Wednesday, April 24, 2024

'Amityville: An Origin Story' brings 'documentary rigor' to familiar tale


Long Island’s most famous haunted house is back in the spotlight for a new four-part documentary series, “Amityville: An Origin Story,” premiering April 23 at 10 p.m. on streamer MGM+.

According to Brooklyn-based executive producer and director Jack Ricobono, the series will bring a “documentary rigor” to the events behind “The Amityville Horror,” the 1977 bestselling book and hit 1979 film adaptation. “There are now over 40 movies made with ‘Amityville’ in the title,” he said, “and they keep veering further and further away from any factual reality.”

The horrific tale of the now-legendary Dutch colonial at 112 Ocean Avenue in the quiet suburb of Amityville began in late 1974, when Ronald DeFeo, Jr. shot his parents and four younger siblings in their beds. The following year, the house was purchased by George and Kathy Lutz, who moved in with Kathy’s three children from a previous marriage. What Lutzes said to experience there – demonic voices, ghostly apparitions, the presence of an evil pig named Jody – served as the basis for an apparently non-fiction book written by Jay Anson. The latter film, starring James Brolin and Margot Kidder, earned $86 million and earned an Oscar nomination for Lalo Schifrin’s score.

Journalists poked holes in Lutz’s story, and a lawyer involved with the book said it was all a fabrication “over many bottles of wine”. Lawsuits followed; Lutz divorced. Nevertheless, the term “Amityville” became an enduring horror-movie brand, slapped onto sequels, spinoffs, and countless projects that had little or no connection to the original material. Most recently, the “Conjuring” film franchise centered on Ed and Lorraine Warren, paranormal investigators who were among the first to witness the Amityville Haunting.

According to Ricobono, “Amityville: An Origin Story” includes several interviews with people connected to the events, including DeFeo’s childhood friend Tommy Maher; Carol Soviero, a Lutz family friend; and Cathy’s son Christopher Quaratino, who was 7 when he lived in the house. The series was filmed in Brookhaven, Glen Cove, Old Westbury, and Amityville, although viewers will not see the original house, which no longer has its distinctive jack-o’-lantern windows. Ricobono says he used a similar-looking Dutch Colonial in Douglaston, Queens, as a stand-in.

Rather than attempt to confirm or disprove Lutz’s story, says Ricobono, “Amityville: An Origin Story” will place it in the context of the 1970s fad, when 60s hippie mysticism combined with the occult. had started giving way to attraction. , (He cites the hysteria surrounding the 1973 horror film “The Exorcist” as an example.) The unfathomable tragedy of the DeFeo murders, suggests Rikobono, may have led the public to seek answers outside the realm of proven facts. headed for.

“There’s some really interesting resonance between the ’70s and our current moment,” says Rikobono. “I think we live in a moment with a lot of anxiety. And horror is such an incredible genre to explore and express anxiety, both personal and societal.