DVD Review: THE HOUSE BY THE CEMETERY (QUELLA VILLA ACCANTO AL CIMITERO)
18 – 82mins – 1981
Story by: Elisa Livia Briganti
Screenplay by: Dardano Sacchetti, Giorgio Mariuzzo and Lucio Fulci
Directed by: Lucio Fulci
Starring: Catriona MacColl, Paolo Malco, Giovanni Frezza, Ania Pieroni, Silvia Collatina, Giovanni De Nava, Dagmar Lassander, Teresa Rossi Passante
Well... it makes a modicum more sense than City of the Living Dead (reviewed HERE), but that doesn't mean that this final instalment in Italian cult director Lucio Fulci's "Gates of Hell" trilogy is a better film. Sadly, The House by the Cemetery seems like a more amateur effort and less adventurous endeavour than superior predecessor The Beyond (reviewed HERE); and it doesn't even have as many splatter-stuffed set pieces to fall back on, with the characters spending what feels like half the slimline runtime calling out each other's names!
That isn't to say that when the claret runs it doesn't gush unreservedly (just check out the rabid bat scene for proof of that), but the hack n' slash sequences are fewer and further between in this haunted house oddity. Medical researcher Dr. Norman Boyle (Malco) relocates to the creepy graveyard-adjacent abode, reluctantly accompanied by his anxiety-prone wife (MacColl), and frightfully dubbed son, Bob (Frezza). However, the creaky old mansion hides many dark secrets, including the zombified corpse of the maaaaad scientist, Dr. Freudstein (De Nava), who must feast on the flesh of the living to remain in his undead state.
Fulci isn't exactly renowned for his narrative coherence, but even with a plot as low-key as House's, still it is plagued by plot holes: Bob sees the spirit of Mae (Collatina), Freudstein's daughter, who warns him not to enter the cursed house, yet this friendly ghost does nothing to stem the horror except animate a beheaded mannequin (Pieroni) to be the child's live-in babysitter (despite his mother being at home the entire time)!! Whether as a red herring or simply to facilitate his eye fetish, Fulci demonizes Ann (as the babysitter is known) with frequent ocular close-ups and inferences that she is in line with the evil undead doc; until she gets beheaded. Again.
Furthermore, as Norman's research leads him to make shocking discoveries into Freudstein's unlawful history, he inexplicably burns the damning evidence rather than using it to help his cause!! What possible reason could he have for destroying the truth when his own family are in jeopardy? Freudstein's prolonged existence, also, feels like horror merely for horror's sake, with no reason given for his afterlife rages. He doesn't even leave the cellar for Fulci's sake!
Couple these narrative aggravations with less skilled direction and a modest story which is half-baked at best, and while you may not have the trilogy's worst effort, it says a lot about a cult horror film when the scariest thing in it is the terrible dubbing of a little boy's voice!
In a CR@B Shell: A lame finale after The Beyond delivered an epic middle chapter, The House by the Cemetery stretches a short story-sized script into a feature film yet doesn't bother to flesh out the fretful ruminating with more gore – and there's only one potato-headed zombie!! Romero's crown as “Grandfather of the Dead” was never in doubt.