My Amityville Horror (2012) – or – True terror.

Day 6 of Toronto After Dark 2012 started off with My Amityville Horror. This is a documentary about Daniel Lutz, one of the children that lived through the actual Amityville haunting.

35 years after living through what some believe was a haunting in Amityville, Daniel Lutz opens up about his life, family, and the terror that he endured in the infamous Amityville house.

Daniel Lutz probably isn’t quite like anybody you’ve ever met before, and he’s got plenty of reasons to be that way. Whether you believe what happened in that house in Amityville, you can see that Daniel suffered a traumatic childhood.

This is director Eric Walter’s first documentary, and it’s an incredibly well done and  fascinating look into a much publicized case. You couldn’t have a film like this without discussing the actual events that happened in the Amityville house, but Walter leaves all of that up to Lutz and some of the people involved with investigating the case. Moments that you may have heard before are included, but My Amityville Horror reaches well beyond the scary story we all know. As Daniel Lutz speaks about his life, we learn more about the very troubled family life that he had at the time. He has an intense hatred of his step-father George Lutz, and the damaging relationship the two had may have proven to be more destructive than the supernatural events Daniel speaks about.

Daniel Lutz holds a picture of himself as a child.

The most fascinating aspect of the entire documentary is how even it is. If you believe that something happened in the Amityville house, Lutz’ story is easily believable. At the very least, he’s convinced that something happened to him. On the other hand, if you believe that there was something else going on, you can find plenty of support for that opinion. Daniel and George did not like each other, leading to a very troubled childhood for Daniel. It’s quite possible the things that apparently happened are made up of different pieces of Daniel’s life, and the story that George Lutz eventually told the world. There’s no clear answer, and never will be, but this doc allows Daniel to tell the story that he believes, whether we do, or don’t, is up to us.

Whether you believe Daniel Lutz or not, this is his truth, and it's compelling to listen to.

There are a few problems towards the end of the doc, but it’s hard to know if this is an oversight, or just a part of allowing Daniel to tell his story. Daniel speaks about leaving home, and about an incident where he was left in a church school for a year while his parents toured the world telling their story. There aren’t really dates presented for these moments, so it begins to seem like they’re overlapping. That leads to questions about Daniel speaking truthfully. In fact, it doesn’t seem like many dates are used at all in the film, except for some major events like the family moving into the house. It causes the story to swirl around itself, making it difficult to put things in any sort of order. Perhaps Daniel doesn’t recall the exact moment in time things happened, but if that’s the case, can we be sure about anything he says?

Overall, a fascinating documentary. Daniel Lutz is a man who has seen, and done, many things that we may never know about. The story, and Lutz’ presence, are strong, and it’s hard to not believe him. If you have even a passing interest in the supernatural or the possibility of the psychology involved, I would suggest seeking this film out.

Under the marquee – Will

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