By Steve D. Stones
This Italian production from director Lucio Fulci wastes no time in splashing graphic, over-the-top violence across the screen. The opening sequence shows a young girl being stabbed in the head inside an old house. Her bloodied body is dragged across a dusty floor by an unknown, unseen killer. \
A college professor and his young family leave their New York apartment to rent a decrepit mansion by a small cemetery in New England. The professor is conducting research for six months. The mansion was once owned by the deranged Dr. Freudstein. The professor is interested in finding out information about Freudstein.
The professor’s son Bob sees a photograph of the mansion hanging on the wall of their apartment. Bob claims the little girl looking out the window in the photograph is telling him not to move to the mansion. He warns his parents not to move to there.
Soon after the family settles into the mansion, the mother finds a crypt marker under a rug in the hallway. Under the crypt marker is a passage that leads to a cellar and a tomb. The professor investigates the cellar and is attacked by a bat. This scene is downright bloody, as the professor stabs the bat over and over until it finally dies.
The woman who rented the mansion to the family falls through a hole in the floor board and twists her ankle. While trying to free herself, an unknown killer stabs her to death with a fire poker. The babysitter is also killed in a later scene that is not for the faint of heart.
The viewer is subjected to a series of stabbings, throat ripping, impalement, maggot spewing and other graphic forms of violence through the entire film. These are also trademarks of other Fulci horror films. Fulci is never subtle about how he employs violence. He intentionally rubs it in the face of his viewers and does not care if it is gratuitous and nauseating.
The most effective element of this film is Fulci not allowing the viewer to get a good view of the killer until the film draws to a close. The killings are shown in graphic detail, but without any description of whom or what the killer is. The viewer is left wondering why this person is in the cellar, and what is their motivation for killing?
A number of continuity errors in the film show the killer’s hands looking rotted and ugly, while other sequences show his hands as normal and young in close-up shots.
House By The Cemetery completes director Fulci’s “zombie chronicles.” Other films in the series include – Zombie (aka Zombie 2 – 1979), The Beyond (1981) and City of the Living Dead (1980). Fulci is considered one of the most prolific directors in European cinema history. Happy viewing.