42nd Street Cinema

The House by the Cemetery (1981)

The House by the Cemetery (1981)Continuing the trend of Video Nasties and Italian films, I'm going to be taking a look at Lucio Fulci's eerie Shining-esque The House by the Cemetery. Also known by its native title; Quella villa accanto al cimitero. Starring: Catriona MacColl, Paolo Malco, Giovanni Frezza and Dagmar Lassander.

One of Fulci's later zombie movies that, along with City of the Living Dead/Paura nella cittĂ  dei morti viventi (1980) and The Beyond/L'aldilĂ  (1981), captures a surreal and ominous atmospheric essence and is ultimately one of my favourite Fulci affairs.

With The House by the Cemetery, Fulci provides a slightly more conventional film, taking elements from early slashers and giving them a Fulci-twist, predominantly during the initial setup in which a female and her male lover are slaughtered by an unseen assailant. Though, that said, it still has quantitative gaps in narrative logic, however, if it lacked such perplexing incoherencies throughout, it probably wouldn't evoke such a set of emotional and cognitive responses.



The films plot revolves around Norman (Paolo Malco), Lucy (Catriona MacColl) and Bob (Giovanni Frezza) Boyle who are preparing to move into their new house, in New England. Previously the house belonged to Norman's ex-colleague, who murdered his wife before killing himself.
Now, the Boyles are to spend 6 months in this house while Norman finishes his research project at the request of his employer. During the 19th century the house was occupied by the Freudstein family and now, something hideous lurks in the basement. It appears that Dr. Freudstein never died and extensively researched a way to prolong human life. A process which involves the collection of fresh body parts. Yes, Dr. Freudstein himself is alive and kickin' in the basement of The House by the Cemetery.



The House by the Cemetery is easily one of the most stylish, atmospheric, confusing and downright paradoxical films I've ever seen. Especially given the ending which, while it makes sense, it simultaneously doesn't. Anyone who has seen this will understand what I'm going on about it's headache worthy to say the least and probably one reason why you shouldn't look too deeply into, however, given the antagonists name, Freudstein (which is clearly an amalgamation of Sigmund Freud's last name and that of Frankenstein and/or his monster), it's difficult not to attempt the seemingly impossible.

The gorgeous cinematography and lens-filling close ups add to the often overbearing malicious atmosphere, reinforced by Walter Rizzati's scoring, resulting in an intoxication of the viewer with an unrelenting feeling of unease that hangs around after the credits have rolled.
Fulci then leaves you with nothing more than a quote and I have no doubts you will ponder over the meaning, all the while wondering exactly what it is you have just witnessed.


3 comments:

Balding Celebrities said...

I think this is probably Fulci's last truly great film, it was also his last with cinematographer Sergio Salvati and some say this is a reason for his decline.
The main theme and 'Tema Bambino' by Walter Rizzati are two of my favourite pieces of music ever.

B-Sol said...

My all-time favorite Fulci film. Definitely his attempt to capitalize on the success of The Shining, with a little Fulci twist, of course. And it might give you a chuckle to know that the Henry James "quote" at the end was made up by Fulci himself...

Bleaux Leaux said...

I really would encourage anyone who hasn't seen this gem to go out and hunt down a copy- this is a low budget classic and, as Balding Celebrities notes, possibly Fulci's last really great film start to finish.

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