Friday, April 21, 2023

Amityville: An Origin Story, on MGM+

The realtor did indeed disclose the brutal mass murder of the DeFeo family at 112 Ocean Avenue, but like all good New Yorkers, the Lutz Family bought it anyway, because it was a whole lot of house, for not a lot of money. It is hard to blame them—it had water access and a boathouse. Of course, their experiences there became the stuff of a best-selling book and a horror franchise. It even had its own episode of In Search Of…, which covered the case much more economically than the four-part documentary, Amityville: An Origin Story, directed by Jack Riccobono, but the first episode is still pretty creepy when it premieres Sunday on MGM+.

Several years ago, Daniel Lutz, the oldest son of Kathleen Lutz and stepfather George Lutz, told his story in
My Amityville Horror. This time around, their middle child, now known as Christopher Quarantino tells the tale from his perspective. The first episode does not even get into the notorious “Red Room,” but it touches the flies, the cold spots, the ill-fated attempts at blessings, and the previous DeFeo murders. Much of the notoriety surrounding the house overlooks the very real true crime tragedy that occurred there. Origin Story does not fully do it justice yet, at least not in the first installment.

It also rather unflatteringly portrays the parish priest, Father Pecoraro, blaming him for not being more proactive exorcising whatever demons haunted the property. As an interesting counterpoint, the
In Search Of episode somewhat defends Father Pecoraro (who appeared in silhouetted interview segments), suggesting supernatural forces prevented the Lutz family’s further attempts to communicate with him.

Regardless, probably the best aspects of
Origin Story so far, are the connections it draws between the supernatural horrors ascribed to the house and 1970s counter-culture explorations of alternate spirituality and witchcraft. According to friends interviewed on-camera, George Lutz practiced transcendental meditation and once sought out then-prominent occult author and coven founder Raymond Buckland.

Based on episode one,
Origin Story is not nearly as exploitative as Daniel Farands’ The Amityville Murders, which also happens to be deadly dull. Stylistically, it is even spookier and more atmospheric than the In Search Of episode, but it is always hard to be Leonard Nimoy in a turtleneck and a corduroy jacket. Recommended so far, for horror fans, Amityville: An Origin Story starts streaming Sunday (4/23) on MGM+.