Geeky Cinephile Musings…
I don't pontificate, I blather.

Lucio Fulci: the House by the Cemetery

What took me so long in making my way to Lucio Fulci? And I call myself a horror film fanatic.  I spit on myself! Pah-touwee!!

So! This movie left me with an overall sense of hell-yeah-ness.  Yeah, I made up a word.  It’s my damned blog.  So! I’m going to let my little nit-picky negativity run wild a bit before I tell you how awesome this film is after all…


The numerous Netflix reviewers that said there was no plot whatsoever were sorely mistaken.  I was expecting random killings strung together in an artistic montage from the way they were making it sound.  Nice surprise though–there WAS a plot–and an extremely interesting one as well…I just didn’t understand it.  (By the way, if anyone can enlighten me with some explanations here, I’d be sooo grateful.) I was following it okay, everything was making sense, there was a pleasantly familiar almost Amityville Horror vibe going on, the dubbing was atrocious as always, but that’s Italian horror for you! So this family moves to this house where this professor lived who mysteriously disappeared or died or something, and they start hearing noises and bumps, and the townspeople all know the house is cursed, and then people start dying in gruesome ways, and we know that it has to do with this guy Freudstein who is supposed to be dead but isn’t buried where he’s supposed to be….and then it was like I fell asleep or something, because all of a sudden, all these things start happening with about as much segue as a Neil Diamond record becoming Mr. Bungle.  

The Dad leaves a library after listening to a cassette tape of the previous inhabitant, heads home in a pretty leisurely fashion, then bursts in the door to find his son (Bob, who I’ll get to later…grrrr…) banging on the cellar door, screaming to be let out, and announces how he’s figured the whole mystery out, although how he arrived at his detailed conclusions by listening to the tape is not clear.

And then we find out the big mystery: this old guy, Freudstein (who supposedly died but didn’t) has somehow been surviving for hundreds of years by rejuvenating his cells with the fresh corpses.  Move over Avon! Who knew you could combat wrinkles with the intestines of your peers?!  Awesome guy, right? He must be a wizard or something, and probably looks really cool, yeah?

Well, no.

He does all this killing and maiming, does whatever process he…does…to make his cells…rejuvenate…and how does he use all this power? Why, by hiding in a cellar by himself for all eternity, looking like the Toxic Avenger’s cousin.

I'm so glad I've figured out the secret to immortality!!

I'm so glad I've figured out the secret to immortality!!

Um. Yeah.  That’s why I’d wanna live forever.  Let the good times roll.

Also, there is another glaring plot hole with the Dad: everyone in the town keeps saying, “When you were here last summer,” and the Dad’s like, “Dude, I was NEVER HERE, for Christ’s sake !” (Well, not quite like that, but you get the idea), and this little mix-up is never solved or explained.  The babysitter is acting awfully sketchy like she’s in on the whole thing, but then she just gets offed like everyone else, albeit in a cool way.  Then, at the end the kid runs off with the two ghosts he’s been seeing the whole film, even though he’s not dead yet.  In fact, they save him from the Freudstein, so yeah!! He’s saved!!…but it seems like the ghosts are trapping him in this other world too, so bad luck, so sad for you Bob.  Wait a second…That makes me want to put that bit in my “why this film is awesome after all” bit… 

And by the way, this kid…Bob…yes, Bob (that just cracks me up!) is without a shadow of a doubt…the…most…ANNOYING pissant on the face of the earth.  And yet HE’S the one who lives?!?!  (If you call heading off in the gray mist with two ghosts living…) That’s the one bit I would’ve changed.  He sooo deserves to die.  Horribly.  Just his little whiny-ass voice….AUGH!!!  It’s like biting on a seat belt.  (Try it sometime. Not cute.)

My sweater!!!

Daddy? Will you put me out of my stinking misery?

And he screams like a girl, too.  Nah, that’s not giving enough credit to girls.  In the scene where the father is trying to break down the door with an axe I found myself praying he’d connect with Bob’s blond Prince Valiant wanna be cranium and shut him up.  After all, it’s what Fulci wants us to think is going to happen…But no. It is not to be. Sigh.


Now for the good stuff!! The killing scenes are fantastic–lots o’ gore.  Gore galore!! And they are nice and slow too–making sure we really see the suffering and feel for ourselves the blood oozing (no, pumping! Score!) from the artery in the neck when a poker is stabbed into it…aahhhhh!

Also, the bat scene..Wow.  You’ve got to watch this movie just for that scene alone.  It goes on for an interminably long time, and the best part is when the Dad is trying to shake the bat off his hand and all this blood flies onto poor little Bob’s dainty beige sweater.  (God, I HATE that kid…) Bob gives this queerly adult look of disgust at his clothes–the same look we give our friend while we’re holding their hair and they’re vomiting and retching after only one tequila shot.  Or it could be the look the preppie in high school gave you when you hawked a loogie on his Lacoste polo.  It’s so…special!

Lastly, this film gives GREAT tension.  Mmmmmm….yes. To all those silly CGI so-called Horror films of today–tension is the key, not your damned special effects.  Live it, love it, learn it!

 I love a film that makes you cringe while you’re waiting for something to happen, waiting for the beast to jump out with a knife and stab a woman through the mouth and out her neck, or even waiting for the poor victim’s suffering to end as the creature stabs them slowly three times, letting each little wound bleed and tear before moving on to the next point of attack… 

God bless the Italians.  Next is Zombie!

2 Responses to “Lucio Fulci: the House by the Cemetery”

  1. Lucio Fulci had a very strange career. He apparently tried EVERY genre thought to appeal to the Italian movie-going public at some point or another: bawdy sex farces, Spaghetti Westerns, thrillers, erotic dramas, slapstick comedy, gladiator epics, giallos…before an unabashed cash-in on George Romero’s ‘Dawn of the Dead’ known in the US as ‘Zombie’ eastablished his reputation as a director of gory horror movies full of guts and camera zoom-in shots of maggots. In Italy, ‘Zombie’ was the title of Romero’s film, and Fulci’s was casually titled, um, ‘Zombie 2’?

    So now if you’re going to start checking out other Fulci films…

    Fulci’s ‘A Lizard In A Woman’s Skin’ and ‘Don’t Torture A Duckling’ both stand well against any of the major giallos, even Argento’s and Martino’s. Sporting titles that are clearly meant to remind viewers of Argento’s “Animal Trilogy”, these might actually be the best things Fulci directed. ‘One On Top Of The Other’ (recently released on DVD in the US as ‘Perversion Story’) is a lesser-but-decent earlier giallo.

    Of the horror films, ‘The Beyond’ is arguably the best: dreamy, gory, occasionally ridiculous. I was given a free plastic eyeball when I saw it in a theatre after Quentin Tarantino’s Rolling Thunder company brought it back for midnight screenings. ‘Zombie’, ‘The House By The Cemetery’, and ‘City Of The Living Dead’ (aka The Gates Of Hell, aka the film where a character vomits up their guts) are the other strong titles. These are all bleak, atmospheric, occasionally plodding (you won’t find any of the hyper camerawork associated with Argento here) gothic horrors.

    As for the rest…’The New York Ripper’ is an ultra-nasty 1980s giallo that features lots of graphic violence against women and a killer that tauntingly talks like a duck…seriously. It was banned in the UK until 2002. ‘The Black Cat’, ‘The Psychic’ and ‘Manhattan Baby’ have a lot of great creepy atmosphere, occasionally striking set-pieces, and can totally work wonders if you’re having trouble falling asleep. And if you ever wondered what the world would have been like if Dario Argento’s ‘Phenomena’ had been popular enough to inspire a rip-off, well, Fulci’s ‘Aenigma’ is waiting for you.

    Fulci’s “golden era” as a horror movie director only really extends from 1979-1982. Lots of mediocre (or worse) titles have been popping up on DVD in recent years, so beware of things like ‘Zombie 3’ and ‘Demonia’ following you home.

  2. God, I love you Bill.

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