Monday, October 7, 2013

Horror Challenge #17: "My Amityville Horror"

Most of you have heard the story of the original Amityville Horror.  A young man shoots his entire family dead one night, and a year later, a family buys the house where this tragedy occurred.  That family, the Lutz family, lived in the house for just three weeks before they fled one night and then began claiming that horrible supernatural events had occurred at the house, which drove them to run for their lives.  I grew up with my mom telling me that this story was a load of crap.  She said that the young man who had killed his family was high on LSD, and that the Lutz family made the whole story up in order to make money.  there was nothing supernatural about it. 

I wasn't allowed to watch the movie, so all I really knew about this story was that it was apparently untrue (according to my mother, the expert).  When I finally did watch the movie as an adult, I was underwhelmed.  I appreciated that the family has sunk all their money into the home, and living from paycheck to paycheck, I can appreciate how scary that must have been.  The special effects didn't really seem very special to me, though, so the movie didn't resonate with me, and I didn't give much thought to what it would be like to live the actual story as it played out.

This documentary aims to give us an idea of exactly what it was like to watch the story play out, through the eyes of Daniel Lutz, the oldest child of the Lutz family, who all these years later wants the chance to finally tell his side of the story.  He claims that the supernatural events were not a hoax, that they actually happened exactly as his mother and stepfather described, but that his stepfather was a lying, abusive tyrant, not at all the loving caretaker he portrayed himself as in the stories he told after the family moved out of the house.

This documentary goes back and interviews the experts in the paranormal who were consulted when the story first broke, and they all seem to share the general consensus that they don't believe the story the family told, but they DO believe that Daniel Lutz believes it.  He was a young kid with an overbearing, abusive stepfather who put these ideas in his head, so they don't think he's lying, but they don't believe that the supernatural events occurred.  This actively pisses off Daniel Lutz, and at the end of the movie he faces off with the filmmakers and refuses to take a lie detector test.  They end up calling him out, basically calling him a liar, and he looks bitter and pissed off, which I'm sure he was.

What is really compelling about this movie is Daniel Lutz himself.  I don't know what to believe about the story but I tend to side with the experts, since no evidence of paranormal activity ever happened where anyone but the Lutz family could see it.  Like those experts, however, I believe that Daniel Lutz believes every word of his tale.  He's not lying or making this up to get notoriety.  He looks like a haunted man, and after hearing his story of life with his abusive stepfather, I have an idea of what haunts him.  While the family always claimed that they never believed in the supernatural until after their experience in the Amityville house, Daniel Lutz tells a different story, of how his stepfather owned many books on the supernatural, and the evidence seems to back this up.  Whatever Daniel Lutz went through as a kid, it has clearly scarred him, and I identify with that.  when he talks about how "these things happen, and they're not talked about, and they leave you an outcast, someone who can't talk with anyone about what you experienced because they won't believe you because they don't know what goes on in the world."  That resonates with me.  I feel horrible for everything Daniel Lutz endured, whatever that may have been, because whatever form that evil took, it's clear that he survived evil, and seeing how that scarred him may be one of the most frightening things I've ever seen in a movie.

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