So, over the weekend I watched Part 3.1
...and things start off pretty well with juror Peggy Giambra as she explains why she was one of the two holdouts on an early guilty verdict - she needed to be convinced Ronnie was sane - her mind finally made up when testimony is re-read on Ronnie leaving the dog outside, showing he "knew what he was doing" that night.
This is nicely done, easing us in over the opening credits without a lengthy recap, and is some of Ryan's best work, but things become confused when Ryan firstly inserts Detective Gozoloff with a nonsensical alternate dog theory, and then Ryan himself, who brings up the "extra accomplice theory" which is totally at odds the story Peggy is trying to tell, and derails the narrative.
In fact, for a documentary purporting to tell the "real" story, it becomes increasingly clear the makers do not know
which one the viewer is supposed to follow, as we will see...
The trial is concluded as onscreen text flashes up when people are still talking away - this saves time, but is impossible to take in both things at once!
Then we're onto the "fraud" section. DeFeo turns up (without fanfare) and tells how Weber and Lutzes planned to "exploit me". But he's hard to understand, slurred or clipped words are the order of the day. Good luck getting through a whole video of this interview.
Ronnie then claims he knew
the Lutzes before they purchased the house, as he would drive them into Manhattan to score drugs! Him and George were big into heroin, but they had to stop off in the Bronx for Kathy's Cocaine fix
But wait, there's more - "all this can be verified
" says Ronnie, as there was a witness. Wow! So who is this reliable source?
Ronnie: "There's an inmate who just left here
(prison) who was in the car with me
Right, cheers Ron! He then has the nerve to say of the Lutzes, "they got some imagination, I'll tell you that
This section is highly problematic for Ryan and his credibility, as this story is not only new (and should have been told years ago) but it changes dramatically from the one in the very book Shattered Hopes is based on.
In the book the Lutzes contact Weber when Kathy has psychic visions of an evil in the house. This is before they buy it, so Weber concocts a plan where he allows them to purchase the house, then abandon it with a fake ghost story. Geraldine is present at this meeting (despite being "in hiding" at this point) and relays it all in the The Night The DeFeo's Died.
It was one of the most ridiculed passages in the book. Obviously concocted by Ric Osuna to get back at George, and read like bad fiction. This puts Ryan in a dilemma - does he film a recreation as if it really happened (which would have been hilarious) or does he drop it for being too "out there"?
He wisely dropped it - but this creates a problem -- by leaving out this important meeting, he's essentially admitting Gerri made it up and lied! (She's hardly been in the doc so far, and now claims the first she hears of the Lutzes is months later when they do the Weber press conference)
We can go back further to 2001, when Ric was interviewed by Lou Gentile (who's name Ryan has difficulty pronouncing in this doc) In the Gentile interview Ric claims George met Ronnie in prison
before buying the house, so George could learn about the DeFeo's and "compare beards" (I'm not joking)
This too was ridiculed and Ric dropped it from his book.
So we now have three different attempts to connect Lutz to DeFeo, each one dismissing the previous, and we've ended up with a married couple leaving the kids at home, and getting into a car with two younger lads on a NY "drugs trip"
Is this the best they could do?
The rest is a by-the-numbers look at the "hoax" from the biased position the Lutzes controlled every telling of the story. "George and Kathy drew up affidavits to help the appeal
" Gerri mysteriously says at one point, before Ryan cuts to something else.
We get the old redundant method of debunking the book and movie - at no time do Ryan or Roxanne Kaplan refer to any later interviews with George himself - so Ryan moaning about the "front door blown off its hinges
" complete with the movie clip helps no-one. Time is wasted on 3:15am not being an accurate time of death (George said he never woke up 3:15 on the dot anyway) and whether they stayed there for 10 or 28 days (10 days was used in the very first leaked report, corrected by George that night, but Ryan and Roxanne act like there's more to it)
Then there's this:
Ryan Katzenbach wrote:Of the photos that do exist of 112 Ocean Avenue during the time that the Lutzes owned it, they all have one thing, in my opinion, in common, and that is they all looked very staged. The pictures are devoid of any form of family, or friends, or parties, or activities, or normal day-to-day life. These photos were snapped sort of as an afterthought to the case, like "oh, we need some sort of proof that we lived here." If they actually ever did really live there.
Huh? We've only seen one
pic of a thin-looking George by the swimming pool!
And the above speech plays over a pic and footage of the ABANDONED house! So yeah, that explains why it was "devoid of life"
Then there's some attempt to say George lied about when he first saw the house. Rayn: "In The Amityville Horror and subsequent interviews given by George Lutz, he explained that he had not seen the DeFeo house until the fall of '75
. Then Ryan shows how "$400 of goods" were purchased from the DeFeo estate in the Summer - but as far as I'm aware George always said they purchased the house the Summer, not the Fall...
Then he gets Ed Asner to narrate this was "premeditation" on the part of George and Kathy, and sums it up himself with:
Ryan Katzenbach wrote:They knew about the DeFeo house (...) months and months ahead of when they claimed they first saw the house for the very first time, and to me that equates to an organised, orchestrated commercial plan.
My Amityville Horror
is bought up:
Ryan Katzenbach wrote:In 2012, Danny Lutz came forward with his own account of what supposedly happened in the house. And he's now claiming that the entire haunting really did happen (...) however one of the things that he must forget is that during the 1980's he avtually approached a couple of people trying to sell them a story on how George Lutz had fabricated the whole account.
We then cut to Joel Martin who recounts receiving the call from Danny who wants to sell him the story... but at no point does Joel mention anything about George "fabricating" anything! So here Ryan blatantly lies. Apparently Ryan also interviewed Roxanne post-My Amityville Horror but her recollections are mysteriously absent. Yet Ryan made a big deal on Facebook at how Danny had completely changed his story, so he flew out to specifically re-interview Roxanne about this.
Ryan then says that Danny confirming his parents were into Transcendental Meditation means Stephen Kaplan was right - "that George had a deep knowledge of the occult
After all this, and the Warrens coming in for much criticism, we wonder how Hans Holzer is going to fare, especially as his daughter is onbaord, and good friends with the director. He should at least be chastised by Ryan for signing a book deal with that dodgy Weber, but this is hushed up -
Ed Asner wrote:As for Butch DeFeo and William weber, they never received a dime from the horror story they helped perpetuate.
But this isn't true, as Weber was behind Holzer's Murder In Amityville, and then was paid again when it became the basis of Amityville II: The Possession.
Alexandra Holzer spends more time telling us the times her father turned down
investigating Amityville, and says nothing - NOTHING - about his actual investigation! Which, with his pictures of ghostly Indians and tales of possession, presumably would not fit into Shattered Hopes.
So she happily pisses on his memory by ignoring his Amityville work - which will be highly confusing to causal viewer, because he clearly did something
- and instead she tells us what a bad job the Warrens etc. did in their investigation.
After the "fraud" section, we see a reenactment of Gerri bumping into Bobby Kelske on the streets of NY years later and Bobby blanking her.
As the film plays, Ric and Ryan explain what happened... but not Gerri! Even though Gerri's interview is what we
want to hear, and not second-hand by TWO other people. Weird. Was her acting not up to it for this bit?
Gerri does pop up later to say she has "no birth certificate because I'm "illegally adopted"
which is different from her "mafia destroyed all my documents" story. (tellingly, Ronnie has not said a word regarding Geraldine yet)
Near the end, Ryan pops up one last time:
Ryan Katzenbach wrote:After studying this case for so many years and finally interviewing Ronnie in the summer of 2014, I have absolutely no doubt how this crime played out"
And the last five minutes feature a smirking Ronnie giving a blow-by-blow account leading up the murders, with a caption reading:
"The Night The DeFeo's Died According to Ronald DeFeo Jnr."
...Only Ronnie doesn't give the account in the book of the same name!
It's not even the same account we saw Ryan reenact in Part II of Shattered Hopes! Instead, it's a new version in which only DeFeo and his sister Dawn are in the house, conspiring to kill their parents (the .38 now belongs to Dawn!) And there's no apology on behalf of the film-makers for wasting our time getting it wrong, and making us sit through bad reenactments in the previous chapter.
It treats it's audience with contempt, like they will have forgotten what they saw a couple of hours ago. We see some of the old footage with the actors playing Ronnie and Dawn again, but the other characters have now been cut out!
We end before the shooting begins, but by this point it's all a farce - the revelation of what really went down on the night of the murders has been altered because Ronnie DeFeo is now some speaker of the truth. So where does this leave Ric's book? Or Shat Hopes Part II for that matter! This has been so long in the making, it's gotten a Hollywood remake mid-production.
Ryan received one or two notes of praise on his FB page, but the neutral viewer must surely ask themselves "where does this leave me?
" The documentary has taken you down one path, only to pull away the rug and say "yeah, whatever, we're going with this version now