now in her 80s, the true believer keeps roosters inside her house and has a basement stuffed with supernatural artifacts. Even viewers who wouldn't believe in ghosts if one tapped them on the shoulder will be fascinated to watch Warren and Lutz sharing a reverent moment with what she swears is a splinter of the cross Jesus died on.
The Hollywood Reporter


Film Review: My Amityville Horror

Unusual documentary should please both believers and die-hard skeptics.

March 14, 2013

-By John DeFore


filmjournal/photos/stylus/1373338-My_Amityville_Md.jpg

For movie details, please click here.

One of history's most famous haunted houses casts a long shadow in My Amityville Horror, Eric Walter's tantalizing doc about Daniel Lutz, the eldest of the three siblings who shared that storied abode. Whether seen as an investigation of the occult, a portrait of a deeply troubled man or something in between, the canny and stylishly shot film has a broad enough appeal to justify a limited theatrical run before what should be a leggy video career.

Lutz speaks publicly for the first time here, having viewed his indirect fame as "an unfortunate gift" hovering over him for nearly four decades since the experiences that spawned the best-seller The Amityville Horror and its film adaptation. Now a UPS driver living in Queens, New York, he's undeniably haunted by something, be it ghosts or the memory of a stepfather he would have done anything to escape.

Walter's film initially looks like a credulous, creepy account of the extreme phenomena—levitating beds, a plague of flies, a garage door with a mind of its own—Lutz claims to have witnessed, and does a fine job in this mode. Given horror cinema's long-running infatuation with documentary style, it's easy to imagine fright fans embracing the real thing.

But the more we watch Lutz, who seethes at the memory of his mother's second husband George and carries a Long Island-sized chip on his shoulder when questioned about ghosts, the more we wonder how reliable his memory is. His stepfather, we're told here, had an interest in the occult long before moving to 112 Ocean Avenue (though he denied it at the time); could the supernatural be a convenient mental peg to replace memories of a different kind of domestic torment?

Walter interviews mental-health professionals who clearly think so, but he also spends time with the journalists and paranormalists who covered the Amityville story in the first place. Though skeptical to varying degrees, many recount experiences they had in the house that defy easy explanation.

Lutz is a highly engaging subject who only becomes more fascinating as the doc progresses, but Walter's most colorful supporting character is Lorraine Warren, the "demonologist" who investigated the house in 1976. Now in her 80s, the true believer keeps roosters inside her house and has a basement stuffed with supernatural artifacts. Even viewers who wouldn't believe in ghosts if one tapped them on the shoulder will be fascinated to watch Warren and Lutz sharing a reverent moment with what she swears is a splinter of the cross Jesus died on.
The Hollywood Reporter
Post a Comment
Asterisk (*) is a required field.
* Author: 
Rate This Article: (1=Bad, 5=Perfect)

*Comment:
 

More Specialty Releases

Calvary
Film Review: Calvary

An invidious, enervating piece of work blessedly relieved by Brendan Gleeson’s empathetic portrayal of a worldly priest confronting the sins of the world. More »

Rich Hill
Film Review: Rich Hill

This study of teens trying to make it in a very depressed and depressing heartland would have benefited from more hard info and less pictorial meandering. More »

Child of God
Film Review: Child of God

Depravity abounds in this James Franco-directed adaptation of Cormac McCarthy’s novel, which despite a committed performance by Scott Haze proves a one-note endurance test. More »

Cabin Fever: Patient Zero
Film Review: Cabin Fever: Patient Zero

A return to the stripped–down ferocity of Eli Roth's no-frills 2002 shocker, Cabin Fever: Patient Zero (which the title suggests is a prequel, though it doesn't really feel like one) lacks originality but delivers the body-horror goods far better than genre minimalist Ti West's Cabin Fever 2: Spring Break (2009), a broadly campy spin on ’70s high-school horror clichés. More »

ADVERTISEMENT



REVIEWS

Get On Up
Film Review: Get On Up

Chadwick Boseman is sensational in this multi-faceted portrait of troubled, pioneering soul-music giant James Brown. More »

Guardians of the Galaxy review
Film Review: Guardians of the Galaxy

With Marvel’s backing, cult filmmaker James Gunn blasts off for the stars and takes audiences along for a wild, funny ride. More »

Player for the Film Journal International website.


ADVERTISEMENT



INDUSTRY GUIDES

» Blue Sheets
FJI's guide to upcoming movie releases, including films in production and development. Check back weekly for the latest additions.

» Distribution Guide
» Equipment Guide
» Exhibition Guide

ORDER A PRINT SUBSCRIPTION

Film Journal International

Subscribe to the monthly print edition of Film Journal International and get the full visual impact of this valuable resource for the cinema business.

» Click Here

SPONSORSHIP OPPORTUNITIES

Learn how to promote your company at the Film Expo Group events: ShowEast, CineEurope, and CineAsia.

» Click Here