42nd Street Cinema

The House of Clocks (1989)

Lucio Fulci's made for TV movie, The House of Clocks. Fulci...made for TV...not good. Part of the 1989 'House of Doom' series produced for Italian cable TV. Fulci was set to direct 2 films the other being The Sweet House of Horrors. The other two films in the series; House of Witchcraft and House of Lost Souls were helmed by Umberto Lenzi.

So we open with a maid (Carla Cassola) walking through a room full of clocks, then opens a door and discovers 2 decaying bodies. Cutting to an outdoor shot of statues and various monuments, before flicking back indoors where we are first introduced to the old man Vittorio Corsini (Paolo Paoloni). Who kills a bird to feed to his cat after giving some grief to the maid for smashing a plate. Soon after we're introduced to his wife Sara (Bettina Milne) who starts conversation about how much her husband loves the cat. Cut to another outdoors shot where we see Al Cliver digging what looks like a grave. Following the housemaid in to the greenhouse where the old woman is they converse briefly before the old prune decides she will barge a sharpened stick of wood in to the maid, making her guts spill out onto the floor. In true Fulci gore style.

Parallel to that, we've 3 teenagers who're driving and discussing their plans for a robbery at the house where the demented old couple reside. Cue the obligatory badass up beat music. They stop off at a local supermarket where the young girl distracts the shopkeeper as the 2 lads make away with some goods. After not really getting what they went for, they leave. Not before one of the assistants comes out with some cracking dialogue. One of the three teens; Keith Van Hoven, you will recognize from Umberto Lenzi's Black Demons (1991), plays Tony. The other two being Paul (Peter Hintz) and Sandra (Karina Huff). They spend a good few minutes driving round trying to get to the house they are so intent on burglarizing. When they finally arrive they pull a small stunt to gain access to the house, very reminiscent to Kubrick's A Clockwork Orange (1972).

After they gain entry everything is almost going to plan, until Cliver bursts onto the scene with a shotgun. Who turns to a door as a cat jumps out at him, he gets pushed over and ends up falling onto a table which mangles his ear also causing him to fire off a shot from the gun, it blasts a hole in to the old woman's chest. As soon as that happens the old geezer goes haywire attacking Tony and reaching for a knife, Paul goes for the shotgun and waits to get a good shot. Paul fires one in to the old timers back, he slowly starts to die and then, film takes a dramatic change as the clocks in the house start to rewind. With this rewind in time the recently deceased return to life. Yes, there is never a dull moment...apart from all the bits between any set pieces.

The kids grab some stuff before the guard dogs seal them in, making an escape seemingly impossible. Paul leaves Sandra and Tony to be alone for a little lovin'. Paul voyeuristically observes the two and mutters 'slut' under his breath then wonders off through the house, he notices the table is all laid out in perfectly and the clocks are working again. Then out of nowhere BOOM! Paul is hit by a shotgun blast, alerting the two upstairs who come down to take a look around they too notice that the house is back in to perfect condition, no blood, no mess.

Tony goes off...not sure why. But he does have a spear. The two then get trapped and the film goes all Ground Hog Day-ish. With a very climactic approach to an ending. The overall ending is a complete letdown and tarnishes what could have been an interesting little picture.

An overall feeling that the film went on too long with absolutely zero character development. The plot is minimal, the acting is sub-par, direction is good however and some shots are great. The characters are lifeless which made me feel nothing for them. As for the ending, I'll let you see this one for yourself...if you can brave the first 75 minutes. Though not entirely dull, it does require something similar to film's plot device of time intervention and that's from the fast forward button on your remote. I can only recommend this to Fulci completists.

DVD: Shriek Show
Running Time: 84 Mins
Extras: Liner Notes, Talent Bios, Interviews with Paolo Paloni and Carla Cassola.

2 Stars


Alex B. said...

I enjoyed "House of Clocks" upon the first viewing, but don't revisit it often.
True, characters are hard to care for, I'd go on to say they're hateful.
Cinematography and an occasional gore shot are the films' saving graces.
It's perhaps better appreciated when compared to the other three films in the "Houses of Doom" series. Lenzi's "House of Witchcraft" has got to be the worst.

Unknown said...

I actually liked this one more than I probably should. You're review is spot on, but some how I still find this film endearing. Sweet House of Horrors on the other hand, makes me want to wretch.

Sarah said...

I saw this a few years ago, and thought it would be way worse than it actually was. It wasn't great, but it wasn't completely terrible either. More violent than American made-for-TV movies, but just as implausible.

steve said...

Gonna be meeting Al Cliver in 3 weeks, Cant wait.

Balding Celebrities said...

I pretty much agree with Sarah. The fact it was made for TV put me off watching it for many years, but the Italians were obviously quite lenient when showing violence compared to the American TV movies of the time.
I find the whole clocks theme intersting and quite atmospheric.

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