Amityville · Alcala
Plus the "Acid King" and a historic true-crime location
The murders of six members of the DeFeo family by a seventh, oldest son Ronald “Butch” DeFeo Jr. — and, perhaps, unindicted co-conspirators.
Possibly also the perpetration of a fraud on the public by George and Kathy Lutz, future owners of the DeFeo property, not to mention child endangerment; we’ll get into it.
True crime and scripted horror activate many of the same nerve centers in the audience — that comparatively safe, controlled confrontation of visceral anxieties — so it’s not surprising that the Amityville case has become a preoccupation of a half century’s standing. That overlap isn’t entirely why it’s a preoccupation, but it’s relevant to our purposes here, to wit: what does MGM+’s Amityville: An Origin Story have to offer us as a true-crime property?
Plenty, as it turns out, although frustration is also on the menu. The four-parter, directed by Jack Riccobono and out last spring on MGM’s streaming service, does review the murders of the DeFeo family; it does use archival footage of the murderer, Ronald, and talk to townspeople and the other kids’ friends. But there are allegations here that each could lead to their own substantive doc feature, like Ronald Sr.’s alleged Columbo-family ties, and the idea that based on how the murders were committed logistically, Jr. almost has to have had an accomplice. But because A:AOS is trying to say everything about all aspects of the case, criminal and supernatural and cross-cultural, those leads don’t get run down the way you might hope.