Ok, now this is one time where I know for a fact that a movie actually belongs in the Pure Terror box set. See, today’s movie is an Italian horror movie directed by Lucio Fulci, who is known as the “Godfather of Gore”. Now I own a couple of his movies and they are always some of the creepier, more messed up horror movies that I have seen, definitely some of the goriest. So let’s see what kind of horrors I am in store for with today’s movie, The House By The Cemetery.
The plot: A woman is getting dressed and calling out for her boyfriend Steve after they have had sex in an abandoned house. Getting no answer from Steve, she goes looking for him and finds his body with a pair of scissors in his chest. She screams but someone behind her stabs her in the back of the head with a knife, then drags her body down into the cellar. In New York City, a young boy named Bob Boyle is staring at a picture of the same house and sees a young girl at the window of the house. When his mom Lucy comes in and asks if he has packed his toys, Bob asks her why the girl in the picture is telling him not to go but when Lucy looks at the picture, she doesn’t see anyone in it. Norman, Bob’s father, is talking with a colleague about his taking over a project started by his colleague, Dr. Peterson, who had murdered his mistress and then committed suicide. The Boyles head to Boston and Norman and Judy head inside the real estate’s agent to get the keys to the house, leaving Bob in the car alone. As Bob is waiting in the car, he hears someone calling his name and sees the girl from the picture standing across the street. The girl introduces herself as Mae and says that Bob shouldn’t have come but Bob says he tried not to but his mom wouldn’t listen. When they go to head for the house, Norman and Lucy find that Bob isn’t in the car but they find him across the street holding a doll. Arriving at the house, Lucy comments that it looks just like the house in the painting back at their apartment but Bob dismisses it, saying there are lots of similar houses in the area. As they start to unpack, Lucy starts getting second thoughts of having come and freaks out over Bob bringing the doll with him but Norman says she should calm down and take her medicine. A short while later, as Lucy is unpacking, a young woman named Ann shows up and says she is the babysitter that Mrs. Gittleson, the realtor, sent over. That night, Norman hears some strange sounds and as he goes to investigate, he finds Ann pulling down the board that were nailed up on the cellar door. The next day, Norman and Lucy head into town on separate errands. Norman goes to get information about the houses in the area and the head librarian claims to recognize Norman when he visited Dr. Peterson with his daughter but Norman assures him that this is his first time in town and he has a son, not a daughter. The assistant librarian, Daniel Douglas, hands Norman the research Peterson was collecting on missing persons, which Norman is confused as to why Peterson needed it, but Daniel says Peterson said it was a private project. Back at the house, Bob is playing in the back yard and finds the tombstone for Mary Freudstein and Mae shows up and says that she is not really buried there. Inside the house, Lucy is working on cleaning and discovers the tombstone for Jacob Tess Freudstein but gets scared when she hears some strange noises coming from the cellar. Norman returns and finds Lucy in a panicked state and manages to calm her down, telling her that plenty of old houses have tombs in the floors as the ground is too hard in the winter time to bury people. Deciding to show them that there is nothing wrong, Norman heads down to the cellar to loom around but gets attacked by a bat, which he is forced to stab repeatedly in order to get it off of him. Norman and Lucy head to the realtor’s office and demand to be moved into a new house but learn it will be a few days before another house will be ready. After they leave, Mrs. Gittleson and her associate argue over the property and Mrs. Gittleson heads over to the house to talk with the Boyles. As she calls out to the Boyles, she steps on the tombstone, which cracks and traps her ankle. As she cries out in pain, a figure emerges and stabs her repeatedly with a fire poker, finishing her off by stabbing her in the neck, then drags her body down to the basement. The next morning, Lucy sees Ann cleaning up the bloodstain on the floor but when she asks what she is doing, Ann doesn’t respond. Lucy goes to see Norman, who tells her that Peterson was looking into Jacob Freudstein, who was a doctor that was barred from practice for conducting illegal experiments. Norman tells her that he must make a trip to New York to do some more research but he stops by the library to go through Peterson’s notes and finds a cassette that Peterson made. Listening to the tape, Norman hears Peterson ranting about hearing Freudstein’s voice and seeing blood everywhere and Norman ends up burning the tape. Back at the house, Bob is playing with his remote control car inside the house. Ann goes looking for Bob and when she can’t find him, checks the cellar for him but the door closes on her. As Ann bangs on the door and begs Bob to open it, someone comes up behind her and begins slashing her throat with a knife. Bob hears Ann’s screams and goes looking for her in the cellar but when he gets down there, he sees Ann’s head rolling down the stairs. Bob screams and runs back upstairs but the door shuts on his hand and he barely manages to get free before the figure grabs him. Lucy returns home and calls out for Bob and Ann and she finds Bob cowering in the corner in his room. Bob tells Lucy what he saw but shoe doesn’t believe him and when they go to the cellar so she can prove it, they don’t see anything and head back upstairs, not noticing the eyes watching them from the shadows. Meanwhile, Norman is at a cemetery in New York searching for Freudstein’s tomb but the caretaker tells him that Freudstein isn’t buried there. That night, Bob heads down to the cellar to look for Ann but sees the eyes and heads back up the stairs only to find the door locked. Lucy hears Bob screaming and banging on the door and tries to unlock it but the key breaks in the lock. Norman shows up and uses an axe to try and break down the door, narrowly missing Bob, who is being pinned to the door by the figure in the basement, who Norman says is Freudstein, who has been killing people and using their body parts to regenerate his blood cells. Norman manages to gut off Freudstein’s hand as he tries to cut down the door and Bob is thrown down the basement stairs, where he tries to keep away from Freudstein.and sees the bodies of Ann, Mrs. Gittleson, and the couple at the beginning of the movie. Norman breaks through the door and attacks Freudstein, stabbing him in the chest with a knife, but Freudstein rips out Norman’s throat. Lucy sees the cracked tombstone and heads up the ladder with Bob to try and escape that way but she is unable to move it and Freudstein climbs the ladder and drags Lucy back down and kills her. Bob tries to squeeze through the opening as Freudstein climbs the ladder after him but just as Freudstein grabs his leg, Someone grabs Bob and drags him to safety. Bob is surprised to find that his savior is Mae but suddenly, Mae’s mother, Mary Freudstein, says it is time to go home, and taking Mae and Bob by the hand, she leads them out of the house and down tree lined road, with the whimpering and crying sound following behind them.
The House By The Cemetery met with negative reviews from the critics, holding a 38% rating on Rotten Tomatoes. While there isn’t a critical consensus on the site, most of the critics panned the movie as being somewhat incoherent. There was a lot of problems with the censors when this movie was released on video, as the censors in the UK forced multiple cuts and edits to the movie in order to tone down some of the more violent or disturbing scenes. Even with all the edits made to earlier releases, the movie was sued under the Obscene Publications Act when it was bootleg copies of the unedited version were discovered, though the unedited release was eventually released in 2009.
As far as the blood, gore, and scares go, this was a good movie, but I will admit that it is confusing. The acting is ok, but I will admit that Giovanni Frezza (Bob) was really annoying. The basic plot for the movie was interesting but the aspect of Mae being a ghost who can somehow see the future was a bit weird. They also left a couple of unanswered plot holes in the movie, such as why people thought that Norman had been in the town before and with a daughter. The ending was also a little confusing, as you have no idea what happens to Bob, he is just shown to be walking down the road with Mary and Mae. The special effects were pretty good, and particularly gore-filled, which did help the movie but couldn’t make up for the shortcomings in the story. Not the best example of Fulci’s work but a good horror movie none the less.
Rating: 2 1/2 out of 5