The House by the Cemetery
|The House by the Cemetery|
Italian film poster
|Directed by||Lucio Fulci|
|Produced by||Fabrizio De Angelis|
|Story by||Elisa Livia Briganti|
|Edited by||Vincenzo Tomassi|
|Distributed by||Medusa Distribuzione|
|Budget||600 million Italian lire|
The House by the Cemetery (Italian: Quella villa accanto al cimitero) is a 1981 Italian horror film directed by Lucio Fulci. The film stars Catriona MacColl, Paolo Malco, Ania Pieroni, Giovanni Frezza, Silvia Collatina and Dagmar Lassander. Its plot revolves around a series of murders taking place in a New England home–a home which happens to be hiding a gruesome secret within its basement walls.
A woman (Daniela Doria) is in an abandoned house looking for her boyfriend. After she discovers his body stabbed with scissors, she is stabbed in the head with a French knife, and her body is dragged through a cellar door.
In New York City, Bob (Giovanni Frezza) and his parents, Norman and Lucy Boyle (Paolo Malco and Catriona MacColl), are moving into the same house. Norman's ex-colleague, Dr. Peterson, who murdered his mistress before committing suicide, was the previous owner. The Boyles are to stay there, whilst Norman researches old houses. As his mother packs, Bob looks at a photograph of a house and notices a girl in it. In New Whitby, Boston, Bob waits in his parents' car while they collect the house keys. The girl from the photograph appears across the street. The girl, Mae (Silvia Collatina), whom only Bob can see, warns him to stay away. In the real estate office, Mrs. Gittleson (Dagmar Lassander) is annoyed when her colleague hands the couple "the Freudstein" keys. She insists it is called "Oak Mansion", and promises to find the Boyles a babysitter.
Oak Mansion is in a poor state of repair. The cellar door is locked and nailed shut. A woman arrives and introduces herself as Ann, the babysitter (Ania Pieroni). That night, Norman hears noises and finds Ann unblocking the cellar door. The next day, Norman goes to the library to peruse Peterson's materials. The chief librarian, Mr. Wheatley (Carlo De Mejo), appears to recognize him. but Norman claims he is mistaken. The assistant librarian, Daniel Douglas (Giampaolo Saccarola), then informs Norman that Peterson conducted private research at the house. He studied records of area disappearances and other demographic data.
Mae shows Bob a tombstone on the grounds marked "Mary Freudstein" and says she is not really buried there. Indoors, Lucy finds the tombstone of "Jacob Tess Freudstein" while sweeping the hallway. When Norman returns, he reassures her that some older houses have indoor tombs because of the hard wintry ground. Norman opens the cellar door and walks down the stairs, only to be attacked by a bat, which won't let go until he stabs it repeatedly. Spooked, the family drives down to the real estate office and demands to be re-housed, but are told it will be a few more days before they can move. While the Boyles are at hospital to treat Norman's injuries from the bat, Mrs. Gittleson arrives at the house to tell them of a new property. Letting herself in, she stands over the Freudstein tombstone, which cracks apart, pinning her ankle. A figure emerges, stabs her in the neck with a fireplace poker, and drags her into the cellar.
The next morning, Lucy finds Ann cleaning a bloodstain on the kitchen floor. Ann eludes Lucy's questions about the stain. Over coffee, Norman tells Lucy that he's discovered that Freudstein was a Victorian surgeon who conducted illegal experiments. Norman must travel to New York to research Freudstein. On the way, Norman drops by the library and finds a cassette of Peterson's, which explains Freudstein killed his family. Ann goes to the cellar looking for Bob, but Freudstein decapitates her after slashing her throat. Bob sees Ann's head, and exits screaming. Lucy refuses to believe Bob's tale about Ann. That evening, Bob returns to the cellar looking for Ann but gets locked in. Lucy hears Bob's cries and tries to open the cellar door. When she cannot open it, Norman returns and attacks it with an hatchet. The rotting hands of Freudstein (Giovanni De Nava) appear and restrain Bob. Norman cuts the monster's hand off, and he staggers away, bleeding.
Norman and Lucy finally get into the cellar, which contains several mutilated bodies (including Ann, Mrs. Gittleson, and the couple from the beginning of the film), surgical equipment, and a slab. Freudstein is a living corpse with rotting flesh. Norman tells Lucy that the 150-year-old Freudstein lives by using his victims' parts to regenerate blood cells. Norman attacks Freudstein, but the ghoul twists the hatchet away. He grabs a dagger off a tray and stabs Freudstein. Freudstein picks up Norman and rips his throat out. Lucy and Bob climb a ladder leading to the cracked tombstone. Lucy strains to shift the stone, but Freudstein grabs her and drags her down the stairs, killing her by ramming her head into the concrete floor. As Freudstein advances up the ladder, Bob strains to escape. As Freudstein grabs Bob's leg, he is suddenly yanked upwards by Mae. With Mae is her mother, Mary Freudstein (Teresa Rossi Passante), who tells them it's time to leave. Mrs. Freudstein leads Mae and Bob down the wintry grove into a netherworld of ghosts and sadness.
- Catriona MacColl as Lucy Boyle (credited as Katherine MacColl)
- Paolo Malco as Dr. Norman Boyle
- Ania Pieroni as Ann (babysitter)
- Giovanni Frezza as Bob Boyle
- Silvia Collatina as Mae Freudstein
- Dagmar Lassander as Laura Gittleson
- Giovanni De Nava as Dr. Freudstein
- Daniela Doria as the first female victim
- Gianpaolo Saccarola as Daniel Douglas
- Carlo De Mejo as Mr. Wheatley
- Kenneth A. Olsen as Harold (credited as John Olson)
- Elmer Johnsson as the Cemetery Caretaker
- Ranieri Ferrara as a victim
- Teresa Rossi Passante as Mary Freudstein
- Lucio Fulci as Professor Mueller (uncredited)
Fulci later claimed that after making The Black Cat and The Beyond that he wanted to make a film in tribute to HP Lovecraft without the film being based on one of his stories. Screenwriter Dardano Sacchetti was inspired by Henry James' The Turn of the Screw. Sacchetti also stated the film was based on his own personal experiences as a child, being born in a large country house with a large dark basement and that age 9 he had to cross a cemetery at night. In his biography, Fulci spoke negatively about Sacchetti's contributions as a screenwriter saying that The House by the Cemetery was derivative of scenes from The House That Screamed. The film went through several changes from the original story by Elisa Briganti and the script by Sacchetti. The script was originally titled La notte dell'inferno (transl. The Night of Hell) which became La casa di Freudstein and then Quella casa accanto al cimitero. Sacchetti's script was revised by Fulci and Giorgio Mariuzzo, Mariuzzo claimed he worked as a script doctor slightly changing work stating that Sacchetti's scripts were often too short. Sacchetti commented on this stating that "Mariuzzo always intervened afterwards, either because I had to leave to work on another film or refused to make those changes that Lucio demanded. That was the reason for our arguments."
The House by the Cemetery was shot on location in New York, Boston, and Concord, Massachusetts. The film was also shot in studios at De Paolis In.Co.R. Studios in Rome. Shooting the film took eight weeks between March 16 and May 1981. The film was made on a budget of approximately 600 million Italian lire. Despite the credits stating that the special make-up effects were provided by Giannetto di Rossi and Maurizio Trani, only Trani worked on the film.
The Italian ratings board asked for a brief six-second cut in The House by the Cemetery where Dagmar Lassander's character Laura Gittleson is murdered. The film opened in Turin on August 14, 1981. and was distributed by Medusa Distribuzione. The film grossed a total of 1,407,981,297 lire in Italy, making it Fulci's most financially successful horror film of the 1980s. Prior to the films theatrical release in France, it was shown at the Festival International du film fantastique et de science-fiction in Paris with Fulci's earlier film The Black Cat. It was released in France on March 24, 1982.
The film was released in the United Kingdom on October 15, 1982 where it was distributed by Eagle Films. The film was passed with cuts by the BBFC involving scenes being trimmed involving Ann and Laura's murders which gave the film a 84 minute and 49 second running time. This version of the film was released on home video in the UK and was later placed on the video nasties list after the Video Recordings Act 1984. It was rel-released on home video in 1988 with four minutes and eleven seconds of the film cut. The film was re-released in 2001 with only 33 seconds cut and again in 2009 uncut.
From contemporary reviews, Julian Petley (Monthly Film Bulletin) commented that the film had a "Frankenstein theme" but that "the film adds little to the well-worked legend" and that "this would matter less were the film visually richer, but for the most part it is comparatively sober and restrained, at least by Fulci standards" Petley continued that "the film undeniably has its moments–Bob's escape from the cellar; the human debris of Freudstein's laboratory; an attack by a particularly ferocious and tenacious bat; the climactic appearance of the horribly mutated Fruedstein" Giovanna Grassi of Corriere della Sera dismissed it as an "Italian Shining" and concluded it to be "a condensation of rip-offs,commonplaces and badly repeated horror conventions." Aldo Vigano of La Stampa commented on the use of children in the film, stating that "to see children involved in such a gruesome and oppressive horror story will perhaps cause disconcert and discomfort, rather than pity in many spectators." In France, Philippe Ross of La Revue du cinéma proclaimed that Fulci had to show "us something other than these endless cenes of butchery who truly become more and more painful and soporific" Christophe Gans reviewed the film in L'Ecran fantastique stated that "Except for two or three welcome details [...] the suspense "for laughter", so appreciated by American filmmakers, here becomes particularly tedious" Gans praised the films visuals, noting "melancholic, wintery photography" while still concluding that the film's "repertoire of gimmicks repeated or borrowed from Argento, our greatest regrets is the absence of madness in the explanation of the monster, yelled amid the din of a stretched suspense."
From retrospective reviews, film review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes reported an approval rating of 38%, based on 8 reviews, with a rating average of 4.7/10. Time Out called the film "a hack-work of almost awesome incoherence". Allmovie praised the film, complimenting its atmosphere.
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