Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Shattered Hopes (The True Story Of The Amityville Murders) Part 2 ... On DVD October 26th!


I know I've already talked at length about this documentary, but allow me to spend a few minutes refreshing your memory here...

Based on Ric Osuna's groundbreaking book The Night The Defeo's Died, and meticulously put together by filmmaker Ryan Katzenbach, Shattered Hopes : The True Story Of The Amityville Murders is a massive three part documentary series intended to paint the most accurate portrait to date of what exactly happened on the night of November 13th, 1974, in Amityville, NY, the night six members of the DeFeo family were brutally slain in their beds.  No demonic pigs or tales of possession here, just cold hard facts, culled together from the testimonies of everyone even remotely involved in the case, including detectives, coroners and family friends.

The two hour long first part of the six years in the making documentary, subtitled From Horror To Homicide, was released on DVD back in January of this year, and essentially served as a prequel story to the murders, taking the viewer inside the DeFeo home in the days, months and even years leading up to that horrific night.  You can read my full review of Part 1 by heading back in time to January.

In short summation, I absolutely loved the first part of the trilogy, and felt that Katzenbach accomplished the seemingly impossible feat of taking a subject that has been talked and written about to death over the last several decades and making it interesting again, by presenting facts, documentation, testimonies and photographs that had never before been seen or heard.  As a true crime buff who lives not far from Amityville, I have spent a lot of time learning about the case, and even I was blown away by how much I in fact didn't know about the DeFeo's and the fateful night that ended with the majority of them being wiped out.  When I say that Shattered Hopes is an absolute must see film for those fascinated by and interested in the case, I couldn't possibly mean that any more than I do.  In fact, I'd go so far as to say that it's really the only documentary on the subject that you even need to see.  Unless of course you're more into the whole haunted hoax that came after the killings, in which case you might want to look for something a bit more sensationalized.  Plenty of that out there, I assure you!

Part 2, subtitled Mob, Mayhem, Murder, is set to be released to the public this October the 26th, and I am incredibly honored to be one of the few who Katzenbach sent out an advanced screener copy to, which I received last week and watched last night.  Part 2 picks up right where Part 1 left off, at the murders themselves, and spends two and a half hours extensively documenting every step of what happened during, and after, the murders, up to and including Ronald "Butch" DeFeo's murder trial.  Did Butch act alone in killing his family?  Did his sister Dawn have any involvement?  Were his family members truly shot while they slept, or were their bodies re-positioned after they were murdered?  What role did the mob play in all this, if any?  And what facts about the case did the Suffolk County police cover up?  These are the main questions that Part 2 sets out to answer.

Now before we even go any further, I do want to mention that Shattered Hopes represents what Osuna and Katzenbach believe happened on that night, based on what they've read and have been told.  Though there are perhaps no better authorities on the matter than they, the fact of the matter is that absolutely nobody on this planet, other than DeFeo himself, knows exactly what went down on that night, and the fun of all this is that we never truly will.  Though it's the most comprehensive and extensive piece of filmmaking ever made about that night, one that pretty much has me convinced that everything stated in it is in fact everything that really happened, I again must reiterate that we will never know the full truth, and nothing but the truth, and as such, the documentary must be watched with that in mind.  What makes the case so compelling is that we won't ever find out the truth, and Shattered Hopes is merely a string of theories that shed a whole lot of light on many things about the case that were kept out of the public eye, in favor of the much more sensationalized tale of a bearded derelict possessed by the devil.  So while it may not represent the 100% truth, it is perhaps as close as we've ever come to that truth, which is really what makes it such an important piece of true crime history.  What I really like about it is that Katzenbach never definitively tells you "Hey, this is exactly what happened", but rather he presents us with as much information as possible, and leaves us to discuss it, think about it, and form our own opinions.  I can guarantee that you will form your own, after experiencing it.

I could sit here and basically repeat everything I said about Part 1 back in January, but at the risk of boring you, I'll just say that everything I said about Part 1 also applies to Part 2, an equally compelling documentary that taught me a whole lot about the case, and exposed me to crime scene photos and documents that my eyes had never before laid on.  In fact, a lot of the stuff presented in this part is being heard and seen here for the very first time.  As in, anywhere.  Part 2 is absolutely exhaustive in its coverage, taking us from the time the police arrived and started wheeling out bodies to the time Ronnie DeFeo decided to go for that whole insanity plea, presenting several possible theories to explain who was in the house at the time of the murders, and exploring the strong possibility that DeFeo did not act alone.  If he wasn't the only one wielding the gun, then who else was with him?  Well, you'll have to watch it and find out for yourself!

As was the case with the first part, the only real issue I had with this one were the corny fake beard filled re-enactments, which certainly aren't the documentary's strong suit.  That said, I was happy to see that there seemed to be more focus on information being delivered by talking heads this time around, rather than through re-enactments, even if that does result in this part being a little more hard to digest than the first one.  Part 2 runs two and a half hours long, over a half hour longer than the first part, and it's admittedly a bit hard to take in all the information being presented, almost like being read an entire audio book with the fast forward button on.  There's just so much information to be relayed here, which is why I'd only recommend this documentary to those who have a serious interest in true crime, more specifically in this case, which is I suppose the only people who would be interested in picking it up anyway.  It's really not about entertaining the audience so much as it is delivering as much information as possible, which is certainly no fault of Katzenbach's, who is perhaps an even better private detective than he is a filmmaker.  I will say that this part runs perhaps a wee bit long, and I admit that I was kinda zoning out and losing track of what was going on at times, but it's just as strong of a documentary overall as the first part was, another strong piece in a so far incredibly strong bigger picture.  I am continually impressed and in awe of how much work went into making this documentary the be-all end-all place to go for information on the topic.

If you've yet to check out Part 1 of Shattered Hopes, and you're highly interested in the Amityville case, I cannot recommend enough that you do so.  You can pick it up from Amazon for $17.99, or even watch the whole thing instantly On Demand for a mere $2.99.  Part 2 follows on DVD in a couple weeks, with Part 3, which delves into post-trial proceedings and the subsequent hauntings, currently in post-production.  You can keep up to date on everything going on with the project over on the Shattered Hopes Facebook page, where Katzenbach is always talking Amityville.

As soon as Part 2 goes up for sale, you can bet that I'll let ya know!

1 comment:

Mary Meeks Gebert said...

I am a real true crime buff and completely loved both parts, I and II! I am so excited for the final installment to come out! I did not zone out at all and would have continued watching even if had been longer. I highly reccomend this series of film for all true crime and Amityville enthusiast.
You can read my full review at the
Shattered Hopes facebook page.