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Review: House By the Cemetery

How the hell did I miss the news that House By the Cemetery had finally hit Kanopy? It was never listed among the new releases; thank goodness it showed up in my recommendations—otherwise, I might have overlooked it entirely.

I’ve been trying to track down a copy of this third and final installment in director Lucio Fulci’s so-called “Gates of Hell trilogy” ever since City of the Living Dead popped open my skull cork and spilled my brains out last October. I was desperate to love it as much as I did that bleak, Lovecraftian masterpiece; unfortunately, it simply doesn’t know what kind of horror movie it wants to be. Apparently, the four credited screenwriters (including Fulci himself) couldn’t settle on a solid premise before the cameras rolled; the result is a jumbled hodgepodge of “mad science gone awry” and “supernatural mystery” tropes that never quite coalesces into a coherent story. Even the narrative structure is hopelessly confused; there are numerous bizarre non sequiturs (most of which involve our heroine’s husband, who is either conspiring to drive her insane and murder her... or merely cheating on her) that might represent deliberate red herrings… but are more likely the remnants of abandoned plot threads that the editor neglected to remove.

To be fair, The Beyond shared several of these shortcomings—but at least that film was an imaginative mess (how often do you encounter scenes in which ravenous tarantulas slowly devour a paralyzed man's face?). Despite some impressive gore effects, House By the Cemetery is, by and large, a rather dull, uninspired affair; I expected more from the twisted genius behind Zombi 2 and Don’t Torture a Duckling.

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