The House by the Cemetery tells the story of the Boyle family who move into the synonymous ‘house’ in order for the father/husband, Norman Boyle to continue the research of his recently diseased colleague.
His child, Bob (we’ll dissect this bizarre munchkin a bit later) discovers some strange goings on within the house’s basement including the bouncing, severed head of his nanny and a set of floating, glowing, orange eyes, eyes that are strangely absent when the monster is finally revealed.
It is these kinds of bizarre inconsistencies that lend The House by the Cemetery its undeniable charm. The basement dwelling bat helps as well…
In one of the oddest moments in this unabashedly odd film, a bat attacks the father when he enters the basement. I don’t claim to be an expert on animal behaviour but I’m pretty sure that bats tend to dwell in high places like, oh say, an attic, not underground.
I’m also fairly confident in thinking that if you stab a bat in its spine with a 6 inch, stainless steel knife then the little bugger will probably go down like a sack of bricks. Accordingly to the law of Fulci however, these basic ‘truths’ are open to interpretation. Once the bat locks its jaws around the father’s hand it refuses to let go. Neither a knife to the creature’s back nor basic scene pacing will stop this winged beast from staying locked on for a good three minutes or so.
Excuse the pun, but one could certainly call it a ‘bat out of hell’, wink, wink.
This is part of the beauty of a Lucio Fulci film, his total lack of control over the medium of cinema. The editing is consistently confusing and incompetent -shots tend to overstay their welcome- the 180 degree rule is regularly broken, basic shot by shot continuity is considered optional and sub plots are introduced but never concluded.
For example, when the family first arrive at the house the husband reminds his wife to take her pills, pills she claims to dislike as they cause her to engage in mild hallucinations.
This set up should lead to a logical conclusion, for the mother to witness a ghostly occurrence or bloody murder, to then report this occurrence to her husband and then for him to tell her ‘You hysterical woman you! It’s just your pills playing tricks on you! Now let us go down into that basement so I can prove to you that nothing is down there… Oh s**t!’
This never happens and the other sub plots are just as poorly nurtured.
Coming back to our infant protagonist, Bob, I feel that I must point out a couple of details regarding this Aryan scamp. Bob is no more a suitable name for a child than Frank, Bill or Agnus. Bobby, Robby, Robert or Roberto, these are all acceptable monikers for a child. Naming this child Bob is typical of the films out right detachment from reality. Then again there is really nothing normal about this freakish creature.
It would require some effort on the part of the audience in order to ignore Bob’s strangely effeminate voice…strangely effeminate and old. It is almost as if a middle aged voice actress was dubbing his every line perhaps?
The House by the Cemetery is a movie of confused narratives, bad dubbing, shitty casting and basic cinematic no nos. In other words, it’s a hugely enjoyable mess.
It’s fundamentally impossible to dislike a film that relishes the crash zoom with such passion and vigor. This is Lucio Fulci at his flawed, bloody best.
It may not be a film of ‘true worth’ but it’s certainly one that will leave you strangely satisfied.
If you’re craving a tasty slice of violent nonsense then you could do worse than this fantastic, dvd re-release.