Norman (Paolo Malco) and Lucy Boyle (Catriona MacColl) are packing their belongings to relocate from New York to a small town in New England, when their son Bob (Giovanni Frezza) experiences a bizarre communication from a little girl seen in a photograph depicting a derelict house. The communication is in fact a warning to him not to go there. But Bob's parents make their move to New England, taking a lease on an isolated old house nestled by a cemetery. A house that looks exactly like the one seen in the photograph. Norman convinces a none too thrilled Lucy that their stay is a temporary one whilst he completes some research in to the apparent murder/suicide of an old college mate and raises the capital to finish renovations back at their New York apartment.
|Director: Lucio Fulci
Stars: Catriona MacColl, Paolo Malco, Ania Pieroni, Giovanni Frezza, Silvia Collatina
Writers: Lucio Fulci, Elisa Briganti, Giorgio Mariuzzo, Dardano Sacchetti
But soon after their arrival, the little girl from the photograph (Silvia Collatina) appears in real life and a series of strange and disturbing incidents begin to manifest…
Lucio Fulci's House By The Cemetery is considered part of the director's 'Gates Of Hell' trilogy (along with The Beyond and City Of The Living Dead) and tends to be thought of as the lesser of the three. The film is also generally considered one of the lesser entries in the Italian director's horror output. This reviewer actually considers it to be just as much fun as many of Fulci's horror films, with other entries being far more deserved of that 'lesser' status. Stanley Kubrick's The Shining certainly appears to be an inspiration here - the premise is similar; a couple with a young son (who has supernatural abilities) move to a remote location so the husband can finish writing, but their plans are thwarted when the previous owner of the house makes his presence felt - though other than this and some other basic horror tropes, House By The Cemetery is still pretty much its own blood-drenched spook flick.
And of course, it wouldn't be a Fulci horror film if it didn't come with some of his trademark gore and this one features some of his best graphically violent set-pieces, courtesy of make-up SFX artists, Gianetto De Rossi and Maurizio Trani. Gooey stuff aside, there is also a wonderful melancholic atmosphere hanging over proceedings, making it one of the director's most haunting films. The superb widescreen cinematography by Sergio Salivate also deserves a special mention, as does Walter Rizzati's terrific score. The story as written by Elisa Briganti, with a screenplay by Georgio Mariuzzo, was allegedly inspired by the works of H.P. Lovecraft and the movie certainly does display gothic overtones reminiscent of Lovecraft.
But like much of Fulci's horror output, the clunky aspects are once again here (though admittedly, things mightn't be as much fun without them). Illogical moments abound and things don't often make a lot of sense. But then, one could argue that the supernatural doesn't have to comply with logic.
Performance-wise, the delightful Catriona MacColl is as solid and believable as always. This was the British actor's third and final film for Fulci (having also appeared in the other two instalments of the 'Gates Of Hell' trilogy), and she brings a much needed humanity to the film. Unfortunately, she's surrounded by weak performances and dreadful dubbing. The absence of a strong leading man is also a major drawback to the film's overall success. Paolo Malco is certainly no David Warbeck (Warbeck is one of the stronger points in Fulci's The Beyond), and as the Boyle's son Bob, Giovanni Frezza is unfortunately saddled with one of the worst dubbing jobs ever heard (though there is nothing wrong with the little fella's performance). In fact, it may well be the worst dubbing job of all time (Frezza even apologises for it in one of this Bluray's extras!) and it almost cripples the film. It's patently obvious that the character of Bob has been voiced by a middle-aged woman trying desperately to sound young and the end result is ghastly. Unfortunately, this Blu-ray doesn't come with an Italian language option, so one has no choice but to endure it.
Overall, if the viewer can overlook these issues, Lucio Fulci's House By The Cemetery is a lot of creepy (and gory) fun. I don't really believe it to be a lesser entry in Fulci's horror canon as many do, and it's certainly far and away superior to some of his later clunkers.