By Breanna Whipple
CALGARY — Taking over the research of a dead colleague, Doctor Norman Boyle and his family leave their New York home for Boston. Doctor Peterson, the aforementioned deceased associate, committed suicide after murdering his mistress. The work in which Peterson had been immersed was in regard to the strangely deranged 150-year-old Doctor Freudstein. Boyle makes the decision to relocate his family directly into the former Freudstein home, an old mysterious manor on the edge of a cemetery. Though his young son is given unexplainable warnings to avoid the home, they soon find themselves in the midst of its plague like an atmosphere of looming doom.
The House By The Cemetery (1981) is the third film in Italian godfather of gore Lucio Fulci’s “death trilogy,” following the deliciously satanic City of the Living Dead (1980) and Lovecraftian-esque The Beyond (1981). Much like the trilogy’s two previous films, The House By The Cemetery is outrageously gory, with creative kills that rival any heavyweight American slasher to this date.
Most impressive in this film specifically is the variety of subgenres presented, as the expected haunted house trope is given away almost entirely by the title and is demonstrated through the strangeness of the atmosphere whenever characters are placed within the Freudstein walls. Unease is visibly felt by the mother and son as the father seems strikingly apathetic, not unlike the dreary mood of the supernatural house horror flick The Amityville Horror (1979). Having been released in the heart of the golden age of slasher films, The House By The Cemetery is a true testimonial of the Italian giallo and the shared inspirations behind the slasher genre as a whole. The opening scene of the film features a panoramic view of the Fruedstein home with haunting piano overtones as the opening credits roll, not unlike the slasher originator, Halloween (1978). POV death scenes and the menacing glare of light reflected off the blade of knives also elude to previous groundbreaking films such as Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho (1960), a film that changed the horror genre completely. The film even rides the waves of disgusting and outlandish creature features, as the decaying and decrepit killer relies on human cells to continue living in the physical world.
The most significant example of parallelism in regards to the nature of the film would be Stanley Kubrick’s film adaptation of The Shining (1980). In both films we find a father relocating his wife and young boy to a remote location for work related purposes. Though Norman Boyle proves to be a less homicidal father than Jack Torrance, we do get to see the bewildered man wield an axe in attempt to get to his family members. Though an obvious link can be drawn out between the two films, The House By The Cemetery contains much heavier content. Lucio Fulci lives up to his expected grotesqueness with pulsating wounds splashing crimson rain toward the audience. Heads roll like bowling balls, rabid bats meet a violently bloody end, body parts are strewn about like tinsel and hidden cellars conceal maggot-filled secrets.
Perhaps the most underrated in Fulci’s Death Trilogy, The House By The Cemetery is an absolute must see for any devoted or emerging horror fans. Very rarely do we find a film that smoothly entwines subgenres so effortlessly, which in this case results in a wildly thrilling ride full of surprises. Without a doubt on par with the countless other magnificent soundtracks that accompany Fulci’s displays of gore, Walter Rizzati composed an absolute masterpiece for this film. Hauntingly beautiful, much like the essence of this grim tale.
The House By The Cemetery plays Nov. 13 at the Globe Cinema. Tickets are $10 cash at the door. For tickets, visit housebythecemetery.brownpapertickets.comAB, Alberta, Globe Cinema, Night Terrors Film Society, The House By the Cemetery