Saturday, October 13, 2012
The House By The Cemetery
Incoherent, illogical mess or Italian genre classic? In truth Lucio Fulci's The House By The Cemetery sits as comfortably in either category, and your opinion of it will very much depend on your tolerance for the strengths and weaknesses of director Fulci. Both are in full effect here, with wonderful atmosphere complimenting the usual stark Fulci imagery, while logic and sense all but abandon the "haunted house" plotting.
Dr. Boyle (Paolo Malco) moves his neurotic wife Lucy (Catriona MacColl) and his young son Bob (Giovanni Frezza) to the Freudstein house in Boston. Boyle is there to research why a colleague living in the house previously, committed murder and then suicide. While Boyle was eager to move, Lucy certainly wasn't, and Bob is less keen still after being warned not to go in the house by a mysterious young girl, who is of course ignored by his parents. Cue the strangeness, involving a weird babysitter, bizarre estate agents, something nasty in the basement and of course, this being a Fulci movie, copious gore and a few maggots....
The greatest strength of The House By The Cemetery is the rich, doom laden atmosphere Fulci and his team manage to generate. Beginning with the house itself, it's often said a location can act as a main character in a movie and nowhere is that more appropriate than here. The house is given a foreboding feel inside and out by the excellent photography and set design. This is only enhanced further by the creepy sound design and score. The weakest element is the aforementioned lack of logic and sense in the events of the first hour or so of the movie, the reason being if you get hung up on the details, you're going to be taken out of the film completely. If you can just go with it some of the events actually enhance the mood, with the strangeness giving a nightmarish feel to proceedings. However, there is one moment that completely breaks the mood, the infamous bat attack sequence. Common sense dictates if you have a poor effect shot, you use cinematic sleight of hand to cover the imperfections, not Fulci though. The camera lingers in loving close up on the bat attached to Boyle's hand as the audience howls with uncontrollable laughter. A serious misjudgement and one Fulci only just gets away with. Another serious error was the decision to have adults dub the voices of the two child actors, thankfully this doesn't prove to be as damaging as it could have, although it is a real irritant for many Fulci fans.
It may seem as though I have been hard on the film, but despite it's flaws, I love The House By The Cemetery and think it is one of Fulci's very best efforts. The first hour maybe relatively restrained by his own blood soaked standards, but the measured build up makes the gory hysterics of the "child in peril" finale all the more chilling and effective, and the haunting ending is truly excellent. Highly recommended.