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Tuesday, August 16, 2011

The House by the Cemetery (1981)

I have found that usually, when it comes to haunted house stories, those from Europe tend be a bit better than those made in North America, and are often more envelope pushing in respect to gore.

Lucy and Norman- with their son Bob, are moving into a new house... despite a little girl in a photo warning Bob not to.  After moving in, strange noises can be heard as Norman begins to investigate the death of the previous owner- who happened to be a colleague of Norman's.  Soon, the family is involved in the fight of their life as the dark secret of the house comes to life and stalks them...

I often enjoy foreign horror films, and I definately enjoy haunted house movies. "The House by the Cemetery" is a pretty decent one, despite some of its flaws.

The acting was pretty good, though hampered by the dubbing.  The voice work was a little stilted at times.  While most of the characters seemed a little two dimensional, I still liked them.  The role of the young girl- Mae, was excellently filled by Silvia Collatina.  It was a shame that she didn't get more screen time in my opinion.  I certainly preferred her to the little boy, Bob- played by Giovanni Frezza.  I found him more annoying than likeable.  Giovanni De Nava was great as Dr. Jacob Freudstein- even though he too didn't get much screen time, or lines.

The setting was great.  The house was absolutely gorgeous- the type of place I'd probably enjoy living in myself.  The sets were enhanced by the earth tones used throughout the film to give it a moody sort of atmosphere.  The cellar was fantastic- creepy and eerie indeed.

The storyline does have some flaws however.  There are indications that the people in the town are aware of what's been going on in the house, but those tantalizing hints are never really followed up on.  Two scenes in particular that expressed this.  The first is one scene where the new babysitter, Ann, and Norman are exchanging looks- they're either supposed to be looks of physical attraction, as the actress Ania Pieroni, has the most stunningly beautiful eyes, or knowledge that people have disappeared in the house.  Another scene involves a nicely bloody death, and the the next morning, Ann is rather nonchalantly cleaning up the blood on the floor.  Since those "leads" weren't followed up, they seemed to be rather pointless.

Despite that, the premise was actually quite good, and set a nice framework in which to work in the scares and blood.  The blood and gore effect were quite effective, I felt.  Lots of blood.  The make up for Dr. Freudstein was impressive too.

If this movie had followed up a bit on some of the questions it raised, I would be comfortable putting "The House by the Cemetery" in "The Good".  However, since the kid was annoying, and there were too many pointless questions raised without any of them being answered, this movie felt a little incomplete... and thus must be placed in, "The Bad".


  1. Good review! It took me a few viewings with some time spaced between them to formulate an opinion on this film. It's a combination of the sublime (stylish scenery and direction, brooding atmosphere) and the awful (script, recycled music score). There's also gallons of gore, some of it effective and some of it hokey.

  2. Yeah, one of the sublime moments involves the opening scene with the little girl looking out the window... only to show it that it's a photograph. I loved it. The article photo is from that scene, and has a nice ghostly feel to it.

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  4. How many have wandered innocently into the waiting spider web? How many are doomed to follow? The smell of the rooms terrifies me, and lures me on. The smell of blood!

    A masterpiece of Italian Horror!