New Amityville Doc Leads Launch of Discovery’s Streaming Service
A new documentary on the most infamous haunted house in America will be released next week on an all-new streaming service.
When discovery+ launches on January 4, one of the first programs available for streaming will be Amityville Horror House, the latest in the “Shock Docs” series. It follows Devil’s Road: The True Story of Ed and Lorraine Warren, which debuted on Travel Channel back on Labor Day.
In a release, Discovery says the “Shock Docs” series “journeys back to the most infamous horror cases our country has ever known, taking a fresh look at true and terrifying tales of paranormal encounters.”
But how can you have a fresh look at a story that, for over 40 years, has been analyzed, dissected, adapted, fictionalized, sometimes dismissed but always remained in the public imagination?
As it turns out, this documentary found a way, by unearthing interviews with the participants that bring us right back into the moment rather than giving us four decades of hindsight, speculation and theories.
When the DeFeo family was found murdered in their beds in November of 1974 and eldest son Ronald “Butch” DeFeo, Jr. was accused of executing his parents, two brothers and two sisters as they lay sleeping, it made headlines but really didn’t endure as a media phenomenon. There were strange and sordid details – no signs of struggle, no drugs in the family’s system and no reports from neighbors of gunshots – but things were wrapped up rather quickly when Ronnie DeFeo was sentenced in December 1975, just a little over a year after the murders, after attempting an insanity plea and blaming the voices in his head for having committed the murders.
That same month, George and Kathy Lutz, along with Kathy’s three children from her previous marriage, moved into the house on 112 Ocean Avenue where the DeFeos were murdered. Although they were made aware of the murders when purchasing the house, they couldn’t pass up such a great deal on a large house in an exclusive part of town, and they closed on the house anyway. But according to them, it didn’t take long for the dark forces that apparently drove Ronnie DeFeo to kill to also start tormenting the Lutzes as well. The family lasted 28 days in the home before leaving just about everything behind and fleeing.
In 1977, George and Kathy’s story became a best-selling book, The Amityville Horror, written by Jay Anson. That in turn was adapted for the 1979 film of the same name, which went on to become a blockbuster and one of the largest-grossing horror films of all time. It spawned a slew of sequels, remakes, books and a cottage industry surrounding the alleged haunting.
Whether you think Amityville is a haunting or a hoax, this documentary will appeal to you because it takes a straight-forward approach in trying to recount the story the way the participants said it happened, not necessarily pushing an agenda but certainly favoring the idea of the haunting being a true event.
The film looks at the Amityville case in three chronological sections. The first examines the DeFeo murders and Ronnie DeFeo’s subsequent conviction, before transitioning to the Lutz family and the alleged hauntings that took place. It then looks at the exposure that came from the book and the film, as well as Amityville’s enduring legacy as a “true” haunted house story.
The documentary features interviews with paranormal researchers such as Jason Hawes of Travel Channel’s Ghost Nation, Ghost Adventures researcher Jeff Belanger and Tim Yancey, who had a personal friendship with George Lutz and has long been an authority on the Amityville case.
It also features Rikki Rockett, drummer for the rock band Poison who is also a paranormal investigator and “legend tripper,” who previously covered the Amityville case on his YouTube channel.
But the doc doesn’t just lean on paranormal people for its interviews; also featured is Marvin Scott, the WPIX reporter who took part in the infamous 1976 seance at 112 Ocean Avenue along with famed paranormal researchers Ed and Lorraine Warren. Reporter Laura DiDio, who not only covered the Lutz story but also helped set them up with parapsychologists to help figure out what was going on with their house, is also interviewed.
Other interviewees include Sandy Stern, screenwriter of the original film The Amityville Horror; Eric Walter, director of My Amityville Horror, which tells the story through the eyes of Danny Lutz, Kathy’s oldest child; and parapsychologist Jerry Solfvin. There is also archival footage of interviews with the Warrens, as well as clips from a 1979 episode of In Search Of, featuring an interview with Father Ray Pecoraro, the priest who came to bless the house for the Lutzes and said he heard a voice tell him to “get out,” followed by weeks of supernatural harassment.
But the most compelling interviews are the ones the documentary team unearthed that feature George and Kathy Lutz themselves, radio interviews that have not been heard since they originally aired. One of them includes George’s recounting of the final terrifying night the Lutz family spent at 112 Ocean Avenue and explains why this family would leave everything behind to escape the evil they say they found in that house.
Considering the mass appeal of the Amityville story, the documentary is well-positioned to be a draw for bringing in subscribers at the launch of discovery+, which Discovery Networks says will feature over 55,000 episodes across more than 2,500 shows at launch. Its Paranormal & Unexplained genre hub will have nearly 3,000 episodes of paranormal programming.
“At launch, the platform will have more than 100 series under its ‘Paranormal & Unexplained’ banner, and nearly all will be available to binge from the beginning,” Discovery said in a release, naming series such as Ghost Adventures, The Dead Files, Paranormal Caught on Camera, Destination Fear, Ghost Nation, Portals to Hell, Ghost Hunters and Ancient Aliens.
The launch on January 4 will also feature a brand-new two-hour special Ghost Adventures: Cecil Hotel, and a new series, Ghost Adventures: Top 10. On January 14, a new series UFO Witness will debut, with Shock Docs: The Exorcism of Roland Doe (the case on which The Exorcist book and film are based) and another new series, Fright Club, following soon after.