It’s Fulci time! Yay! Fake blood and entrails for everybody!
If you don’t know who Lucio Fulci is, well, let me make the appropriate introductions. Mainly known as a horror director, Fulci was an Italian guy who made movies with explicit gore and really bad dubs. My first Fulci movie was picked up at an old, run-down video store in the town I was attending college. (Trust me when I say there wasn’t much else to do in town other than sit around and watch movies.) I kind of miss that video store, since it was the only place for miles that had more than every movie in the Friday the 13th franchise.
If you want a perfect horror movie that makes absolute sense with all loose ends tied up and…sense made, then Fulci is not your dude.
However, if you do like spooky atmosphere and people meeting their maker in extreme, crazy ways…then, hey, I got the guy for ya.
The House By The Cemetery has a straightforward premise. A family moves to rural New England so the dad, a professorial type, can get his research done in peace, quiet and near the subject of his work. They get a nifty old house and everything seems to be going well. That’s actually an overstatement, since Dad appears to be slightly divorced from family life with his head stuck in a book, Mom is popping pills to calm her “nervous” behavior and little boy Bob (who also has the worst dub-over in the world) is out psychically talking to mannequins who he picks up in the local park. Just another day in paradise for an all-American family.
Meet Bob’s new girlfriend who can turn into a little girl at her own fancy. She tells Bob, “I told you not to come here!” Bob protests that his parents made him. While Bob’s parents are at the realtor’s office signing the paperwork, he sees her body lying in the park and goes to retrieve her. Bob’s parents are allowed to make strange, wacky decisions, so they let Bob take her home with them to be his new girlfriend. Bob’s been warning his family since they started packing up in New York City that this move is a bad idea, but no one seems to listen to him – except his mannequin girlfriend. You may be unsurprised to learn she’s the one telling him the house isn’t safe.
Time out: Can you tell Bob’s dad is a researcher-professor type? That turtleneck, that beard, that plaid sportcoat – they all add up to one thing: Grown-up dork.
So the family moves into this quaint little house but it’s not long before weird stuff starts happening. Before the movie starts, Fulci treats you to a scene of a girl and her guy who have broken into the house, getting stabbed in all sorts of really bad ways (is there any other way to get stabbed?) and dragged down to the basement by something with melty-like arms.
WARNING: Blood and guts and nasty things behind the cut. In case you care.
You know this can’t end well for our heroic family, but let’s press on. A babysitter shows up who looks oddly like a mannequin in a department store window. Huh.
To her credit, the mom is creeped out by the house. There’s strange noises and weird things happening. Plus, in one room, there’s a freaking grave – or so it appears – dedicated to a “Dr. Freudstein”. It doesn’t take long for Fulci to get revved up though, and when he does – all y’all better watch out. Everyone’s going down. The poor mother is continually dismissed by her bookish husband, who tells her to take her damn pills. Women, huh? They’re so excitable. When he’s not off researching things and looking very intently at old books, he’s pressed into killing bats and shit at his house. Nothing creepy there.
Some random lady finds the crypt/grave/headstone thing smack dab in the middle of the room and instead of running the other direction, she manages to get her leg stuck in a crack. It doesn’t take long for the thing living in the basement to come up to grab her ass.
He pokes her with a very sharp stick and kills her. This is what gets me about Fulci – people decry him all the time as uber-violent and lovingly centered on the gore (or at least folks I have known), but if you look at Fulci’s death scenes, a lot of them are deliciously over-the-top, almost bordering on the absurd. While it’s “scary” to watch, it’s outlandish enough to not be real.
Eventually, Random Mannequin Babysitter gets it too. She gets her throat cut. Fulci should have just named this one House By The Place Where You Get Your Throat Hacked Up Like Nobody’s Business because this movie is virtually all throat-violence. It’s crazy.
Mom, Dad and little Bob get sucked down into the basement and it turns out it’s been Dr. Freudstein living down there and killing people to keep his body animated! Lovecraftian, no? They try to escape, but Bob’s mom and dad don’t meet with a pleasant end.
Bob is saved by some old lady in a Victorian dress and the little mannequin girl and away they go into the sunset!
It’s intimated that this is Mrs. Freudstein. That’s the end. That’s it! The thing in the basement keeps on trucking with that whole forcible human organ donation thing, Bob goes to live in the woods or something and his parents are as dead as doornails. I told you Fulci isn’t much for tying up loose ends.
Given all that, what makes Fulci films fun are the fact that the man didn’t seem to give a flying fucking shit about plot if it got in the way of him carving people up on screen. Plot’s just a device to give him some motoring to the death scenes. Fulci always seemed far less concerned with continuity and making damn sense at times in order to set a creepy atmosphere and knock off some people in absurdly stylish albeit grotesque ways. (I still have no explanation for the ghost-mannequin things. I don’t think there was one ever given. If I’m wrong, someone correct me. Like I said, that doesn’t matter, right? Because they all got their throats slashed in the end, ya know.)
The House By The Cemetery is no exception to that rule, so here’s some gore shots for your viewing pleasure.
While The House By The Cemetery isn’t the movie I’d recomend if you’re going to try Fulci on for the first time, I love this movie for three reasons: the extreme close-ups on every actor, the music (organ-synthesizer at its finest) and the crazy throat violence.
You also have to have a high tolerance for terrible voice-overs and shitty acting. It’s worth sitting through that for some of the ways Fulci stages scenes and the way he can build tension at times. Claps for my man Fulci here. (May he rest in peace, the poor dead dude.)
It can be an acquired taste, unless you are a person who’s got a throat/neck-injury phobia. If that’s the case, this one isn’t your kind of taste at all.