Halloween Horrors 50 for 31: The House by the Cemetery

October 4, 2012 at 1:58 pm Leave a comment

For once, I get to watch a movie from an acclaimed director. 1981’s House by the Cemetery is directed by Lucio Fulci, an Italian horror director held in high regard in many circles. Apparently, The House by the Cemetery is also the third in a trilogy known as The Gate of Hell. This movie was also on the Video Nasty list which means it was banned in England. Unless I saw an edited version, and it seemed like a complete movie to me, I have no idea why. Did they bother to watch this movie before they banned it? There were a few gruesome parts, for certain, but banned? Were the censors afraid kids would see this movie and want to play around haunted houses?


The movie starts with a scene that has little to do with the rest of the movie. A couple of teenagers are having sex in an abandoned house and the girl gets a knife through the back of the head in incredible detail. The story starts with Bob and his parents Norman and Lucy. Norman is leaving New York City to pursue a sweet research job in or near Boston. I could buy that we were in a small, New England town but this didn’t feel much like Boston to me. A little ghost girl talks to Bob through a photo and tells him to not come to the house in the photo. Maybe talking to Norman would have been more useful because no one listens to Bob and they move to Boston anyway. They move into the creepy old house from the photography and get an equally creepy babysitter named Anne. Anne’s creepiness is never explained. They like to close up on her eyes a lot. She does have exotic eyes, no doubt about that. Anne is a bit of a McGuffen though.


I don’t want to spoil too much because The House by the Cemetery is a fine movie I feel like most people should at least try to watch. What I can tell you is the house was owned by Dr. Freudstein whom was up to some nasty experiments and the house is haunted, kind of. Also, like many foreign horror films, evil pitches a 9 inning shut out.


The gore effects were top notch. Near the end, one particular shot made me pretty uncomfortable and I have seen a lot of horror movies. The movie is actually pretty light on the blood and guts on a whole though. There are only four kills at most, and a lot of the best gore isn’t seen until the end. The atmosphere created by the house they used was something special. The place really felt uninviting. It’s a real credit to the cinematographer and production designer that they were able to create a look that really sets this movie apart from the typical haunted house movie.


What doesn’t set this movie apart is the story. And the pacing for that matter. The movie feels long and drawn out, even though its less than an hour and a half. Most haunted house movies are paced like this to draw out the suspension. Sometimes it worked. Sometimes it didn’t At the end of the day you have people being attacked by a house so you can’t have it move too quickly. The story really isn’t all that much different than most haunted house movies. The Amityville Horror comes to mind. The twist ending and the unsettling appearance of the bad guy somewhat set it apart. And the aforementioned atmosphere. Story-wise, they weren’t really breaking any new ground though. Another thing that sinks this movie is the dubbing. Whoever they got to voice Bob is grating, at best. You really lose a lot in the performance when the voice is replaced by a dubbed one. Generally, I prefer subtitles to dubbed voice overs. If there is a subtitled version out there, I’d be interested to see if the talking parts of the movie play better. As it stands, the dubbing may be responsible for some of the slow feeling the movie currently has.


I do have to recommend this movie but only if you have the patience to sit through it. I know a lot of people don’t like to give some of these older films a chance to draw things out and move at a slow pace. I think if you’re the kind of person who can enjoy foreign films, this really is an enjoyable watch. I would encourage anyone to give it a try though just to see if its your sort of thing. I wouldn’t go so far as to say its worth the price of the Pure Terror Box Set alone, but its definitely a selling point and a nice little gem mixed in with some other questionable movies.


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