Tuesday, September 11, 2012

House by The Cemetary

here's my over blown review taken from my other blog Crankytown.

I never realized before that the brains and fingers behind the typewriter of all my ultimate favorite gore exploitation films is none other than Dardano Sarchetti. He is the brilliant and unsung craftsman of such Italian masterpieces such as Zombie, The Beyond, City of The Living Dead and Cannibal Apocalypse just to briefly mention a handful of films. House By The Cemetery another Sarchetti penned film should be added to the long list of Lucio Fulci favorites but unfortunately this film has gotten a bad reputation.  Most people blame the child actors, whose awful tone deaf voice-overs certainly contribute to the irritation. For fans of both Italian neo realism and Grindhouse this is definitely nothing new to their ears. Practically every single Italian film in the history of cinema is shot without sound to capture actor realism and dubbed for later. To me House by The Cemetery seemed just as artistic as any other classic Fulci flick. It is packed with gore including all the usual elements, like: zombies, maggots, people falling into traps of their own making, extreme gore and starring Catriona Maccoll from all of his best efforts. Cemetery strives for a complex story of ghostly revenge with elements ripped off from The Amityville Horror and The Shining. Featuring a mad scientist zombie in control of a family’s well being. The evil presence in the house that torments the family is the whimpering undead surgeon known as Dr. Freudstein. He is the previous owner of the house and never actually left, he lives in the basement and devours anyone who crosses his path. Right from the very beginning Fulci knows his die hard fans well and delivers what they expect, immediate teenage girl nudity followed by a graphic murder. A knife is driven through the back of the girl’s head and exits through her mouth, while her boyfriend’s exposed brain is dangling out of his skull.
 The supernatural element works well here spawned from a spooky black and white transition photo of a mysterious red haired girl and this is where we first meet Bob, a blonde mop topped tike voiced by a tone deaf woman. It is hard to feel as connected to the trauma involved storyline possibly it would’ve helped if it were the actual child actor’s voice and not an adult woman meant to be a little boy. The child actors are responsible for most of the action, which is a little draining. They are both psychic and can telepathically communicate with each other, but you get the surreal feeling that it may be and illusion from the mind of Bob. The other drama is about the typical background clues done like in the Amityville series, extensive obligatory research, this time done by an actual librarian whose family has moved into the cursed Freudstein cottage.
The New York in House by the cemetery oddly enough seemed more authentic then Fulci’s later film New York Ripper. As a director Fulci never hangs around too long for a scene to build up, in fact scenes that pick up a nice dreadful atmosphere are usually thrown out and abruptly plunge to a dead stop. Fulci is a master when it comes to plotting and then immediate throw away move onto something else disgusting.  He even shows up in a cameo and is always also dubbed like all the talent, he isn’t even confident enough to loop his own dialogue. The other drama is about the typical research this time by Bob’s father, an actual librarian whose family has moved into the cursed Freudstein cottage. That’s the difference between Dario Argento and Fulci and you get the feeling he is trying to one up the other Italian horror genius, especially when attempting drama with child talent. You never get a good reading on the child actors and the screen of awareness that it’s dubbed adds another layer of surrealism. The red haired girl from the scary photo is in contact with Bob, she psychically decapitates a store window mannequin and real gore oozes from the neck stump. During this odd scene you get the feeling that this never actually occurred or that Bob had to have imagined it. Catriona Macoll’s performance as the mother is toned down in contrast to her usual ragged screaming and constant torture, Fulci gave her a nice break and instead took out his rage on all the
 other actors.
The Freudstein house seems to have a considerable reputation for driving families to murder each other (reminiscent of The Shining perhaps). Rivers of blood emerge followed by creaky voices and scratching are heard late at night. Bob and his imaginary friend find the grave of Freudstein’s deceased wife in the backyard. The other headstone sits above the basement in the center of the floor and the cellar is pried open in a very strange way with a very sharp knife through a skeleton key. I guess these people never heard of a credit card to break into a locked door.
A vampire bat flies out once the door is open and ravenously bites the entire family. The obviously mechanical bat attacks Macoll’s head and latches it’s jaws in the father’s hand it looks like the same bat seen on The Munsters flying around Grampa’s dungeon laboratory. It is stabbed a thousand times and oozes dark blood all around the kitchen. Some good typical haunted house motifs are thrown in, like the haunted investigation of Freudstein, haunted dolls and library research (preferably microfilm, but you can’t have everything). And how often do you see a realtor jabbed at by a zombie with a giant knitting needle. This horrifying incident of surgery from beyond the grave turns the poor lady into an enormous splurting blood filled jelly do-nut. Ann the store window mannequin whose head was cut off shows up at the door as an actual person to babysit the kids. She is the one who cleans up the sluicey mess that Freudstein left with the realtor, could she possibly be covering up for him? Fulci has no patience as a director for setting a mood vs. Dario Argento, who could put most humans to sleep with mood overkill. Bob witnesses Ann the mannequin’s severed head once again in real time from the hands of Freudstein. Then Bob for some strange reason ventures down into the cellar where he is met by gigantic cartoonish yellow eyes, which cause him to run in extreme slow motion up the stairs toward the door, but he is locked in.
My absolute favorite Fulci motif is seen here as well, it is always done when someone needs help, but the person assisting narrowly kills them as well. To help Bob out his parents chop through the door and the axe is one hair away from the child’s skull again and again, but so close to almost getting him. The same situation was used in City of The Living Dead to break Catriona from out of a coffin where a pick axe narrowly misses her face over and over again, but she escapes although Bob and his entire family are not as fortunate. When Freudstein dies and oozes maggoty peanut butter and mud, the red haired child also screams because they are possibly the same being although it is never explained. The Henry James quote at the end “No one will ever know whether children are monsters or monsters are children” is appropriate. But apparently made up. Freudstein sobs like a child and in fact may be another child, he also took his time in killing the slow moving kid probably because he felt a connection. This seems to suggest that they are both children but it is left up to the viewer. In a somewhat happy finale Freudstein’s wife, Bob and the girl all end up in their imaginary world together after the entire family is killed, leading me to believe that no one made it out alive. If you go through each Sarchetti /Fulci classic you always have to suspend your belief and turn off your logical brain to make it through the context, in this case you rarely had to do it at all, which was a good change of pace and less exhausting. Even though Fulci is an auteur with an abrupt short tempered style I think more people should give House by The Cemetery another look because it has all the magical qualities of other Fulci gems.
A Available at Youtube for 2 bucks or on Netflix

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