Review Date: April 30, 2005
Released by: MGM
Release date: 4/5/2005
MSRP: $39.96 (Box set)
Region 1, NTSC
Full Screen 1.33:1
While the merits of the films may be debatable, there is no doubting the fascinating tabloid fodder surrounding Amityville’s famous “haunted” house. Subject to several horrific and peculiar events, the house has had a notoriety that has stretched into successful books, films, court cases, television, and tourism. There is no doubting that Ronny DeFeo shot his entire family dead in the house, but what about the more sensational story of the Lutz family? There are several sides to the Lutz story, and MGM’s Amityville
box set bonus disc, Amityville Confidential
, aims to explore the true story that has become an enduring phenomenon. So popular the story that Michael Bay decided to remake it, and a sneak peek into the film has also been included on the disc. Put on your gloves and let’s leaf through these files.
The disc starts off with trailers for both The Amityville Horror
remake as well as Lucky McKee’s The Woods
. The Amityville trailer is then followed up with a five minute sneak peek into the making of the film, complete with behind-the-scenes footage and interviews with the principals. There is a nice amount of dailies and other production footage that helps to off-set the boredom of the interviewees. Ryan Reynolds and Melissa George are quick to discuss the legend of the true story, but also talk about how the house very much overshadows them as the main character. They basically spout off your standard EPK fluff, and the various producers interviewed don’t do much better. They talk about how the film was more true to the actual story than the original film, a claim which can be confirmed or denied by looking at the other two supplements on this disc.
The two other supplements are 42 minute television segments originally aired on The History Channel. The first is titled “Amityville: The Haunting”, and it provides quite a thorough look into the entire legend behind the small town New York haunted house. Considerable time is spent detailing the origin of the actual town of Amityville, as well as the bloody past that took place upon the ground that the Amityville house was built. Original home owners and a house moving are also covered before the segment goes in-depth with the DeFeo murders. Ronny’s lawyer, William Weber, talks about the case, and his word is intercut with actual audio tape confessions of DeFeo himself. It is learned that DeFeo was heavily into drugs at the time of the killings, which could easily explain the voices and such in his head apart from the usual haunted house claims.
The Lutz’s are then covered, and considering their story is the more controversial and debatable of the bunch, the majority of the time is spent documenting their horrors. George and Kathy Lutz are actually present for the show, which is the first time in twenty years that they have agreed to such an interview. Time has apparently been kind, since both come across very sincere and composed, believable even in spite of their outlandish claims. The king of the commentary, Dr. Hanz Holzer, also makes an appearance as well as a few others, as the whole Amityville phenomenon is looked at from a number of perspectives.
The aim of this segment was to provide a context for all the films and debates that have followed, and it more than succeeds in its goals. It is a very informative piece, backed with credible sources and sharp editing. Admittedly, the constant repetition of a limited number of B-roll pictures becomes a little tedious, the interview content is nevertheless brisk and always involving. Amityville had quite the history, and this segment compresses it to a very accessible 42 minutes.
Seeing all the facts presented in the documentary does make the remake seem a lot truer to the supposed “truth” behind the whole Amityville curse. The remake includes references to a boathouse drowning outside the home, the house’s origins on being built upon an ancient burial ground, the “High Hopes” sign that the DeFeo’s placed on their lawn, and even the legend behind the purported witchcraft icon, John Ketcham, who was apparently buried near the Amityville home. Although by no means a wholly accurate account of the Amityville lore, the remake nevertheless incorporates more truisms regarding the back story of the house than the original film does, and this documentary brings such a truth to light. It is fascinating stuff, no doubt.
While the first documentary was more a refresher on the whole story behind Amityville, “Amityville: Horror or Hoax” focuses more on the controversy and conflicting opinions that continue to surround the house today. Weber, Holzer and the Lutz’s all return for this documentary, as well as several other writers, psychical researchers and reporters who were all involved in the house’s media frenzy. While initially the segment overlaps with the information of the first film to establish context, it quickly moves on to debate many of the facts that were laid out in the first segment. Weber and others are quick to question the Lutz’s motives in moving into the house, with some claiming that they moved in simply to capitalize on the DeFeo murders for monetary gain. The Lutz’s dispel such claims, but money they most definitely did make from the whole story.
The segment goes to great lengths in exploring how the subject matter was commercialized, and several of the participants go to great length in refuting the validity of a number of claims. “The Amityville Horror Conspiracy” writer, Roxanne Kaplan, talks about changes made to the book that was supposedly “a true story” and how facts seemed to shift with each rewrite. The Lutz’s maintain their story, although admit that the media had construed their statements on more than one occasion.
Hostility can be felt throughout the piece, whether it be between the Lutz’s and Kaplan, the Lutz’s and Weber, or Weber and Holzer. Each person makes their case convincing, and the objective way the piece is effectively edited together makes it really tough to be persuaded either way. Although one would hope that such a show would finally expose the real truth behind Amityville, it instead introduces even more contradictory theories and claims. There is a confused and contorted development behind the legend of Amityville, and while it may not be clear cut, it nonetheless makes for entertaining viewing. Each person brings their own bit of researched fact and recollection, and it is tough to dispel anything that is said as outright lies. If nothing else, the two documentaries prove just how many sides each house and each story can have. The paint an endless shade of gray.
While the sneak peek into the making of the Amityville
remake may be lacking in content, the two included History Channel segments certainly aren’t. In an hour and a half, the two shows open the blinds into both the history of the Amityville home and the controversy surrounding its commercialization. The two segments move at a brisk pace, and include a large enough body of interviewees to leave few questions unanswered. It is first rate learning, two exhibits that perfectly give the context for the three films included in the box set.
Considering the set retails for a $39.99 for four discs and a $14 dollar movie ticket for the remake, that works out to a little over $6.00 a disc. Admittedly, the quality of the films themselves may not warrant much more of a selling price, but the quality of the overall set makes this something that I would recommend to those at all interested in the Amityville legend. The quality of the extras is commendable, the way it ties into the films themselves as well as offering insight on the actual history of Amityville. I came into this set not knowing much about the whole Amityville phenomenon, and I came out intrigued. Aside from the lack of a 3D version of Amityville 3-D
, MGM has produced a stellar little box set. It is a shame that it will probably be their last.
Supplements - A
- Running time - 1 hour and 35 minutes
- Not Rated
- 1 Disc
- Chapter Stops
- English stereo
- "On Location: The Amityville Horror (2005)" featurette
- "Amityville: The Haunting" episode
- "Amityville: Horror or Hoax?" episode
- Trailers for The Amityville Horror (2005) and The Woods