Dave Harlequin’s RETRO-REVIEWS: Issue #6 -‘THE HOUSE BY THE CEMETERY’ (1981)

When most horror fans hear the name Lucio Fulci, they probably immediately think of movies like “Zombie” or “Gates of Hell”. While those are both excellent films, I figured I’d instead devote this issue of my Retro Reviews column to a lesser-known gem by the Italian Horror icon (and a personal favorite of mine) “The House By The Cemetery.”

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The story revolves around Dr. Norman Boyle and his young family, who move from their cramped urban apartment in New York City to a lovely and spacious new home in rural New England in order to continue the research of his colleague, Dr. Peterson, who mysteriously hanged himself. But of course, this is no ordinary house in the country: the previous owner was the deranged Dr. Freudstein, whose monstrous human experiments have left a legacy of bloody mayhem. To make matters worse, now someone – or something – is in the basement, and it’ll surely be anything but home sweet home.

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From there we are treated to all sorts of excellent horror goodness. There’s the zombie/ghost Dr. Freudstein, who was once a surgeon but got his license taken away because he was conducting illegal experiments. Most people think Dr. Freudstein is dead but of course, it isn’t that simple. Which is very unfortunate for the family that moves in, but for us horror fans it’s good news because this is where all the ultra-violent kills come in. Now, it is important to point out that while this is, by all means, a very violent film, The House By The Cemetery is not as violent as some of Fulci‘s other work. Even though it doesn’t have a lot of kills in it, the kills it does have are very impressive, with plenty of good old-fashioned practical effects (the best kind, if you ask me). Where this film really makes it mark, however, is in the psychological horror going on all-around everything else. What really adds to this even more is the really creepy score. It just the perfect soundscape to go along with the old house and heavily wooded background, which just makes for a truly excellent horror movie atmosphere.

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The Bottom Line:

Overall, The House By The Cemetery is one of the truly unsung heroes of the horror genre. Lucio Fulci seemingly takes the best parts of The Shining and The Amityville Horror and combines them into an innovative and downright spooky tale that is all his own. The special edition DVD is currently available through Anchor Bay Entertainment, and is the first version of the film to be completely 100% uncut, something all Fulci fans can appreciate. Needless to say, this one is highly recommended, and a must-have for any good horror collection!

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