We come now to one of the odder curlicues in the world of Amityvillania, a film that I wasn't sure I was going to include in this retrospective until the moment before I hit "play". I speak of My Amityville Horror, a 2012 documentary (and a little bit to my surprise, I don't even feel a guilty hollow in my stomach for using that word) about Daniel Lutz, eldest of the three children of Kathleen Lutz and stepfather George Lutz during the 1975 events that gave rise to the 1977 book The Amityville Horror and all the wretchedness that has sprung from it. The film is in no way, shape, or form a "horror movie" (which I never expected), nor is it a trashy cash-in allowing an adult to tawdrily profit off of the infamy of his childhood (which, frankly, is exactly what I expected). It's a slightly sad, occasionally terrifying snapshot of a man who was damaged in some extremely deep-rooted way as a child - because his family was haunted by demons or because his stepfather was an abusive egomaniac are the two options that most readily present themselves from the in-film evidence - and has, in his 40s, made the personally unfortunate decision to allow himself to be psychoanalysed under the leering lens of director Eric Walter's camera.

If that sounds like code for "the whole thing feels a bit creepily invasive in ways that are maybe not okay", that's what I was aiming for. In truth, I'm not quite sure what to make of My Amityville Horror on a whole lot of levels. One thing we know: Daniel Lutz signed off on it. Another thing we know: Daniel Lutz seems incredibly distressed by the questions an off-camera Walter keeps throwing his way, and at the very end of the film, that distress flares out in an angry glare right into the camera and an implicit threat against the director. It's extremely difficult to say if Lutz's behavior is entirely candid, or if he's playing things up for the camera - as human beings have done damn near since photography's invention. He's certainly not a terribly nice man from what we see onscreen, snappish and defensive in places that no reasonable person would be.

But of course, the whole point is that he's not all that reasonable anymore. My Amityville Horror more or less takes the form of series of conversations involving Lutz, the documentary crew, and psychologist Susan Bartell, where he resentfully forces himself to recap the standard details about inexplicable flies, demon pigs, telekinetic doings, and George Lutz's own controlling tendencies, with the grimacing anguish of a trauma survivor. It's a queasy blend of feeling like we're invading his intimate space mixed with the vague understanding that he has, after all, invited us to do so. We also get some contextualising material around the edges including some of the reporters involved in the Amityville story when it was new, as well as footage of George and Kathy Lutz's initial national tour with their story of a haunted house that drove them out into the Long Island winter after just 28 days. Plus, some material with Lutz meeting Lorraine Warren for the first time since Those Days, a scene that backfires upon the filmmakers in interesting, though largely unproductive ways.

The film's fascination as a character study is the main draw - most of the rest is going to come as no real revelation to anybody with the inclination to watch a 2012 film with "Amityville in the title" - though it's largely inconclusive on what exactly it thinks it's studying. There's a constant tension, never resolved, between wanting to present The Facts in the Case of Daniel Lutz, and uncritically accepting that obviously the Amityville house was haunted - the only onscreen skeptic is presented with a distinct lack of commitment by the filmmakers - and it's quite apparent that the finished project was designed to appeal to the audience that firmly believe that 112 Ocean Ave. was a pit of demonic energy and has believed so ever since 1977. At the same time, little bits keep poking in at the edges to imply that the filmmakers themselves believe it's all so much hokum.

This is not a productive split in identity and goals, and the result is a film that feels openly pandering to its subjects, which just increases the sense that we're watching something a little bit too far on the wrong side of exploitation. And I mean, damn, how is one supposed to defend such a things on the grounds that Daniel Lutz is a tremendously interesting, at times moving and at times deeply off-putting interview subject? But he is. My Amityville Horror doesn't add anything to the over-stuffed corpus of Amityville media, but what it does do, terribly well, is to remind us that when all is said and done, real human lives were involved in the whole sordid thing, and those human lives were severely negatively impacted. Whatever actually happened to Daniel Lutz, it left him shaken and doubtful, burning with hatred towards George Lutz and visibly unwilling to trust anyone who evidences even a molecule of ambivalence about anything he says. It's generically artless, and the filmmakers' lack of journalistic discipline is plastered across the whole thing, but it succeeded at making me feel sad and sorry, and boy, if there are emotions that I would have assumed would be completely off the table during this whole Amityville thing...

Reviews in this series
The Amityville Horror (Rosenberg, 1979)
Amityville II: The Possession (Damiani, 1982)
Amityville 3-D (Fleischer, 1983)
Amityville 4: The Evil Escapes (Stern, 1989)
The Amityville Curse (Berry, 1990)
Amityville 1992: It's About Time (Randel, 1992)
Amityville: A New Generation (Murlowski, 1993)
Amityville Dollhouse (White, 1996)
The Amityville Horror (Douglas, 2005)
The Amityville Haunting (Meed, 2011)
My Amityville Horror (Walter, 2012)