Sunday Streaming:: My Amityville Horror (2012)

If you wanted to trap me and keep me prisoner it would be easy. All you’d have to do is a put a T.V. in the room you desire to detain me in and have that T.V. playing CELEBRITY GHOST STORIES, PARANORMAL WITNESS, A HAUNTING or anything else of that ilk. I will be trapped. I will be incapable of escape as long as a supernatural eyewitness show is playing. I love ghost stories. I love hearing people recount frightening things that happened to them (hence this site). I am your best audience if you have a scary story to tell. I will believe you! All you need do is be sincere! MY AMITYVILLE HORROR is fascinating but only because I will behave like a jolly raccoon toward any Amityville crumb that is flung at me. Beyond that, it’s undeniably unsatisfying. “High Hopes” indeed.

On paper the thing can’t loose. Who wouldn’t want to have a conversation with the eldest son of the infamous Lutz family who spent roughly a month being terrorized in the world’s most haunted abode? The only trouble is Daniel Lutz is the type of guy that if you bumped into him on the street and he said, “Hey, buddy can I talk to you?” the first thought that would pop into your head would be, “Oh geez, here comes a spiel!” He does not instill confidence; rather, one just hopes they can squirm away from him without having bought a used car. I can’t blame Daniel for this documentary feeling weak though; he’s obviously been around the block and has learned to fill his pockets with as many meatballs as he can until someone flags him. It’s not his fault director ERIC WALTER seems too intimidated to cut through the subterfuge. I guess a documentary is supposed to just present the facts and not push any agenda but does that mean it has to be completely directionless? I don’t need to be shown that Dan can play guitar. I assumed as much at soon as I saw him.

I don’t know enough about his experience to call Daniel Lutz a liar. I do know enough to say that he exhibits every cliché giveaway that a seasoned con man would. He’s defensive, he jumps to add extra detail when he senses he’s flailing and he’s quick to imply that there’s something inadequate about the listener if they fail to believe him. There is at least one moment where he comes off as genuine, Dan is recounting an incident at the house where the garage door was opening and slamming shut on its own accord. The family dog tries to jump a fence to escape the insanity only to end up nearly hanging itself on its own leash. This is the incident that has left Dan with the most emotional damage, his personal ground zero. He has been tellingly haunted by nightmares of it for decades. Sometimes he dreams he is the dog. This is beautiful to me! What a perfect representation of Dan’s ordeal! He, like the dog, tried to escape the house only to find himself on a short leash choking. There’s the heart of the movie! But no, let’s not talk about that. Let’s take Dan to the world’s most transparent psychologist who blunders through lame, “I’ll just repeat what you said with affirmation” therapy. Dan: I’m angry. Psychologist: It sounds like you’re angry. Dan: It was really frustrating. Therapist: Wow, it sounds like you were really frustrated! There is no reason for this (his first!) session to be in the movie. It can only go nowhere and so it does.

So why the heck am I making this a Sunday Streaming pick if Dan is as shady as a willow tree, the director is a too- passive bystander and even the appearance of Lorraine Warren fails to make things seem anything less than a grasping at straws (in this case, magic splinters from Jesus’ cross) pitch for semi-relevance? I dunno. If you have Netflix Streaming it’s already sorta paid for and is kinda free-ish and I say that’s the right price! I hate to sound so negative but I would have loved to believe Dan’s story if only the cost wasn’t being left feeling like a strong-armed chump.

In the absence of anything mind blowing I suppose I was supposed to walk away happy with the newfound knowledge that George Lutz was a crappy step dad and the house was a breeding ground for garden-variety dysfunction. Take a number with the, “My old man was a bastard” story buddy- I’m here for the demon pig! (That reminds me, Dan does mention our pal Jodie and describes the porcine superstar as “a cartoon pig.” How trippy is that? And how maddening that he’s not pressed to elaborate!) Oh, heck, I’m cursed! I’ll always be interested in anything AMITYVILLE! I can’t help it! It’s such a big part of my childhood. If you want something fulfilling though this ain’t it! I suggest THE HAUNTING OF RODDY PIPER instead.

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Karswell
Karswell
8 years ago

Hey, I just watched this yesterday! I agree with you about it being ultimately unsatisfying. But I think I read it a little differently than you did, and came away with a slightly different impression.

**SPOILERS**

To start with, as much as I love ghost stories (and I really, really do), I came into the movie already convinced that nothing supernatural happened at the Amityville house. So I wasn’t approaching it from that perspective. I was more interested in hearing the story of how living in that house and the subsequent media attention affected Daniel Lutz, and for me, the way that played out was the most interesting part of the film.

What stood out most to me was how much visceral hatred Dan still has for George, and how- yes- haunted he looks when he talks about him. Like you say, the director was evidently too intimidated by Dan to delve further into what actually went on between them; but let me just say that anything a stepdad does to make a 15-year-old boy leave home to go live in the desert can’t be benign.

I don’t think Dan is lying about what happened in the house; I think he really believes it, which is why the whole question at the end about the polygraph is moot – all it would do is measure whether Dan believes it’s true, and I’m persuaded he does. (That doesn’t mean he hasn’t consciously embellished parts of it, just that he has managed to convince himself of the core of the story over time.) But I also think he believes it because it’s easier for him to believe George was an occultist who could move objects with his mind than to accept that George could have abused him without the help of dark forces. So much of Dan’s intimidating posturing reflects someone who was once in a position where he couldn’t defend himself and is trying to make up for it. I found the unspoken details of the relationship between Dan and George deeply sad and chilling.

But I loved the part about the dream! That was amazing. I really wanted to let Lorraine’s poor chickens out for a run around the yard, though.

Karswell
Karswell
8 years ago

” I love the images from that time period because they feel like a shared past.”

Right??? Especially the actual house photos themselves. When they showed all the interior shots, it was like seeing pictures of a friend’s house from when I was a kid- so familiar!

Brother Bill
8 years ago

Watched this last week and pretty much agree with your take.

But before watching this I never realized how absolutely horrifying the INTERIOR DESIGN of that house was! The wallpaper, the carpet, the light fixtures… its a funhouse at the Carnival of the Damned in there.

Chuckles72
Chuckles72
8 years ago

Brother Bill – you should check the house out now. It has been completely remodeled and these days is inhospitable to all but the most WASP-ish demons (or very assimilated Dybbuks).

If I owned the place I’s put the quarter-round windows back in – the front does not look right without them – gawkers be damned!

zoe
zoe
8 years ago

Did you catch the Annabelle the doll cameo? I saw that and thought “I guess that’s the closest we’re ever gonna get to Unkle Lancifer’s Jodie the Pig & Annabelle cartoon show!!”

When Daniel mentions he works for UPS, well, now I’m just going to wonder what weirdo pasts my local drivers have!