I absolutely love Italian horror films, and The House By The Cemetery is definitely one of my all time favourites. So let us discuss this Lucio Fulci masterpiece from 1981, and the reasons why it made such a big impression on me.
The House By The Cemetery was first released in Italy with the title Quella Villa Accanto al Cimitero. It tells the story of a married couple, Norman and Lucy Boyle who, together with their little blonde son Bob, move into a new but dilapidated Boston house (a house that, as it turns out, has a very dark history) by a cemetery. The next day, Norman goes down into the cellar, whereupon he is attacked by a large bat (shades of Dracula here, methinks) which has just been inflicting similar harm on his traumatised wife. After much screaming and struggling, Norman finally manages to extricate himself from the bat’s viciously tenacious grip and stabs it to death. Blood then oozes copiously from the bat’s lifeless body as it lies on the floor.
And yet more blood flows – this time even more shockingly and horribly, as it is shed by a human being – later on in the movie, when the estate agent that sold the couple the house meets a grisly end when her foot falls through a piece of rotted floorboard, trapping her there as some mysterious, sinister figure slowly emerges from the shadows and attacks her with a poker before frenziedly ripping her throat open. This, for me, is the movie’s most disturbing scene, as you can really feel the woman’s utter helplessness and terror as her assailant slowly, malevolently, skulks, nearer and nearer, towards her, weapon in hand.
There is another gruesome death when the babysitter, Anne, ventures down into the cellar… only to be slaughtered by the still unknown lurker. When the young boy, Bob, enters the cellar, he is shocked to see Anne’s severed head tumbling down the cellar’s metal stairs.
When Bob returns to the cellar (foolish boy!) later that same night, he gets trapped in there and is confronted by a pair of glowing eyes. Roused by his terrified screams, his parents rush down to the cellar, and when Norma takes an axe to the door in a desperate attempt to get his son out of that hell hole, the full secret of the house’s dark, bloody history begins to unravel.
I won’t give away any more of the plot of this fantastic Italian horror classic. Suffice to say that if you a big fan of The Shining movie, as I am, then I am sure you will enjoy this film, as it holds many similarities to Stanley Kubrick’s classic 1980 shocker. Oh, and the movie has a great, albeit rather poignant, ending too.
The House By The Cemetery is actually the third part in Lucio Fulci’s Gates From Hell trilogy, the other two being City of The Living Dead and The Beyond. Just as he did in the first two movies in the series, Fulci really creates an oppressive, edge-of-seat atmosphere, and you can certainly see the Lovecraftian influences here too. The haunting musical score also enhances the generally foreboding atmosphere of the movie to a most pleasing degree.
The House by The Cemetery is definitely a movie that all fans of not just Italian horror but of horror in general should have in their collection. There are plenty of moments which will make you jump out of your skin, and the overall images projected from the camera panning of the house adds to this, creating an extremely tense and terrifying atmosphere.
But be warned: this movie may, just may, put you off venturing down into cellars of old houses with dodgy histories for life!
You can buy The House By The Cemetery by clicking on the movie’s image link above this article.