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Friday, 18 September 2020

Burl reviews The House by the Cemetery! (1981)


Ha ha and marinara sauce, it’s Burl, here with a review of some pastaland slaughter! Yes, today I’m reviewing a picture made by that much-loved auteur Lucio Fulci, the man who brought us City of the Living Dead and many other movies! Ha ha, and not just gory zombie pictures either - he was a filmmaker for all seasons! But his horror pictures are really his trademark, and in this one, The House by the Cemetery, he really went all out with not just the tomato paste, but the alarming existentialism as well!

I was slightly reluctant to watch this movie again! I last saw it when I was a teenager, but I could remember that it featured a child in peril, and now that I have a child of my own, just a little older now than the one in the movie, I don’t have a very high tolerance for scenes such as that! But the kid in the movie is an eerie looking little moppet called Bob, and I thought maybe, just maybe, he would end up being more the source of the terror than the recipient!

Ha ha, no! The entire last half of the movie, it seems, is made up of scene after scene of Bob being remorselessly terrorized by a zombielike creature who resembles Admiral Ackbar’s disreputable second cousin! This entity is none other than the hideous Dr. Freudstein, a scientist from long ago who has discovered that a steady program of murder can keep him alive, if not especially handsome! So he hangs out in the basement of his old house and murders whoever he can!

The family in the house consists of a bookish scientist who’s there to follow up on the work of the scientist who lived there before and was goaded into suicide by the continuing presence of Freudstein; his wife, played by that familiar face of Italian horror, Catriona MacColl; and poor, unearthly little Bob! There’s also a babysitter who seems to have some agenda of her own, but who is beheaded before she has a chance to enact it! Of course it all ends in a strange, seemingly downbeat ending that’s nevertheless open to some interpretation!

Ha ha! No, I didn’t like the excessive terrorization of little Bob, but outside of that, I must say that Fulci did some good work here, not least in the hiring of his technicians! Sergio Salvati, the cinematographer, provides some marvelous imagery, and good old Gianetto De Rossi does up the trick gore effects in a way few others have managed! Fulci himself weaves an atmosphere of increasing dread and baneful inevitability; not in the relatively subtle way of, say, an Algernon Blackwood story, but with his usual dark sledgehammer lumpiousness! I didn’t enjoy the experience of watching this picture, but I recognize its place in the pantheon! I give The House by the Cemetery two throat rippings!


  1. Worries about the moppet are distracted by the dubbing which gives him this weird woman's voice (!). Anyway, I know Fulci has the adoration of a certain type of horror fan the world over, but his essential grumpiness (to put it mildly) always shows through in his movies, for me, which prevents me committing to them as much.

    1. The kid-with-a-woman's-voice trope is so common in Italian pictures that I barely noticed it! Ha ha, I might have, though, if there was more weird incestuousness a la Burial Ground! Italian movies sure can be strange!