Monday, November 2, 2009

The House by the Cemetery (1981): Or, How We Learn That Fiddle Faddle Is A Catalyst For Evil

Greetings friends! It is I, the Duke of DVD, once more appearing behind you in the bathroom mirror as you floss your crusted teeth, digging my cinematic claws into your shoulders and then spinning you around, to vomit the truth that is horror film magic down your gasping piehole! Today I tackle yet another fine film by Italian horror great Lucio Fulci. First, a couple of little-known facts about Fulci:

1) He once masturbated onto the grave of a well-known English poet.

2) He bred jackals for amusement and in order to save on pest control costs.

3) He single-handedly murdered an entire fiefdom whilst on a drunken bender.

Our movie today is "The House by the Cemetery" and once again we have a movie title which explains so much. It's not just any house, folks. Oh no! It's one by a fucking cemetery. It should be common sense by now that you just don't move into said houses. Not even if you get a killer deal on it, people! With that said, let's explore, shall we?

Our movie starts off as all horror movies should: with bare breasts. It seems a young couple figured an old abandoned, cob-web-filled house sitting next to a cemetery would be a grand spot to go shag in. The girl wakes up after no doubt exhausting herself straddling her man's hog, and begins to call out for her lover, who is nowhere to be found.

A certain house... by a certain cemetery.

Wandering through the house, she finally finds him... hanging from a door with his head bashed open! Before you can say "Wow, check out the funbags on that hosehound!", she opens her mouth to scream and gets a kitchen knife rammed through the back of her skull, out the front of her mouth. Nice effects here, I must say! Someone with a mangled arm drags her off, down into the cellar.

"Do I have something in my teeth?"

Next we cut to New York City, where Dr. Norman (Paolo Malco) and his wife Lucy (played by Fulci alum Catriona MacColl) are getting ready for some vacation time with their 6-year-old son Bob. It seems Norman is taking over the research of a colleague after his disappearance. Said research involves a little hamlet out in the country, and a certain house by a certain cemetery. Now where do you suppose the couple and child will end up?

Bob shows off the latest in pumpkin pie haircuts.

That's right, before you can say "Fulci, I love your beard!", the couple arrive at the fabled house with a real estate agent. The agent shows them around the quaint house, and then leaves, but not before running over a headstone in the cemetery with her Jeep! Talk about a bad omen! The couple begin moving things in and repairing stuff around the house to make it livable. A quick glance around the kitchen reveals a cellar door that has been boarded up, probably for good reason.

"Don't mind me, I'm just desecrating this cemetery, by your fucking HOUSE!"

Meanwhile, the son Bob has begun seeing a young girl around town. This ghost girl is seen and talks only to Bob, and warns him repeatedly not to go into the house, and especially not to go into the cellar. Sage advice, no doubt. We first see the creepy ghost girl standing outside a store in the small town, looking at a mannequin. Suddenly, the mannequin's head falls off, and it starts bleeding all over! We don't know what this means, but I'm sure we'll find out!

Forged on an altar of evil by Lucifer Himself, Fiddle Faddle exudes an aura of evil.

To add to all this, a creepy babysitter named Ann shows up outta nowhere and basically moves herself in, the better to take care of little Bob. The babysitter looks like she's drugged at all times and tends to answer questions using only grunts. Turns out, the babysitter looks exactly like the mannequin that was decapitated! Another ill omen, for sure.

"Don't worry honey, we'll get more Fiddle Faddle, I promise!"

After the couple settle in, Norman goes into town to work on his research. Lucy, meanwhile, does some light cleaning. Moving back a rug in the living room, she discovers a tomb! Written on it is the name "Dr. Freudstein." As soon as she discovers this, loud banging and moaning start to emanate from the house, leaving her in hysterics by the time Norman gets home. She shows him the tomb, and without missing a beat, Norman utters one of the best lines in horror movie history:

"Most of the homes in this area have tombs in the living room. This isn't New York ya know!"

Indeed, Norman. Indeed! At any rate, the tomb gets ignored for now. Instead, more pressing matters are dealt with, mainly what the heck is in the cellar? Norman pries the boards away and finds a skeleton key that fits the lock, only it won't turn. Using a knife as leverage, he finally opens it up. No sooner has he got the door open when suddenly a bat flies out and attacks Lucy, tangling up in her hair! Norman grabs the bat, but it latches onto his hand and won't let go. Apparently this is a vampire bat with a particularly clingy grip. Norman finally stabs it, and stabs through his own hand, with a pair of scissors, in an attempt to kill it. Finally, the bat is dead, but not before everyone standing in the kitchen is covered in blood.

"Take that, winged spawn of Satan!"

The next day, the real estate agent stops by to see if everyone is getting along ok. Finding no one at home, she snoops around, until she accidentally steps through the tomb in the living room floor! Her foot trapped, she tries to free herself, when suddenly the, er, "thing" living in the basement appears and rams a fireplace poker through her side... then through her chest, then finally into her neck, which causes death. I have to applaud the effects here. Lots of blood gushing and semi-realistic pokerings.

"Remember me... as a desecrator of graves..."

The basement thing drags the agent's body down to the cellar. The next morning, babysitter Ann is seen scrubbing the floors. No one questions the giant blood trail, but I guess that's a common occurrence when living in a House by the Cemetery. The dad, meanwhile, continues his research and Bob the kid plays games with a dead girl only he can see. The babysitter happens by the kitchen and notices the cellar door ajar. Thinking Bob is down there, she goes to investigate. Bob, meanwhile, is upstairs.

The cellar door locks behind her and won't open, and her screams finally draw Bob downstairs, but first he grabs a stuffed monkey and a gay pink plastic pistol for protection. He can't open the door either, and finally the babysitter's cries are silenced by the basement thing, who cuts her throat multiple times from multiple sides before finally decapitating her. Bob finally gets the door open and goes to investigate, seeing nothing until Ann's head bounces down the stairs behind him.

Everyone wants a babysitter who will give a little head on the side...

Lucy comes home to find Bob in his room, crying in a corner, mumbling about Ann's head. They go to the cellar together to investigate, and find nothing. The mother assures Bob that Ann's alive. Later that night, Bob gets up and goes on another investigation. Standing at the top of the stairs, he utters the immortal line: "Ann? Mommy says you aren't dead, is that true?" He sees evil glowing eyes in the shadows of the cellar, and flees in terror. But of course the door won't open.

Lucy tries the key, but it snaps in half. Finally, just as the cellar thing is closing in on poor Bob, Norman arrives home. Apparently, he's figured out exactly what research was going on. He starts raving about Dr. Freudstein still being alive, despite the snazzy tomb in the house. He can't open the door either, so he grabs a nearby hatchet and tells Bob to stand back.

Tired of his son's foppish 'do, Norman employs a non-standard hair-cutting technique.

Unbeknownst to him, Dr. Freudstein (aka the basement thing), grabs Bob's head and shoves it up against the door. This provides a fairly original and tense scene where Norman repeatedly whacks the door with the hatchet, always coming within inches of his son's head. I give major kudos to Fulci for this scene. Finally, the door opens, and Norman and Lucy rush in just as Dr. Freudstein tosses Bob down the stairs.

"The Doctor... is in."

Helping Bob to his feet, they see the cellar is decorated with all of Dr. Freudstien's victims. Norman explains loudly: "He needs human victims to stay alive, he has to renew his cells!" With that out of the way, he grabs a handy knife lying nearby and stabs Dr. F with it repeatedly. What I can only describe as "maggot gravy" pours out of the wound, onto the floor. Not deterred by the knife attack, Dr. F grabs Norman by the throat, and tears it out! Norman basically just watches this happen to himself, not trying to escape at all. (Note that Dr. Freudstein moves at a glacial pace.)

Here we see the 3 phases of Maggot Gravy.

Lucy, whilst screaming, notices a back staircase that leads up to the tomb in the living room. Dragging a screaming Bob with her, she tries to open the tomb at the top of the stairs as Dr. F slowly climbs up after her. Bob genuinely looks terrified and I wonder if the poor kid is still in therapy to this day, having shot this movie and been witness to all that Fulci has to offer. Lucy has no luck, and Dr. Freudstien drags her screaming down the stairs, her head bashing on each step.

Meanwhile, Bob squeezes through the crack in the tomb created by the real estate agent's foot, and he manages to escape. Up top, he's suddenly in the ghostly realm of the ghost girl, who is waiting for him there along with her ghost mother. The movie ends with them and Bob, walking down the road, leaving the House by the Cemetery behind.

"Is it ok if I stay here a while, despite my haircut?"

Wow, what a movie! I, for one, was very impressed by this film. It had a little bit of everything, but mostly it had great effects that made me clap with glee. Sure, the plot was nonsensical, and the victims should have been able to easily get away from the shambling Dr. Freudstein, but otherwise, bravo Fulci!

I think everyone should give this movie a spin, should it cross your path, and remember, avoid the Fiddle Faddle!

2 Thumbs Up!

Bonus pics:

"Stop & Shop. Your number one source for Fiddle Faddle in the tri-state area!"

"But mom, this Stop & Shop milk tastes like it came from a male bat."

Fiddle Faddle, where it lurks evil is sure to follow.


Al Bruno III said...

Another great review and a few observations...

1.) I liked this film quite a bit. I got it in a set with THE DEVIL'S NIGHTMARE good stuff.

2.) Reading what you said about Mr. Fulchi I think I may commission you to write my biogrpahy.

3.) I never realized that Fiddle Faddle was so prominent in this film. Is this the worst product placement deal ever?

Inspector Winship said...

I love Fiddle Faddle!

The Duke of DVD said...

@Al Burno III - I would be honored to write your biography, sir! I shall entitle it "Dutch Rudder, Or A Journey Into The Mind of a Habitual Fornicator - The Al Bruno III Story"

@Inspector Winship - Fiddle Faddle is indeed awesome, but who knew it could bring about the creation of undead when coupled with a house located near a cemetery? I, for one, didn't! I'm glad my family tombs are embedded in basalt 30 leagues below my estates...

Ashton Lamont said...

Top stuff as always sir! One re-watching the film recently I noticed that the title is, in fact a misnomer as it appears that the house is actually in a cemetery.....i'll have to ask my wee boy seeing as he appears to star in it.

The Duke of DVD said...

You are correct, Ashton! The house really does just sit right in there, and in fact it has a freakin' TOMB in the living room, so you could make a case for the movie being titled "The House IS A Cemetery".

The Fiji Mermaid said...

Duke, great review. Good stuff. I haven't seen this flick in ages, so long in fact I don't remember much. I must see it again now. I actually have the score/soundtrack to this flick and I think I shall listen to it now. Keep up the great work!

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