HOUSE BY THE CEMETERYMOVIE REVIEW
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"What do you say to a widow whose husband had another woman, then, after he slaughtered that woman, went and hanged himself?"
"er... Hey, what's new?"
Without question, there is a lot of "bad to be had" in a Lucio Fulci movie. It's not just the wooden acting of the stars (who worked with Lucio again and again) and it's not even his poor direction - in how he wanted his actors to behave. There are also the bad to the point of being funny quick cuts.
When a character is confronted with being caught in a lie, they not only freeze in their tracks until it's
obvious that they are guilty as sin, Fulci would further exacerbate the
issue by cutting to extreme close-ups of the actor's eyes bouncing left
to right in their sockets. Then he would cut to the person watching this
happen, then back to the guilty party, then back again to the person witnessing
this, then finally - mercifully - the guilty character would say something
There was also the way his characters would never fight back. If someone was coming at them with a knife, for example, the intended victim would stand there, putting up no resistance, and scream at the appropriate moment, until dead.
There is no subtlety to be found in a Fulci flick. Everything the man did is over the top. Lucio made over 50 movies in his lifetime and only a handful of them are Horror movies. Yet it's the Horror films that are most recalled in people's minds - and for good reason.
Yes, the acting is heavy handed but so is the horror. Lucio was known for gore and plenty of it. Cameras would swing into close-ups of blood, guts, dismemberment, and maggots. Such things sickened Lucio and he thought that if it bothered him then it would really turn your stomach - especially on a massive theater screen.
Like Lucio's best Horror movies, HOUSE BY THE CEMETERY starts out with a nude scene. A delectable honey is putting her clothes back on and calling for her boyfriend. That's a lost cause in this movie.
In one scene after another you will see people yelling their damn fool heads off calling for someone who never answers. They just keep yapping until the varmint of the picture kills them. After the honey gets hers, we switch to a girl looking through the window of a house in a black and white photograph.
A blonde haired child, looking for all the world like Klaus Kinski probably looked as a babe, stares at the girl and, though his Mother Lucy, (Catriona MacColl: THE GATES OF HELL, THE BEYOND) is yelling her fool head off for him, he ignores her to stare at the photo. His name is Bob (Giovanni Frezza: MANHATTAN BABY, DEMONS) and, in the English dubbed versions of this movie, he has a terribly irritating whiny voice that will drive you out of your tree. How we hope that Bob will soon die.
And he just might, for the girl in the photo - Bob's Mother cannot see the girl, only Bob can - tells him not to come to the house she is in.
Ahh, but parents aren't going to listen to some whiny kid, so off they go, to live in the house that is in the black and white photo.
But first they must purchase their house. You know, the one by the cemetery? The real estate
agent seems to recognize the hubby, Norman (Paolo Malco: THE SINFUL NUNS OF SAINT VALENTINES, PSYCHO RIPPER, THE OGRE),
Norman looks instantly guilty. He's been caught! Then, after holding the worst poker
face you ever saw, tries to cover by saying
Now who in the hell would buy a house next to a cemetery?
Well, besides you guys I mean.
So off they go to live in a house whose last occupant, Hubby's former boss, mentor, partner, best friend, etc. up and killed his mistress and then himself inside.
"Why, it looks just like that house in the photograph you took that is hanging back in our apartment in New York!"
Says on-the-nose Lucy.
Dr. Norman, freezes, yea like unto a deer in yon headlamp! He's been caught! Then, after
holding the worst poker face you ever saw, tries to cover by saying
Yeah, sure there are.
Then there is the matter of the surly baby-sitter, Ann (Ania Pieroni: INFERNO, TENEBRE), an insolent whelp who does nothing but take pleasure in giving Lucy grief: That and get her head chopped off much later in the film.
We first see Ann as a realistic mannequin in a window. Her head falls off in a manner most gory, scaring Mae the little girl ghost (Silvia Collatina: ALLIGATORS). Later when we see the real Ann, Lucio's jump cuts bounce back and forth between the decapitation of the mannequin, and Ann, and the mannequin, and Ann, and the damn mannequin's bloody decapitated head - AND ANN: CHRIST! I mean, this is subtlety with a sledgehammer, yes?
Dr. Norman and Ann meet! Their eyes lock!
Anything else wrong with the house? Well, there's that coffin set in the floor in the middle
of the great hall (that's a "day room" or foyer to you or me)
and poking up Out Of The FLOOR! Norman the hubby explains it all away with the bad poker face and worse alibi:
I'll admit, I haven't been to a lot of houses in New England but...
You gotta be shitting me!
The writing actually isn't as bad as it sounds - it's just Fulci's whacked out direction - but if it wasn't for Fulci's madness, the movie wouldn't be half so much fun!
Meanwhile Mae the ghost girl, is making appearances and chiding Bob for moving into the house against her advice - like he had a choice. Mae is having psychic visions of the future, though I'm highly skeptical of ghosts who claim to have psychic visions. In fact, I'm offering a million dollars to any ghost that can prove they have psychic powers.
So okay, it has bad acting and a bad storyline (maybe the writing IS as bad as it sounds), so why is this movie so popular among Horror enthusiasts?
Because Fulci always delivered the goods.
Lucio Fulci movies are gross-out splatterfests to the max. So over the top and gory and ridiculous that you can't help but enjoy them - provided your name isn't Harlan Ellison and you aren't going through a particularly stressful period in your life. If you've had someone close to you die in the past year, I wouldn't advise seeing a Fulci film fest to lift your spirits.
Lucio Fulci, against all odds, instills suitable creepiness, scares, and enough gore and horror to satisfy the most grue loving gore hound. The spooky sounds of a child crying somewhere in the house is chilling - though it's too damn bad that the climax to the movie, and the varmint that is supposed to make you shit, is spoiled by being presented right on the cover of the DVD - kiss that scare good-bye.
HOUSE BY THE CEMETERY also has enough hideously bad acting to provide Mystery Science style fun from the audience.
The Anchor Bay DVD is excellent with a super sharp clear picture, sterling Dolby Surround Sound 2.0, theatrical trailers, a TV spot, a great still gallery, and some of the best researched Talent bios I've ever seen on a DVD.
There's nudity, maggots, blood, and bats with no sense of self-preservation. What more could you ask for? This is Italian Giallo in grand style!
If watching movies that are so bad they're good is your meat, then eat this one up!
I give HOUSE BY THE CEMETERY four Negative Shriek Girls.