The House by the Cemetery (1981)

Quella Villa Accanto al Cimitero/House by the Cemetery(1981) is the first straight forward film for Fulci since Zombie Flesh Eaters(1979). Gets away from the dreamish themematics of his previous two films. Begins with the idea that this could be the third film in the 7 Gates Trilogy. Although not as violent as Zombie Flesh Eaters, The Gates of Hell, or The Beyond, The film does contain some gory set pieces. A bloody haunted house tale that employs the techniques of Lucio Fulci very well. The story builds toward the pessemistic climax.

Quella Villa Accanto al Cimitero’s major weakness is the poor dubbing of Bob & Mae. Because they are voiced over by adults, the performances of the two children come out weak. Walter Rizzati performs a main theme that sounds alot like the theme music of Don’t Torture a Duckling. One of my favorite film scores from a Fulci picture. Tremendously influenced by the zombie classic, Let Sleeping Corpse Lie(1974). This is one of the few Fulci films from the early 80s that Fabio Frizzi did not work on.

The film crew seems at home since having done many films together. I was impressed by the film when I first saw it. House by the Cemetery is helped out by the presence of Catriona MacColl who gives it professional respectability. One thing that annoyed some people is the scene where the babysitter is cleaning up blood with Mrs. Boyle not reacting to this. This was not done purposely but resulted due to budget restraints and time limitations. The House by the Cemetery(1981) was filmed after the editing of The Beyond(1981).

Dr. Freudstein is another in a line of monsterous villains that follows Father Thomas and Schweik the painter. He is the only zombie in an otherwise non zombie pic. Even though he is not seen for most of the picture, his presence is still sinisterly felt. His name seems to be a mixture of Dr. Frankenstein and Dr. Freud. Dr. Freudstein in my opinion also seems to be inspired by the longevity seeking Dr. Charriere of HP Lovecraft/August Derleth’s short story, THE SURVIVOR. Dr. Freudstein is menacing and repulsive.

The set designs are eye popping and fantastic. The interiors of the Freudstein house from the past are stunning. Another example of Fulci using great gothic designs for the film. Part of the film was done in Concord, MA. The antique look of the Freudstein house from the past is something out of a Mario Bava movie. The House by the Cemetery(1981) is made special by the sight of gothic architecture in the small New England town.

Revolves around the relationship between Bob Boyle and the ghost, Mae Freudstein. They can communicate from far away while understanding each other’s thoughts. They are the opposite of Mr. and Mrs. Boyle who are limited in looking beyond what is there. Bob Boyle and Mae are competently played by Giovanni Frezza & Silvia Collatina. Bob Boyle ends up in the same position as Liza and John from The Beyond(1981). Mae’s role serves the same purpose as a warner that Emily served in The Beyond(1981).

Children play a vital role in Lucio Fulci’s top films. In his films, children are the bearers of innocence who are surrounded by a nature of violence. Children are a crucial part in this film because they are the only ones who can sense danger. Dr. Freudstein in my opinion represents the dark half of Norman Boyle. The children in the film are inspired by characters in a Henry James Novella. Its interesting that the doctor lures his victims by crying like a child.

Quella Villa Accanto al Cimitero I feel had a profound influence on Clive Barker’s Hellraiser(1987). One example is the monster who needs victims to keep himself alive and fresh. Another example is the architecture designs of Hellraiser(1987). Combines the ideas of HP Lovecraft with Henry James and Ambrose Bierce. Giannetto De Rossi produces some effective special effects for a low budget film. Sergio Salvati is one of the key ingredients to this picture because of his fabulous cinematography and camera placement.

House by the Cemetery(1981) is comparable to Mario Bava’s Shock(1977). Both have families who live in a house with a dark past. Both have a child who talks to someone dead. The two films have female characters who are on the verge of total breakdown. House by the Cemetery & Shock contain a downbeat ending. These two rely on atmosphere and colorful set pieces.

There are show stopping highlights in Quella Villa Accanto al Cimitero(1981). One, the murder of the first victim played by Daniela Doria. Two, the murder of Mrs. Gittleson where realistic make up effects are employed. Three, the pix axe scene that is an encore of the “Buried Alive” sequence from City of the Living Dead(1980). The scene where Mae envisions the death of Anne, the babysitter is brilliant. The scene where the camera pans out from a house to a picture of that house is quite good and reminds me of a sequence towards the end of Brazil(1985).