March 15, 2013
Daniel Lutz as Himself
Laura DiDio as Herself
Those interested in the validity of true-to-life ghost stories will want to reserve an hour and a half to see Eric Walter’s documentary, which depicts witness testimony about the Amityville haunting. It is not meant to function as a History Channel special on the subject and assumes viewers are aware of the paranormal events that occurred in a house in the Amityville community of Long Island between 1975 and 1976 (on which the contemporary classic, The Amityville Horror, is based). Since their occurrence, one question has continued to dog those who look into the evidence and testimonies: Real or hoax? Walter seeks out the missing link that may shed some light on the debate – Daniel Lutz.
Daniel is the son of Kathy Lutz and stepson to George Lutz. The Lutzes moved into the same house where Butch DeFeo – a deranged 23 year-old – shot his mother, father, two brothers and two sisters while they slept. Two months after unpacking the Lutzes fled the house in the middle of the night. They kept a low profile until they were approached by paranormal sympathizer Laura DiDio for an interview. George and Kathy were the only ones who spoke of the bizarre events that led to their unceremonious departure. Their confirmation of paranormal activity never wavered. Yet, their three children remained silent until after their deaths and Daniel agreed to this film.
This is not a documentary about the Amityville haunting, but rather one man’s perspective on them and the influence of his psychologically abusive father. It is not a perspective balanced with past testimony from his parents, testimony from Butch DeFeo (who now claims no supernatural phenomena influenced his actions), or a shred of hard evidence. Director Walter makes no attempt to find a solution to the debate, but merely inserts Daniel Lutz’s perspective and evaluates that perspective. Walter incorporates conversations between those who were involved in the paranormal investigation into the house and journalists who reported on the house – some sympathetic to explanations of the paranormal and others not so much. Yet, these conversations are only meant to place Daniel’s testimony within the context of the debate.
Given the material Walter was working with he did a decent job of organizing it in the most compelling way possible. The problem is that Daniel Lutz strays into irrelevant minutia at times, which can drag for those interested not in him as a person, but for what he can confirm or deny about the supernatural occurrences that transpired in the Amityville house. At times Daniel is reluctant to speak of them and at other times he is combative with Walter (the off-camera interviewer) and even the audience. Some events are poorly articulated without any coherent organization to them, making it difficult for the audience to temporally place them. This effect is probably due to the schema Daniel formed about his time in the Amityville house and his disorganized rendering of events may be reflective of the chaos imbued in the events themselves… or he could be making things up.
Yet, Daniel and his supporting cast of journalists and paranormal experts spend more time dissecting the strange nature and bizarre behavior of George Lutz and relating the supernatural occurrences to his dark and forceful presence. It is too mild a descriptive to say that Daniel had a combative relationship with his stepfather. He clearly associates him with any and all evils that conspired to possess him during his stay in the house.
Is Daniel’s testimony convincing? I’ll leave that to you. It’s nuanced. He provides information directly or indirectly that could be used to support or oppose claims to the supernatural. Walter qualifies this information with the testimony of others – including a psychiatric evaluation of Walter’s claimed experiences, but … well… you’ll just have to decide for yourself.
Bottom Line: As a documentary, this is an average one about a somewhat interesting individual. Walter’s interview of Daniel Lutz and other individuals provides a well-rounded picture of the individual and the influences on his testimony. I’m bumping his rating up to 3 Freak Heads, however because Walter finally got one of the Lutz kids to talk – a fair achievement.