Sunday, October 14, 2018

Short Attention Span Review: The House by the Cemetery (1981)

Short Attention Span Review: House by the Cemetery (1981)

While commonly regarded as one of Italian gore maestro Lucio Fulci's best efforts, House by the Cemetery is likely his most-maligned fan favorite.  This criticism isn't unwarranted, as in many ways the picture is a bit of a mess.  The English dub is an abomination, mostly due to the horrible job they did with young Bob's dialogue, which is truly wretched.  Also, either the picture lost a lot in terms of editing and that sub-par dub, or the script was a mess.  The film is littered with plot holes and boasts some of the most questionable character logic you'll ever see.  This may work in its favor, however, as House by the Cemetery functions largely as a surreal nightmare.  It is also so derivative that it becomes its own unique absurdity, if such a thing is possible, riffing on a gruesome host of beloved horror tropes.  These elements include everything from haunted houses, mad scientists, ghouls, spooky kids, ghastly premonitions, housewives going mad, driven dads who may just be lunatics, to good old-fashioned slasher flicks.  On the positive side of the coin, the cinematography is astounding, the score is mesmerizing, and Fulci brings his trademark gory gloom and doom to a full boil.  He really finds his stride in the last reel, which is utterly horrific, and the director's undying love for downer endings gives this climax some added impact.  Reasonable viewers may well find themselves talking to the screen as things spiral out of control in that final reel.  I watched this one last night, and I said "Nope" a great many times and offered up some iteration of "Don't go in the basement!" at least a dozen times or more.  Unlike The Beyond, Zombi, or City of the Living Dead, Fulci doesn't quite nail the parting shot, which I'm not quite sure I can make heads or tails of.  The verdict is clear, however; House by the Cemetery falls well short of Lucio Fulci's best output, but probably warrants a spot in his Top 5.  It is more than a little problematic, but the creepy factor is high, and the final act is relentless and terrifying in equal measures.

Final Grade: B-

It's a bit of a mess, but it still works, and the scares come fast and furious as House by the Cemetery  nears its grim conclusion.

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