Stream to Scream: Lucio Fulci’s “THE HOUSE BY THE CEMETERY”
As many fright fans already know, FANGORIA offers a great selection of gruesome movies, old and new, for free at our Hulu channel. To give you a better idea of what’s available, FANGORIA is taking in-depth looks at some of the channel’s terrifying titles with Stream to Scream. Today: Dr. Freudstein, Bob and Lucio Fulci’s THE HOUSE BY THE CEMETERY.
Often beautiful, occasionally terrifying and almost always completely insane, European Horror is a consistently exciting and unique destination for horror lovers, especially when a madman like Lucio Fulci is wielding the camera as his weapon-of-choice. A master of surreal, graphic and disgusting exhibitionist horror, Fulci’s mind-melting macabre is an acquired taste for casual horror fans while still acting as a bloodthirsty delicacy to the more devoted gorehounds. And yet, as familiar as I am with output like THE BEYOND and ZOMBI, I wasn’t quite sure what to expect from his infamous offering, THE HOUSE BY THE CEMETERY.
Upon first glance, THE HOUSE BY THE CEMETERY is rather restrained for a Fulci film, and possibly the most mature of his “Gates of Hell” trilogy. As with any Fulci film, the plot is all over the place, with plenty never elaborated on or much that’s outright contradictory. Still, this one is comparatively simple and quieter than his other fare, and never quite as flashy in its violence either. Following a family of three as they’re each affected by the haunted house they move into, Fulci fills the story with allusions to mad science, post-mortem communication and creepy townsfolk that interweave into foreboding dread. However, his eye rarely wanders from the family or the house, only divulging into his more hyper-chaotic sadistic bloodletting side when necessary to the story.
Fulci’s filmmaking style is incredibly appropriate to the era and unique to the subgenre, utilizing Sergio Salvati’s soft lighting to emit a fantastical glow from each frame and create a storybook atmosphere to the proceedings. Furthermore, with its array of zooms, point-of-view shots and extreme close-up’s, Fulci’s direction is focused and incredibly specific, allowing Walter Rizzati’s delectably colorful score to be in charge of the film’s tone. Considering the amount of concepts and oddities that Fulci tries to cover in his Lovecraft-inspired tale, the fact that Rizzati, Salvati and editor Vincenzo Tomassi even achieved a thematically cohesive film is a true achievement.
The cast of THE HOUSE BY THE CEMETERY should also be commended, as it’s not easy to play the Fulci brand of scares as well as naturalistic human emotion. Of course, Catriona MacColl is the most well-known of the bunch, and her particular devotion as the emotionally unraveling mother is a clear indication of that legacy. Paolo Malco, who would later become a Fulci mainstay, does well as the humble father, keeping his performance grounded despite the bizarre evil Fulci throws his way, including carnivorous bats and faceless monsters. However, the film’s most valuable player is Giovanni Frezza as the child seemingly fated to meet the haunted house, bringing with him a genuine portrayal of fright and a piercing scream that will stick with you long after the film’s finale.
Of course, what is there to discuss in a Fulci film without mentioning his copious and glorious amount of gruesome gore? A “video nasty,” THE HOUSE BY THE CEMETERY brings the blood in a big way, thanks to Fulci’s special effects muse Giannetto De Rossi. There are painstakingly long decapitations, stabbings, throat-removals and more throughout the film, all presented with disgusting Eurohorror depth and detail. Even though not the most horrific of Fulci’s career, THE HOUSE BY THE CEMETERY is by no means for the weak at heart, especially those adverse to creepy, crawly insects.
Above all else THE HOUSE BY THE CEMETERY is a damn fine Fulci film, and a good launching point for those who want to get into European Horror and giallo. Good gore, fantastic atmosphere and heartfelt performances are on display, all topped off with the standard, bleak Fulci ending. Furthermore, the transfer on Fangoria’s Hulu page is actually quite great, with well mixed audio and strong picture quality. In fact, for those looking for a bloody double feature, why not pair it with Dario Argento’s dreamy INFERNO, also on our Hulu page, and spend a few hours in the surreal minds of horror’s most malevolent maestros?