Well people, in my effort to review movies with a darker, more disturbing tone, I decided this time to go back to the year 1981. This was the year that House By The Cemetery was released. It was directed by Lucio Fulci, one of the masters of Italian horror. He is pretty well-known for being more blood and gore minded than Dario Argento, but he was still able to provide decent atmosphere and suspense now and then. The question is, does HbtC still hold up after all these years? This has been the first time I’ve seen the movie in a little over 15 years or so, so let’s see what we have here, shall we?
After Norman Boyles learns of his colleague’s apparent suicide, he decides to take over the colleague’s work. The work in question is the research and investigation of one Doctor Jacob Freudstein. Norman ends up moving into Oak Mansion, otherwise known to the real estate agents as “Freudstein House”, with his wife Lucy and son Bob. Bob is warned by a mysterious girl named Mae to not go, but of course parents never listen to their child with warnings from strange people.
It doesn’t take very long for strange things to start happening. The house is pretty creepy in itself. But before long Norman hears a disembodied voice crying, Lucy finds a tombstone underneath a rug, and when the previously barricaded basement door is finally reopened, then things really start to get bad.
This is not an easy movie to talk about really. Watching it for the first time around may leave you a little confused about what is actually going on. For example, the disembodied crying I previously mentioned happens mostly when people are killed in the house, and there’s really no explanation as to who is crying and why. I’m pretty sure that it’s the spirit(s) of previously murdered people in the house, but I’m not 100% on that. Also, later in the movie you see a pair of glowing eyes in the basement. My best guess is it’s a cat you see for only a few seconds earlier hanging out in the cemetery. And the biggest thing I don’t get is how anyone in the Boyle family doesn’t notice the numerous body parts or even the smell of said parts. Near the end of the movie it seems like it’s definitely bright enough to see everything. But there’s no point in questioning such things.
Anyway, despite the initial confusion you may go through, the movie still finds a way to be quite entertaining. Fulci does an excellent job of providing a creepy atmosphere when he wants to, and this movie doesn’t fall short of his standard quality and level of gore. And the quite evil Dr. Freudstein looks very disturbing, and were I to see him in my basement looking like he does, I would very easily lose my shit. The acting as a whole is pretty good, although the kid who plays Bob can be very annoying at times, especially in one part where he finds himself trapped in the basement unable to get out. His constant screaming, while understandable, is still grating on your nerves. I suggest when it happens you turn your volume down somewhat until it passes.
An interesting tidbit about HbtC: this movie is the third part of what people consider an unofficial trilogy called The Gates of Hell trilogy. The first two movies of the trilogy are City of the Living Dead, and The Beyond. What I find interesting is, the first two movies pretty clearly explain what causes the gates to come into being. But HbtC makes no real mention of a gate at all. However, this is an unofficial trilogy, so maybe there’s no point in putting too much thought into it. Or maybe I need to watch it again, which I may do at some point in the near future.
House By The Cemetery is a pretty slow-moving movie, so I wouldn’t suggest watching it on a day when you’re short on patience. But I do recommend you watch it at some point if you haven’t already done so. Next time I’ll try to go back to something a little more current, unless I’m distracted again by the siren call of the classics. Rest in peace everyone.
Macabre Rating: 3.5 out of 5 tombstones