Friday, 13 September 2013

Review - The House by the Cemetery (1981 - Dir. Lucio Fulci)

This is a nice Friday the 13th treat for you. It's the final film in the loose trilogy containing City of the Living Dead and The Beyond. It is a trilogy in the sense that they share similarly disjointed narratives, although The House by the Cemetery has the most conventional storyline of the three. Fulci actually spends a fair part of the film building tension after an initial gruesome death (Daniela Doria bites the dust yet again). Don't worry though. There are still a fair few of the usual protracted death scenes.

Lucy Boyle (the excellent Catriona MacColl who appears in all three films in the trilogy) and her husband Dr Norman Boyle (Paolo Malco - The New York Ripper) move into the titular house (idiots) so that Norm can look into some of one of his ex-colleagues disturbing findings. The fact that his ex-colleague committed suicide makes you wonder about the motives of Normie. Also, his shifty glances at the babysitter, (Ania Pieroni - Inferno) shown in trademark Fulci close-up, makes you ponder on his fidelity. Throw into the mix the way he constantly tries to give Lucy tablets and you have some major chin-strokery. Is he a crafty skullduggerer or the perfect husband and father? Oh, yeah, and Dr Freudstein lives in their cellar too.

Dr Freudstein!?! Who he? The name suggest someone who wants to bring their mother back to life by grave-robbing body parts, sewing them to his Mammy's body, patching her into the mains and then having a cheeky wriggle with her. Probably not that far from the truth either. Freudy (a silent Giovanni De Nava - The Beyond) is one of the scariest on-screen creations in any film. He is a zombie. He has a slightly insectoid face. And when you cut him, what can only be described as maggot enriched excrement oozes out of the wound. Put it this way: you wouldn't want him marrying your only daughter. 

The gore is great, but what stops this film from getting a higher rating is that it feels as though the film is cut, even when I know it is definitely an uncut version. The drawn out death of the estate agent Laura Gittleson is enjoyably excessive but Fulci actually cut out some effects work that he wasn't happy with. Her face in one part of the scene is fairly normal looking, albeit covered in blood. In the very next shot we see that something nasty has happened to one side of her face. But we don't get to see what. Gutted. The other scene that feels cut is a death where someone has their face dragged down a set of stairs - I've never been convinced that this would kill, it looks more like it would cause a minor graze, soon sorted with Savlon - then at the bottom of the stairs you see a pool of blood forming around the recently deceased's head.  I don't know whether anything was removed but it certainly feels like it. Gutted.

Quite a few people don't like a particular scene where Lucy walks in on the babysitter cleaning a load of blood off the floor... and doesn't comment on it. Business as usual in the Boyle house. I actually quite like it. Fair enough it makes no sense and I can't really justify its inclusion, but it feels right in the overall atmosphere of the film. A little quirk that the film would be poorer without.

Crikey, I've already written loads and I haven't even touched upon one important aspect of the film: Bob. And his voice. An infant voiced by an American adult. Terrible. 

I am being picky. This is a great film. A classic, even. It is fairly tense and scary, and it has a fairly upsetting ending when you consider the implications. Highly recommended. (Also, the trailer is one of the top trailers ever. Just listen to the voiceover guy. I'll never be able to say 'The House by the Cemetery' in a normal way again.)

If you like this you could also try:
Zombie Flesh Eaters, The Beyond, City of the Living Dead, Tenebrae, Suspiria.