The faux documentary craze has gripped modern horror. Popularized by “The Blair Witch Project” and, more recently, the series of successful “Paranormal Activity” films, the “found footage” aesthetic adds some level of authenticity to horror films, allowing modern audiences to better identify with things that go bump in the night. “My Amityville Horror,” premiering at the Fantasia Film Festival, is the real deal: an actual documentary chronicling an infamous case that’s been immortalized by pop culture.
Directed by Eric Walter, “My Amityville Horror” is the first hand account of Daniel Lutz, who as a child moved into the infamous Long Island home with his family. The house had been the scene of a series of grisly murders a little more than a year before. That night, 23-year-old Ronald DeFeo killed six members of his family as they slept, later claiming that demonic voices had compelled him to carry out the slayings. The Lutz family moved into the house and didn’t think much of its hairy past, but ended up fleeing the house (and losing a considerable amount of money) after only 28 days.
The tragedy, and the supposed haunting that caused the Lutz family to take flight, became the basis of a best-selling non-fiction book by Jay Anson (with full participation of the Lutz family) and a series of popular feature films. The last of which, released in 2005, is a remake of the original 1977 film and features explicit dramatizations of both the murders and haunting. (Starring a surprisingly intense Ryan Reynolds and written by splatter-punk aficionado Scott Kosar, it’s not a bad little fright flick, especially when comparing it to the hopelessly cheesy original.)
What makes “My Amityville Horror” so unique is this first person perspective by someone who was in the house – who witnessed the things his parents claimed, time and time again, really happened, and what it was like to live outside of the house in the firestorm of media publicity and pop culture notoriety. In short: it sounds like a hell of a tale, a real life American horror story as psychological as it is phantasmagorical. We can’t wait to see it. At the very least it will probably be less “documentary”-looking than most major studio horror films released these days.
“My Amityville Horror” has its first screening on Sunday, July 22 at 10:10 PM at J.A. De Seve Theater.