The House By The Cemetery!

Read the fine print. You may have just mortgaged your life!

THE HOUSE BY THE CEMETERY (1981)

Legendary director Lucio Fulci wastes no time getting down to business in this one and quickly dispatches his favorite female victim Daniela Doria before the opening credits roll! Daniela gets a gory gander at her boyfriend’s bloody hacked up corpse and doesn’t even have time to regurgitate her innards before receiving the business end of a butcher’s knife through the back of her skull. Welcome to Doctor Jacob Freudstein’s house by the cemetery. In this house, what you don’t know will hurt you.

The next to wander innocently into the waiting spider web are the Boyle family: Doctor Norman Boyle (Paolo Malco – The New York Ripper), his emotionally unbalanced wife Lucy (Catriona MacColl – The Beyond), and their incredibly shrill, annoying, and apparently clairvoyant young son Bob (Giovanni Frezza – Demons). Norman jumps at the lucrative chance to move to Boston and resume the suicide research project that his former colleague Dr. Peterson had abruptly abandoned after killing his mistress and then himself. Lucio Fulci himself briefly appears as a Professor, and in a recurring gag that also appeared in other Fulci flicks, he sends the innocent off to slaughter – this time by arranging to have Norman finish Peterson’s project and clear up his suicide.       

Bob receives mysterious messages from a dead little girl named Mae, who lives inside a photograph of an old house. She warns him to stay far away from the Freudstein house. Mae’s ghost wanders the streets of Boston and receives prophetic morbid visions of mannequins being decapitated. Mae once again tells Bob to stay away, but his mommy wouldn’t listen. Parents only do what they want to do. Lucy changes her mind ten times about the trip, which causes a last minute change in housing. The helpful local real estate agent Laura Gittleson (Dagmar Lassander – Hatchet For The Honeymoon) arranges an extended stay inside Oak Mansion, better known as Freudstein’s House. She also hooks the Boyles up with a creepy, silent & short lived babysitter named Ann (played memorably by the always striking Ania Pieroni – Tenebrae).

Past and present collide in a vortex of fear! The house by the cemetery is haunted with the anguished cries of dead children. Lost souls that were used as gruesome, illegal medical experiments by the mad Doctor Freudstein. The bastard’s unholy grave lies hidden within the hallway of the house, much to the shock and disgust of Lucy. Norman tries to dismiss this as a common burial practice in New England, and then thoughtfully offers to finally unlock the rusty cellar door, if only to prove that nothing scary is lurking down there. Norman is rewarded for his bravery with a vicious attack from a bloodthirsty bat that refuses to remove it’s fangs from his hand! A few well placed pokes from a large pair of scissors finally manages to get the job done, after some bat blood is sprayed into Bob’s face.

The helpful local real estate agent Laura Gittleson shows up later that night to calm things down and winds up breaking her ankle in Freudstein’s tomb. She then receives a house call from the good Doctor that is punctuated with a violent, agonizing death by impalement. Meanwhile, Norman comes to the brilliant conclusion that Peterson’s research into the Freudstein house somehow lead to his suicide and decides to dig a little deeper. Norman travels back to New York and plays a cassette recording from his unhinged former colleague that reveals the terrifying secrets of the house by the cemetery. The house that draws you in like an infernal magnet. The smell of the rooms, the blood, and the children… not the children! Now that Bob is staying with us, be sure to treat him like a Freudstein. For other guests are surely destined to drop in.

THE HOUSE BY THE CEMETERY marked the memorable conclusion of Lucio Fulci’s beloved “supernatural” trilogy of terror, that began with THE BEYOND and was rounded out by the immortal CITY OF THE LIVING DEAD. All three films featured actress Catriona MacColl in the center role, surrounded by the surreal and deadly forces of darkness that threaten to overcome humanity. Of the three films in this series, “House By The Cemetery” is arguably the most beautiful and confusing. The story, which is credited to Elisa Briganti with uncredited “inspiration” from H.P. Lovecraft, borders on incoherent, and the odd, inappropriate dubbing (BOB!) only adds to the comedic confusion. It’s also the most visceral and violent film of the trilogy. “House” might not be quite as pukeworthy as “City” or have the sinister atmosphere that “The Beyond” possesses, but it’s undoubtedly the most mean spirited and morbid entry in the series. Much like Freudstein’s body, the film is crudely stitched together with elements of the supernatural, slasher, and zombie sub-genres.

This flick is sometimes mistaken for a simple zombie film, primarily because of the title and the obvious associations with Fulci’s The Beyond and City Of The Living Dead, but the distinction is the fact that Dr. Freudstein is not an undead ghoul. In an interesting twist, the mad doctor is actually still alive and needs living victims to regenerate his rotting cells. It also appears that Dr. Freudstein transplants limbs whenever necessary. His abdomen is still chock full of maggots though, as Paolo Malco gruesomely discovers towards the film’s climax. The other highlights of the film for gore lovers are the nasty death scenes, in particular the spectacular impalements and juicy throat slitting. Dagmar Lassander’s death scene borders on pornographic, as her gushing arteries drain themselves in clas-sick money shot fashion. But graphic gore aside, this film is also beautifully shot, has a magnificent score, and is one of Fulci’s most atmospheric and mysterious horror films.

Fortunately, THE HOUSE BY THE CEMETERY is also one of the easier Lucio Fulci flicks to get a hold of. There are numerous dvd releases to choose from, but I would have to give the Brain Hammer seal of approval to the Blue Underground special edition release. This release was freshly transferred in blood-soaked high definition from its original uncut and uncensored negative and is loaded with exclusive new extras! The brand new bonus features include “Meet the Boyles” – interviews with stars Catriona MacColl and Paolo Malco, “Children of the Night” – interviews with stars Giovanni Frezza and Silvia Collatina, “Tales of Laura Gittleson” – interview with star Dagmar Lassander,and “My Time With Terror” – interview with star Carlo De Mejo.Deleted scenes, theatrical trailers, TV spots, and still galleries round out the package. This is the type of special edition release Doctor Freudstein would give (or take) an arm or a leg for!

KEEP THE BLOOD FLOWING!!! 

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