The House By The Cemetery
Director: Lucio Fulci
Cast: Catriona MacColl, Paolo Malco, Ania Pieroni
Review by Brian M. Sammons
This is the second of a one-two Fulci punch from Blue Underground for this Halloween season. While it’s not my favorite Fulci film … well you know the old saying I always bring up about pizza; that even when it’s not great it’s still pretty darn good? Yeah, that certainly applies here. So grab a shovel and take my hand, we’re off to the house by the cemetery.
A small family moves into a big house in New England with a sordid, bloody history. The young son, Bob, played by cherubic blond haired, blue eyed Giovanni Frezza, has a friend in a little girl only he can see named Mae who keeps warning him to stay away from the house. Not only does this bring up shades of Stephen King’s The Shining, but it’s also my biggest gripe about this movie, that damn kid. No, not the little Italian boy, Giovanni, who’s neither better or worse than any other child actor, but the screeching, fingernails-on-chalkboard-bad voice they dubbed in for him for the English version of the film. Oh my dear God is it annoying! It’s obviously an adult doing a horrible “little kid” impersonation but the end result is every time little Bob opens his mouth I want to hit him in the face with a brick.
The second thing about this film that keeps it from being really great is the pacing. Once the family moves into the titular house the events proceed at a leisurely, strolling pace at best. The mystery behind the house’s horror (not to mention why a crazed maniac is living in the basement, popping out occasionally to behead, slice up, and rip the throats out of people) is slowly doled out a drip and drab at a time … that is until the end when there a big exposition dump.
There are random bits of weirdness sprinkled throughout the film, like an unintentionally hilarious bat attack, and a few gruesome murder scenes, but sadly these seem like a far cry from the glorious gory gags in previous Fulci flicks. There’s a nice knife through the back of a woman’s head that comes out of her mouth bit, but that’s one of the few memorable kills to be found here. There is a cool, rotting thing in the basement, a few genuinely creepy moments, but the film’s plot is a bit muddled and illogical, to say the least. How much so? Well when the film was first released on VHS some of the reels were played out of order and no one seemed to notice! Combine that with a lackluster ending that makes little, if any, sense and you get a movie that is long on mood and atmosphere, but short on logic. If you’re one of those people who need their films to make absolute sense, you might hate this movie. However if you can just go with it and enjoy the ride, you might dig this uneven, yet still mostly competent shocker.
As for the extras on this new Blu-ray release from Blue Underground, there’s a single “lost” scene that was just recently found that has never appeared in any version of the movie before. Sadly it’s without sound, and also boring, as it takes place right after the famous bat attack and seems to add nothing new or noteworthy to the film. So I guess it’s nice to have, but it is on the unnecessary side. There are also six “featurettes” and by that I mean interviews. Why they just weren’t called interviews is beyond me, but that’s not to suggest that they were bad or boring. On the contrary, I enjoyed all of them. You get an interview with both surviving screenwriters, a short discussion with actor Carlo De Mejo, a nice lengthy set of interviews with the cinematographer, makeup effects guys, and actor Giovanni De Nava, and then even more interviews with actors Catriona MacColl, Paolo Malco, Giovanni Frezza, Silvia Collatina, and Dagmar Lassander. All total there is over and hour and twenty minutes of interviews collected here, with theatrical trailers, a TV spot, and a poster and still gallery round out the extras. For a movie largely forgotten by today’s fright fans, that an impressive collection bonus material.
The House By The Cemetery is both a bit longer and slower than it should be, and it has that damn screeching voice actor dubbing little Giovanni Frezza in it that drives me up a wall, but it’s still a good, creepy film at its rotting heart. If you’re new to Fulci films then perhaps Cemetery isn’t the best place to start. For that I would suggest Zombie, The Beyond, and/or City Of The Living Dead. But if you want to see something different, weird, creepy, and fun, or if you’re already familiar with some of Fulci’s other flicks, then The House By The Cemetery is for you. And now you can get it looking better than ever.
Consider this one recommended.