On this edition of Parallax Views, filmmaker Jack Riccobono joins us to discuss his new MGM+ documentary miniseries Amityville: An Origin Story. Given the glut of Amityville movies, books, and documentaries that have come out through the years one could be forgiven for assuming Amityville: An Origin Story would be just another retread of the same old territory. After all, the Amityville name has now inspired such direct-to-video/streaming flicks as Amityville Cop, Amityville Moon, Amityville in Space, and, believe it or not, Amityville Vibrator. In that way many have come to view anything with the Amityville moniker to be a joke. Amityville: An Origin Story, however, manages to defy expectations and offer a fresh, even thought-provoking perspective on the infamous house on 112 Ocean Avenue by exploring how The Amityville Horror, from the brutal DeFeo family murders to the alleged haunting of the Lutz family and all the books and movies that followed, became a pop culture phenomena that’s seared into the collective consciousness of America.
Jack and I discuss many different facets of the docuseries including:
– The culture of the 70s: rise of interest in occultism, mass institutional distrust due to the Vietnam War and Watergate, the popularity of horror movies like The Exorcist, Rosemary’s Baby, and The Omen; how this all created the perfect storm for The Amityville Horror to make an impact on the zeitgeist
– The brutal family annihilation murder of the DeFeo Family and its perpetrator Ronald DeFeo, Jr.; family dysfunction and family disintegration in the stories of both the DeFeo and the Lutz families; the lingering questions about possible organized crime/mob ties to the DeFeo Murders; the rare archival interviews of Ronald DeFeo, Jr. contained in Amityville: An Origin Story; discussion of Amityville II: The Possession, the cult horror movie based on the DeFeo murders; Amityville: An Origin Story‘s interview with Diane Franklin, who played Ronald DeFeo, Jr.’s sister Dawn DeFeo in Amityville II: The Possession; Amityville: An Origin Story‘s exclusive interview with Tommy Maher, a personal friend of Ronnie DeFeo, Jr.
– The alleged haunting of the Lutz Family; paranormal investigator and famed ghost hunter Hans Holzer’s thoughts on the Amityville House; Christopher Quaratino, son of Kathy Lutz, and the secrets of his stepfather George Lutz; why the documentary goes beyond asking the old question of whether the Amityville Haunting was “real” or a “hoax”; The Amityville Horror and the birth of the “Based on a True Story” marketing; demonologists Ed and Lorraine Warren, now famous for being the basis of the hit The Conjuring movie franchise, and their investigation of the Amityville House; Amityville: An Origin Story‘s interview with Lutz family friend Carol Soviero
– The role famed filmmaker John Carpenter, director of the suspenseful horror classic Halloween (1978), plays in Amityville: An Origin Story
– The Amityville House as a character in an of itself; Amityville: An Origin Story‘s exploration of the idea of home, real estate, and the warping of the American dream through the funhouse mirror of the Amityville story; the difficulty of living in the Amityville house today due to tourists and the general cultural baggage the house carries; the movie’s tagline “For God’s Sake, Get Out!” and the infamous Eddie Murphy about The Amityville Horror
– The role of greed and profiteering in the perpetuation of Amityville saga in popular culture
– The Amityville Horror and the ancient Indian burial ground trope in horror as it relates to both settler-colonial guilt and bigotry against Native Americans
– The Amityville Horror in relation to conversations about the concept of a “post-truth” era; parallels between the 70s and today and the continued cultural resonance that the Amityville saga carries even now
– The Amityville saga as a microcosm of the idea that there’s “no new stories to be told”
– Amityville: An Origin Story as part true crime documentary, part paranormal documentary recounting the Lutz Family’s 28 days in the 112 Ocean Avenue house, part investigative journalism, and part cultural history documentary exploring The Amityville Horror‘s significance to cinema
– And much, much more!