Director Jack Riccobono Talks MGM+ Docuseries Amityville: An Origin Story

Starting this Sunday on MGM+, director Jack Riccobono will take horror-loving followers on a journey into the origins of The Amityville Horror.

The four-episode docuseries research how the movie captured the zeitgeist of the period as curiosity within the paranormal elevated and the way the real-life crime that occurred in the home fed into the lore.

By way of never-before-seen interviews with individuals with first-hand relationships to the murders and the movie, Riccobono gives viewers a shocking inside have a look at how the movie impacted us for generations to return.

Amityville Lead Image

We had an opportunity to speak with Riccobono in regards to the sequence, what impressed him to take the journey, and what shocked him most about what he realized alongside the best way.

Please benefit from the interview beneath, which has been edited for readability and content material.

Jack Riccobono Headshot

What acquired you interested by documentary filmmaking?

I am attempting to grasp different individuals’s worlds. So I feel I used to be drawn to documentary as a result of it permits you to go to and perceive subcultures and take you to locations that you have not seen or understood earlier than. That is the transportive high quality of documentaries that I like.

What is the genesis of the present, and what was your thesis for Amityville: An Origin Story?

Properly, the origins of the story. This challenge happened as a result of there had by no means actually been an elevated have a look at the Amityville Horror — all of the layers of it and what gave rise to it.

And I feel that is why the title is Amityville: An Origin Story as a result of we actually attempt to have a look at all of the elements that got here collectively to create the phenomenon of The Amityville Horror, which actually continues to this present day with over 40 movies that includes the phrase Amityville in them.

I suppose what fascinated me was all of the totally different layers to the story. You have got, in fact, the horror story that was featured within the 1979 movie. Lots of people do not realize that that is based mostly on a real story of the Lutz household who moved into this home in Amityville and acquired haunted out 28 days later.

The Amityville House

After which, even earlier than the Lutzes, you then have the DeFeo household who, a yr earlier than the Lutz moved into the home, suffered this horrible tragedy the place six out of seven relations had been discovered shot to dying of their beds underneath mysterious circumstances.

So for me, there’s this layering the place you will have the horror style of the ’70s; horror movies, that are an unbelievable area that I like; paranormal investigation, which was exploding within the Seventies, tremendous standard, attempting to grasp phenomena which are unexplainable; after which you will have this heinous true crime that occurred in 1974, which was an enormous occasion in and of itself.

I imply, in 1974, mass homicide was not regular. And sadly, as we speak, we face a variety of mass shootings. However in 1974, this was front-page information coated by Walter Cronkite; this household discovered shot to dying of their prosperous suburban house.

So I actually wished to have a look at how these two occasions of the murders of the DeFeo household and the hauntings of the Lutzes got here collectively on this very specific second within the ’70s to create what we consider because the Amityville Horror.

Amityville: An Origin Story Poster

What do you assume is the extra fascinating a part of the story, the murders or what occurred to the Lutzes?

I actually assume it is the alchemy of the occasions, and the way the tales intertwine with one another as a result of they actually overlap in bizarre and shocking methods. And I feel that what ties them collectively is de facto the cultural second.

You have got these darkish undercurrents within the Seventies with Nixon resigning, the Vietnam Battle, individuals distrusting establishments, and this backlash to the free love, freewheeling late ’60s. So the early ’70s had been a darkish and peculiar time in America, and I feel that that is a part of why these two occasions had been capable of mix on this loopy vogue.

One of many massive issues is you will have The Exorcist popping out in 1973, which was this big phenomenon that popularized the concept of demonic possession and the concept that individuals would exit and get exorcisms. And it additionally was an instance of a real story that blew up into this huge Hollywood blockbuster.

So in a variety of methods, that laid the groundwork and was just like the template for what would occur with The Amityville Horror, though I do not assume the Lutzes might have ever imagined how a lot consideration would come from their story and that it might nonetheless be getting advised in increasingly more loopy and ridiculous methods to this present day.

Sharing Pieces of History

I actually loved the credit score sequence the place you had all of the unusual film posters. Oh my gosh, I had no concept that it had gotten to that time the place something is Amityville.

Sure. That is a few various factors. I feel that this story redefined the haunted home for a era of individuals within the ’70s, and it actually captured their creativeness. Amityville can also be a city identify, so it could actually’t actually be copyrighted, so actually anybody might make a film and put the phrase Amityville in it.

So that’s a part of why the franchise has so many tentacles and has gone in so many various wild and loopy instructions. And clearly, the web and social media have spun it out in much more loopy and wild instructions, and I do not assume it is ever going to cease.

I all the time discovered it fascinating, too, that there was the Amityville Horror, after which Amity was town in Jaws.


Defaced Amityville Sign

It appears to me like these two issues had been conflated at a time if you would not have anticipated it, simply as a consequence of that easy little phrase, Amity.

Completely. Amityville is “the pleasant village,” so it has a poor underpinning to it. It is just like the pleasant village, apart from the darkness that lurks beneath.

Out of your perspective, what units Amityville: An Origin Story other than every part else that has come earlier than it?

I feel one of many issues we’re most happy with is that we had been capable of get individuals to take part and sit down for the primary time, individuals who had skilled these occasions firsthand and share their tales straight. And firstly, Christopher Quaratino, previously referred to as Christopher Lutz, is the center son of the Lutz household.

He was seven years previous when the Lutzes acquired haunted out of the home. And he sat down for his first in-depth interview to essentially clarify intimately what he remembers from being seven years previous and dwelling by means of that interval.

After which past that, the impression of those occasions on his household throughout the remainder of his childhood as a result of it was necessary to us to have a look at the story from a variety of totally different angles, together with the human toll that the story took as a result of, clearly, it has been spun out in all these loopy, wild instructions and it is gotten additional and additional away from the factual underpinnings of each the DeFeo murders and in addition the Lutz’s story of what actually occurred.

Christopher Quaratino Shares His Story

So Christopher shares what he thinks occurred to him, but additionally who he thinks is liable for the hauntings that the Lutzes skilled in the home. In order that’s, in fact, an thrilling ingredient of the present. After which we even have shut family and friends which have by no means been interviewed earlier than.

So Carol Soviero, an in depth good friend of George Lutz who toured the home with the Lutzes earlier than they moved in after which was with them within the speedy aftermath and moved out to California with them, shares her tales of that point interval for the very first time.

After which, on the DeFeo aspect, we have now a really shut good friend of Ronnie DeFeo Jr, who was convicted of the murders for killing his entire household. We converse with Tommy Maher, who was, once more, an in depth childhood good friend of Ronnie’s, and he speaks in regards to the occasions main as much as the murders and what he thinks transpired. In order that’s one facet.

We even have footage and images that haven’t been launched earlier than and paperwork that we consider make clear the origins of the story.

Ronald DeFeo Jr.

Was there anyone or something that you just wished you had entry to that you just did not?

Ah, that is a troublesome one. I imply, there are all the time components which you can’t fairly observe down. One of many issues that basically fascinated me in regards to the story was the mafia connections that the DeFeo household had. And whereas we had been capable of set up these hyperlinks, lots of people is not going to converse on the report about these hyperlinks even as we speak.

In order that ingredient is within the sequence of mafia connections that the DeFeos had. There’s extra to that story, however individuals aren’t prepared to speak but.

Oh, it is the mafia. You could be a bit of reluctant to out something that goes on with them.


Setting the Record Straight

What was probably the most shocking factor that you just found alongside the best way?

Probably the most shocking factor. I suppose it actually, in some methods, goes again to how widespread the fascination was with demonic possession within the mid-’70s, which I feel ties proper again to The Exorcist.

However individuals had been actually obsessive about this concept of possession and of exorcism, and that was an fascinating factor to find all these years later, that it grew to become such a widespread thought and that folks would entertain that.

After which use it as leisure.

Sure. Precisely, precisely.

About issues which are shocking, I like that you just contact upon George Lutz and the way he was talking with some unsavory people and fascinated about demonic possession himself.


Bullet Hole

How did you uncover that after which observe up on that line of pondering?

Properly, with out giving an excessive amount of away, I do not need to have any spoilers, however we had been clearly very targeted on every part that the Lutzes mentioned in press interviews of the time.

So we did a really deep dive into the entire factual data after which, in fact, tried to work backward to see, “Properly, what might we confirm, or who might we ask to get one other perspective on this?”

So with George Lutz, one of many issues that has all the time been a thriller about him could be very little has been identified about his childhood or about his life previous to when he met Kathy. George just isn’t the daddy of Christopher or of Kathy’s older kids.

Principally, Kathy and George met, they acquired married, and inside about six months, they moved into the Amityville home. So that each one occurred fairly shortly, and one of many issues that was mysterious about this story is George’s previous.

A Former Lutz

So we had been capable of join with an in depth good friend of George’s named Joe Vetter, who described some bike journeys that they took. And it was by means of him that we had been capable of set up that George did have some publicity to the occult within the yr previous to shifting into the Amityville Home.

And I do not need to say rather more than that, however you get this sense that as a result of George, in interviews, explicitly denied ever understanding or having an curiosity within the occult. And it seems that he did really meet and go to the house of a really well-known cult determine named Raymond Buckland, who popularized Wicca within the Seventies.

In order that was fairly an fascinating discovery and means that maybe George knew extra in regards to the occult than he initially shared in press interviews within the ’70s.

I additionally actually just like the quotes in the beginning of every episode and the way they set out what the episode goes to speak about. Do you will have these issues in thoughts beforehand? Have you learnt these quotes and assume, “I would like to include these not directly and use these as a information,” or do you seek for quotes after the actual fact?

We had been attempting to determine the present within the early days of the enhancing course of and experimenting, and our supervising editor added that Jean-Paul Sartre quote, “Hell is different individuals,” to an early minimize, and it simply offered a framework.

The Famed Windows

And once more, it offered a possibility for us to remark out of the gate and arrange the viewers in a sure means and put them in a sure way of thinking for tips on how to method the story as a result of this isn’t your typical documentary sequence.

I feel it is a fairly wild experience that we take you on, the place every episode has a really totally different taste to it. The primary episode is de facto like a horror docutainment with bounce scares, the place you are taken into the thoughts of the Lutzes and expertise what they are saying occurred to them.

In episode two, it is rather more of this hard-boiled true crime investigation of the DeFeo murders and actually tries to have a look at how these unexplained components of that crime led to paranormal explanations.

After which, within the third episode, you will have this loopy mixture of the tales of the DeFeo murders and the Lutz hauntings and the way that gave rise to the bestselling guide after which, finally, the 1979 movie.

After which the fourth episode has this investigative documentary high quality, the place we uncover new features of George Lutz’s previous which have by no means been revealed earlier than.

So we wished every episode to have its personal form of really feel, and the quotes actually ended up supporting that. And funnily sufficient, they landed and simply caught by means of the method. We did not audition 100 totally different quotes or one thing. Someway, the early quotes ended up, I feel, informing the place we took the episode.

And it is simply a type of unusual qualities, I suppose, that unexplainable alchemy of the publish course of, that we had been capable of land on these quotes.

And finally, I feel there are alternative ways to learn them, however definitely, one option to learn them is thru the lens of George Lutz, who actually is giant as a central determine on this entire story. And I feel you possibly can apply all of them to desirous about him in a technique or one other.

And at last, what do you hope individuals take away from this after watching?

Properly, I hope that they will really feel connections to our present second in it. I feel horror is an unbelievable style for exploring actual anxieties and fears that we face on daily basis.

And I feel that this present unravels probably the most well-known horror movie horror tales of all time and permits you to see it by means of many various angles, together with the elements within the ’70s that led to its existence.

And so I hope that in watching the present, individuals can mirror on the second we’re dwelling in now, and perhaps that may give them a brand new perspective on how we’re dealing with a few of the fears and anxieties of our day.

Amityville: An Origin Story premieres on Sunday, April 23, on MGM+ at 10/9c.

Carissa Pavlica is the managing editor and a employees author and critic for TV Fanatic. She’s a member of the Critic’s Selection Affiliation, enjoys mentoring writers, conversing with cats, and passionately discussing the nuances of tv and movie with anybody who will pay attention. Comply with her on Twitter and electronic mail her right here at TV Fanatic.

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