Arrow in the Head reviews the docuseries Amityville: An Origin Story, which premieres on MGM+ this weekend
PLOT: A four-part docuseries digs into the troubling true stories behind The Amityville Horror.
REVIEW: The Amityville brand has gone completely out of control in recent years. Low budget filmmakers have been taking advantage of the fact that anyone can slap “Amityville” into the title of their movie, flooding the market with titles like Amityville in the Hood, Amityville in Space, Amityville Karen, Amityville Cop, Amityville Vampire, Amityville Shark House, and The Amityville Vibrator. I’m not saying these movies are bad. I haven’t seen them. But it’s clear that the Amityville name has drifted far away from the stories that made us take notice of that name in the first place. So even though we’ve heard the story of George and Kathy Lutz moving into a haunted house and we know the DeFeo family was murdered in that house, it was a smart idea on the part of MGM, the company that owns the rights to the core Amityville franchise, to put together Amityville: An Origin Story. A docuseries that takes us back to where this all began: 112 Ocean Avenue on New York’s Long Island.
Over the course of An Origin Story’s four episodes, director Jack Riccobono reminds us what made Amityville such a scary place. Through interviews with Lutz and DeFeo family friends, as well as Christopher Quaratino (formerly Christopher Lutz), who was a small child when his family briefly lived on Ocean Avenue, this series digs deep into both the DeFeo family murders and the haunting experiences the Lutzes claim to have had in the house the DeFeos were killed in. There’s even stock footage of an interview with convicted killer Ronnie DeFeo.
While some will accuse of the Lutzes of fabricating the haunting story, this docuseries doesn’t give a whole lot of air time to skepticism. In fact, it often seems intent on proving the haunting in an effort to creep out the viewer. The episodes were also edited with an aim to unnerve – so this isn’t the most snappily edited documentary you’ve ever seen. Lingering shots of rooms and items are supposed to set your nerves on edge, but if you’re not creeped out you’ll just be wishing they had cut these moments so the episodes would be a bit shorter. (Each one is around 50 minutes long.)
The series even covers potential explanations for the haunting, including the possibility that the house was built on a Native American burial ground – and therefore there’s an angry spirit that wants to take possession of males who live in the house to get revenge – or that George Lutz may have drawn evil spirits into the house by practicing Transcendental Meditation in an ill-advised way. It tells of the paranormal investigators that checked out the house, including the Warrens, who are now best known for inspiring the Conjuring franchise. And it covers the book deals individuals signed. The movie deals. The world tour George and Kathy Lutz went on to tell the story of their haunting.
Skepticism mainly comes up in the wake of the book publications and the release of the first two movies. We’re shown that the family who moved into 112 Ocean Avenue after the Lutzes never experienced anything out of the ordinary. There’s a fascinating bit of archive footage where a young girl who was friends with one of the murdered DeFeo daughters shows off the infamous “Red Room” in the basement, revealing it to be an innocuous storage space. The most interesting comments come from Quaratino, who says strange things did happen in the Amityville house, but George Lutz enhanced the story with plenty of fiction. Which Quaratino, clearly not a George Lutz fan, is not happy about at all.
A bit could have been trimmed from Amityville: An Origin Story, but overall its four episodes were an interesting viewing experience. And in these days when “Amityville” doesn’t mean much anymore, this is a good refresher on why the village first caught the world’s attention.
Amityville: An Origin Story premieres on MGM+ on April 23.
Originally published at https://www.joblo.com/amityville-an-origin-story-review/