"The Amityville Horror" scared audiences when it opened in 1979, but what was it like living in the home that inspired the hit horror flick?
A new documentary, "My Amityville Horror," which opens in select theaters and goes on-demand this Friday, tells the story of Danny Lutz, who moved into the house at 112 Ocean Avenue in Amityville, New York, in 1975.
Watch an exclusive clip from 'My Amityville Horror:'
The house, with its quarter-moon windows (which have since been replaced) that suggest the forbidding eyes of some demonic entity, first gained notoriety on Nov. 13, 1974, when Ronald DeFeo Jr., then 23, murdered his parents, two brothers, and two sisters in their beds. Ronald Jr., nicknamed Butch, was arrested for the hideous crimes, and the house went up for sale. “I believe there is such a thing as evil and I was a victim of that,” Lutz says in the film of his days-long stay at the house.
Things really got cooking when newlyweds George and Kathy Lutz moved in a year later with Kathy's three children from a previous marriage. They bought the place, called High Hopes (ha!), for a steal at $80,000, though they stayed for only 28 days. Apparently, whatever evil force inspired young Butch to take a shotgun to his kin was still lurking about in the house, purportedly causing furniture to move by itself, glowing red eyes to appear in the window, and some disembodied voice to exclaim, "Get out!" “I didn’t want to be the ‘Amityville Horror’ kid,” Lutz, the oldest sibling, says in the film.
Lutz, now 47 and working as a stonemason in Queens, maintains that there was something going on in the house. He describes -- with no trace of uncertainty -- being spiritually and emotionally abused by phantoms during his four-week residence at High Hopes. He also describes witnessing his stepfather, George, apparently the No. 1 target of the "presence," moving objects with his mind (practicing telekinesis) in the garage.
Director Eric Walter says he wanted "My Amityville Horror" to show the lingering psychological impact of the event on one of its witnesses (or is it participants?). "For me that's the real story, the real Amityville horror, to be living in the shadow of something for the rest of your life," he said to the New York Times.
"The Amityville Horror," as it has come to be known, has long been in the public consciousness, inspiring the 1979 film starring Margot Kidder and James Brolin, several sequels, and a 2005 remake starring Melissa George and Ryan Reynolds (who had almost as impressive a beard as Brolin's). People still seek out the house at 112 Ocean Avenue (even though it's now nearly unrecognizable), hoping to catch a glimpse, or at least a feeling, of whatever took hold of Butch DeFeo and sent the Lutzes fleeing into the night.
Watch the theatrical trailer for 'My Amityville Horror':