Items to have on your checklist when buying a house:
- Good storm drains and gutters?
- Central heat and air?
- Haunted by evil spirits?
- Built on an ancient burial ground?
- The scene of several grisly murders?
Sadly, George and Kathy Lutz didn’t use such a list back in 1975 when they bought the house at 112 Ocean Ave. in Amityville, New York.
A year earlier, Ronald DeFeo Jr. had shot and killed his parents and four siblings in the house, and rumors began to swirl that he had been possessed by the Indian spirits that inhabited the basement. What happened to the Lutzes over their first (and only) month in the house — hauntings, exorcisms, possessions — became the subject of author Jay Anson’s 1979 book, “The Amityville Horror,” which was made into a film later that year (and spawned innumerable crappy sequels and TV movies for years to come).
Now “Amityville” is being remade with Ryan Reynolds (“Van Wilder”) as George Lutz and Melissa George (“Alias”) as Kathy Lutz. When MTV was granted an exclusive visit to the set of the film, we wanted to make it very clear to Reynolds: Don’t go into the house. But much like the character he portrays, it turned out that he wasn’t about to heed any advice either.
“From the minute I saw the house [the producers] got, I just fell in love with it,” Reynolds said. “One thing we’ve always made clear from the get-go is that one of the central characters of this movie is the house. It’s a huge presence and there’s something really disturbing and unsettling about it.
“The first settlers in America built a Dutch colonial house on this location, and beneath that were Indians that were buried and had actually been tortured,” he continued. “So the house already came with some bad juju.”
While the new version of “The Amityville Horror — due in theaters next year — isn’t filming in the actual house at 112 Ocean Ave., set designers took care to re-create many of that house’s rooms, including the basement, the epicenter of all the demonic activity in the house, according to paranormal psychics who investigated the Lutzes’ claims in the years following the film’s release.
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The basement’s so-called “red room” is where the demons supposedly manifested via what was essentially a portal into hell. In the movie, the demons who drove DeFeo to murder his family try to convince Lutz to do the same thing to his.
“The basement, that’s where all the nastiest stuff happens. That’s where George Lutz has his office, and he’s the closest to the red room, and anyone close to this room suffers some sort of psychotic episode or demonic possession,” Reynolds said. “Ronnie DeFeo was no different. He was the first guy to live down there. He was the guy who killed his entire family. And the real-life George Lutz that moved in here afterward, he built his office down here, and of course as we know he sort of followed in Ronnie’s footsteps.”
What captivated and terrified audiences about the original “Amityville” was the question of whether or not the incidents in the house were really true. The film was presented as nonfiction — as was Anson’s book — and people have been debating the validity of the Lutzes’ claims ever since.
So does Reynolds, who remembers being terrified by the book as a child, believe all those ghost stories?
“The Lutzes only spent 28 days there, that’s it, and then they left. And they didn’t have any money and they still managed to buy this house and put all their worldly possessions inside of it, and then they left without taking a single thing. So whatever did drive them out was something evil and awesome.” he said. “Man, it scares me talking about it. I’m going to do a nice, Disney-animated movie after this. Something fluffy.”
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—James Montgomery, with reporting by Sway Calloway