“The Amityville Murders” could be one of the best adaptations about the tragic DeFeo family story to ever grace the big screen.
The Amityville Murders is the newest addition to the Amityville house universe. With strong acting from the entire cast, this film does a great job telling the true story of the infamous house’s blood-soaked past.
I grew up seeing a lot of different depictions about the famous house in Amityville, New York. Whether because of the purported haunted history tied to the Lutz family accounts, or the real-life tragedy of the DeFeo family murders that occurred there, the house on Ocean Ave is infamous and fascinating — and it always will be. The beautiful Long Island estate has a sordid and well-documented past.
While most of the 20 odd films made about the estate went straight to video obscurity, some did reach theaters and received widespread exposure. As a result, there are few people (in the United States, anyway) who don’t know at least part of the home’s dark history.
Writer/Director Daniel Farrands’ The Amityville Murders is the closest to the true story as far as I can tell, and it also happens to be a really good film.
I was not a fan of most of the other films, the ones I was able to get through anyway. They seemed silly and made to go straight to video. I held my breath when I got this one to watch…but I was pleasantly surprised how much I liked it! Other than the original The Amityville Horror back in 1979 (which I liked, even though I think the haunted part is a story concocted by the Lutzs for financial gain), The Amityville Murders is hands down my favorite film of the collection.
Official Synopsis: On the night of November 13, 1974, Ronald DeFeo, Jr. (known as Butch) took a high-powered rifle and murdered his entire family (mother, father and 4 siblings) as they slept. At his trial, DeFeo claimed that “voices” in the house commanded him to kill. This is their story.
The film begins at a birthday party when Butch (John Robinson) and sister Dawn (Chelsea Ricketts) take a group of friends into a secret red room to show off a ghost they can conjure up and get to levitate coins. Things get out of control, and it seems they woke up something very sinister. I would laugh out loud at that, IF I hadn’t been a Ouija board-playing teen myself. It’s just what we did. Weird but true. I never woke up any demons, but I have to admit I did try to contact the dead.
The story moves on, very similar to all the other films, to recount the infamous murders. Ronald DeFeo Sr. is an abusive man who rules over his family with a literal iron fist. Paul Ben-Victor is perfect for this role and gives us the stand-out performance of the film. Son Butch is a sad and emotional young man with a serious drug problem, who seems already poised to do something terrible — with or without the help of a supernatural entity.
Mom Louise is the ineffectual abused spouse who will never step in to help her equally battered family. Actress Diane Franklin plays her believably, and it’s interesting to note that she played the sister Dawn in Amityville II: The Possession, 37 years ago.
The cinematography by Carlo Rinaldi brings us perfectly back into 1974, as does the costuming. Seeing the house with a fly buzzing around in one of the eye-like windows, took me right back to the first film. It truly is one of the most iconic houses in horror. The aesthetic for the film is wonderfully creepy as the camera floats around the house like a ghost. The house itself at times seems to be alive, which is why it continues to fascinate people and is known as the most haunted house in America.
Is there anything new to this film that hasn’t been told already? Not really. Was it super scary? Again, not really. The original The Amityville Horror scared me more.
Still, The Amityville Murders is a well-done supernatural tale, based on a true story, with a few new thoughts in the backstory as to why Butch would have done such a horrible thing to his family.
I did love the reasoning as to why all the bodies were found face down in bed, since that was something contemplated in the real court case. Why did no one wake up after the first gun shot? Is that really how bodies used to be buried? Or was it just because it was really a dark and stormy night, and they simply didn’t hear the gun over the thunder and lightning?
At its core, The Amityville Murders is a well-told historical story. It’s an interesting look at a truly horrible crime.
Though there isn’t any new information about the story here that hasn’t already been seen before, this is still a good film to watch for true crime buffs and those who have never seen the story about the actual murders. While not perfect — because there is no way to really know why Ronnie “Butch” DeFeo Jr. did what he did that rainy night in 1974 — it does a great job telling the version of the events the killer told most often (he has changed his story many times), the chilling version that he heard voices telling him to kill his family.