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House by the Cemetary (1981)

Reviewed by Girlcreeture

Staring Catriona MacColl (Lucy Boyle), Paolo Malco (Dr. Norman Boyle), Giovanni Freza (Bob Boyle), Silvia Collatina (Mae), Ania Pieroni (Ann)

Directed by Lucio Fulci


***Editor’s note: This review originally appeared on our old site. Enjoy!***

Ahhh, Fulci. He seems to be popping up in my VCR quite often as of late. My last foray into the man’s collection didn’t turn out to be as fun as I’d hoped, but this one makes it worth it.

And now I have returned, sashayed if you will, unafraid and undaunted back to the man who brought us The Beyond, Zombie, and The Gates of Hell. Did he redeem himself (in my eyes) with this story about an unsuspecting family and their subsequent terrorization at a seemingly charming and harmless New England home? Hell yeah he did! And happy are the girlcreetures who spend 3 bucks on a good horror flick! Cuz 3 bucks is 3 bucks you know.

So getting back to our scheduled programming, we’ve got a family of three. The Boyle’s: Lucy, Norman, and their unusually large-headed seedling Bob. They hail from N.Y.C, but must move to New England when Dad gets a job placement there, taking over the research of a recently deceased colleague, Dr. Peterson. Amidst the preparations of moving, Bob is quietly staring at a photograph of a house (it’ll be familiar soon). There seems to a young girl standing in its window, but only when Bob is looking at it, of course. She’s been warning Bob not to go to that house, to stay away from it at all costs. Quite a spooky looking photo of her in that house too. Bob of course tells his Mum about this and she brushes it off as childhood imagination. She’s a BAD mother! So the Boyle’s move on to New England, New Whitby, MA to be precise, and start getting themselves settled into their new home. And coincidences of coincidences! Their new home is just like the one in Bob’s hallucinatory photograph! Sans the creepy kid in the window. She actually just wanders around town being weird, as we’ll soon find out. Bob encounters this girl throughout the film. Her name is Mae, and she’s a little off, so to speak. Things progress and we get to know the Boyles and their new babysitter Ann, who’s also a tad on the weirdly side. Things start getting wacky and we find that the house the Boyle’s inhabit is pretty damned odd, and something of a town secret too. The real estate agent who rented it to the Boyles insists on calling it Oak Mansion, while the slightly brain damaged clerk (the guy’s just a freak OK?) at her office insists it’ll always be The Freudstein House.

The movie is well filmed and acted throughout. The plot itself is pretty decent and, in my opinion, very reminiscent of a video game plotline. Things unfold at a good pace for the Boyle family and the viewer, never really entering the realm of the boring. There are a few other characters to keep track of but not so many that you would get confused or forget who was doing what or what happened to who. Each character has a purpose devoted to helping uncover the mystery surrounding Oak Mansion and giving up clues to either Dr. Boyle or to young Bob. Lucy on the other hand isn’t fortunate enough to be fed any clues by anyone. Sucks to be her. She really only inhabits the house and becomes more and more threatened and wacky because of it and it’s odd traits. As for the circumstances by which Dr. Boyle got his new job being so sketchy, he begins looking into it on his own, thus discovering the nasty secrets of a Dr. Freudstein, former owner the house (by the cemetery).

As I said, the movie doesn’t get boring, and there are many nicely filmed scenes and some very creepy and suspenseful sequences. Most of these involve the basement, that old tried and true place of evil. The basement is accessed through a door in the kitchen. When the Boyles first move into their new home, it’s got wooden boards over it keeping nicely closed off. Of course it doesn’t stay that way and when the boards come off is when things really begin to happen.

Thus ends my summary of House by the Cemetery, a mystery, albeit, not a particularly difficult to figure out mystery. Fulci has effectively put together a great little flick here and it’s worthy of any horror fan’s time and money. The acting is good, not at all cheesy, although the dub is pretty terrible (isn’t that almost always the case though?). I also had to watch this on VHS, which is pretty damned stinky, but I take what I can get. There’s the typical Casio keyboard-esque soundtrack, but it’s fitting and works well. The pay-offs in this movie are the sequences filmed around the basement, the heart of the house (Oak Mansion or Freudstein House, or just the house), and the story. I was reminded of when I was a kid and how much I hated standing at the top of the cellar stairs, looking down and knowing I had to go down those stairs. And coming back up the stairs, not knowing if there was something creeping up me. Shiver.

The gore factor is pretty lively too. In an estimated 2 minutes and 56 seconds into the movie there’s a nicely done murder scene where a lovely young lady gets to taste steel butcher knife by way of entry from the back of head and exit through the mouth. A wonderful shot of her lying on the ground with gleamy steel protruding out of her lips. She is the only object lit, while everything else is in shadow. It’s a great start for this movie. And House by the Cemetery continues this great start through to the end, with plenty of other great bits of gore and grue.

So check this movie out, and know that you won’t be disappointed. If you are, I’ll personally reenact the “what happens when you play with rabid bats” scene ok?

And now for a quote! This quote demonstrates the old adage of don’t believe everything you hear:

“Most of the old houses in the area (New England) have tombs in them.”

That, my friends, is bullshit. We keep the tombs in backyard, in order to have proper altar space for all those late night ramblings to the Great Old Ones, under a beautiful bone white moon…

4 out of 5

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