Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Gates Of Hell: The House By The Cemetery (1981)

The House By The Cemetery
Director: Lucio Fulci
Starring: Catriona MacColl, Paolo Maclo, Ania Pieroni, Silvia Collatina, Dagmar Lassander, Giovanni De Nava
Rating: Unrated

Mae, time to go home and remember your manners. Now that Bob is staying with us, be sure to treat him like a Freudstein. For other guests are surely destined to drop in.
                   ~Mary Freudstein

Hot on the heels of The Beyond was the third and final installment in Lucio Fulci's Gates of Hell Trilogy.  Oddly enough, this one seemed to get the most hacked up and rotten response from censorship boards.  It almost instantly attained video nasty status and never saw a proper cut of the film surface anywhere for many years.  Some of the versions of the film were sloppily put together and featured scenes that were wildly out of sequence.  The film is hardly the most coherent one in the world, but when you do something that it pretty much renders the film to be a complete mish mash of nonsense and confusion.
Compared to the other films in this series, House tends to be a much more stationary tale.  There was already a film called Don't Look In The Basement back in 1973, but this film would very much be suited for this title.  Though, stuff does happen outside of it, most of the action requires a character to head on down the steps.  Which, its where the movie starts and has the first bit of a Fulci film feeling like a teen movie.  A woman is naked post coital rising and looking for her boyfriend in the basement.  It felt right out of a teen slasher, but once the opening sequence is finished, we get back to a more haunted house, supernatural kill-fest that these movies are.
Aside from the haunted happenings and the zombie-esque killer in the basement, this film doesn't really establish that there is a gateway to hell that has been opened.  The only things to clue us on for this film is basically similar occurrences or ones that feel like the events we saw in the previous two movies.  This one plays a lot with weirdness, but seems more narratively straightforward than The Beyond.  Yet, oddly, I would say The Beyond actually makes a lot more sense than this film.  Maybe I need to watch it more, but the ending to this one and the motive behind the killer zombie guy in the basement don't seem to add up.
That's not to say this movie isn't enjoyable to watch.  Its got that same sort of creepiness that the other films brought, but in a more toned down and singular evil fashion.  The oddest is a terrible dubbed performance by the blonde kid.  Not only is the kid kind of evil looking himself, but the voice dubbed on him is almost like an adult trying to make a kid's voice.  There is a creepy spirit girl in the movie too and she even seems more friendly and less scary than this normal average joe kid.  Normally these movies are all dubbed because they shoot the english actors speaking english and the italian ones mocking english (or just speaking italian) then dub the whole thing later.  This better markets its for the desired US market back in the 70s and 80s.  It also adds an otherwordly eerie feel to a lot of these films to add to their atmosphere.
The film does also boast plenty of gore with some really gruesome body mutilations and free flowing blood.  This is the only one that doesn't have an eye-gouging (Something Zombi 2/Zombie/Zombie Flesh Eaters had one too).  Fulci shot it, but ultimately cut the scene.  It still hasn't surfaced and is likely destroyed by now.  This one isn't afraid to hack people up and get gross.  There is some really impressive stuff in this movie that definitely goes next level.  The opening kill mimics one of the best slasher deaths ever seen in Tom Savini's outstanding effect for The Prowler earlier that year.  If you die in House By The Cemetery, its not going to be pretty at all.  Its going to be very very gruesome.  The film isn't a non-stop death reel, but when someone gets off'd, they get off'd in glorious grisly, grindhouse bloody fashion.  And Fulci is of the best at that.
Following the first two films, which also happen to be two of Fulci's very best, House By The Cemetery is a little bit of a step down.  His coherency and nightmare logic doesn't work too much here and the gore effects are paced.  This film brings us an interesting story with intriguing plot points, but a lot of it doesn't get explored like it should and some are left with weird answers or none at all (Seriously wanted to know more about Norman getting mistaken for his colleague).  All in all, if you're looking for a one off Italian arthouse/grindhouse horror film to just sit and soak in, The House By The Cemetery does work well enough by itself.

NEXT TIME: Which gate opened best?

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