top of page

House by the Cemetery (1981)

I often tried to exorcise my personal Hell to no avail, so now I show it in my films.

Lucio Fulci

With The House by the Cemetery (1981,) I’ve now seen two of the three films in Lucio Fulci’s unofficial “Gates of Hell” trilogy. I haven’t watched them in the order they were made, but no matter; they are connected only thematically. When I wrote about The Beyond, I stated that it was a simple, straight-forward movie if you reveled in the atmosphere and mood of its anything but straight-forward scenes, rather than their logic.


I liked The House by the Cemetery very much. It’s also a simple story but plays as even simpler because it doesn’t include the ambiguous scenes of its predecessor. So, when a family moves into the vacant “Freudstein house” (excuse me, “Oak Mansion") and hears noises coming from the basement, there’s physically something in the basement that’s confined to the house. There are no gateways to hell, or ghastly visions in any other setting.


That’s not to say what happens in the house is any less unsettling. In fact, the movie is full of Fulci’s trademark gore, capping scenes of terrible suspense. It may be worse, though, because of the inclusion of children as potential victims. In fact, one of the screenwriters, Dardano Sacchetti has said he was inspired by The Turn of the Screw. Indeed, the final shot of the film is a quote from the Henry James story:

No one will ever know whether children are monsters or monsters are children.

There’s no strict connection between The House by the Cemetery and The Turn of the Screw, other than the fact that there are two children in it. I’m not even certain that the quote fits with the movie, although it most closely relates to the terrific finale that precedes it. Instead, the film more closely resembles any number of “family-moves-into-old-house-in-the country” films. It even evokes The Amityville Horror


…as if shot through a bloody Italian lens. The House by the Cemetery may overlook fine details of the story, but it emphasizes every detail in the visuals. For example, when someone is dragged down the stairs by her feet, we see and feel every step as her head bounces against them. Also, Fulci is not content with only stabbing someone in the back of the head; he must show us the tip of the knife coming out the person’s mouth.


I prefer The Beyond because there’s more room for interpretation, but The House by the Cemetery is only a notch below. I’m looking forward one day to learning where City of the Living Dead fits. I’m guessing there will be a house. At some point, after I’ve seen all three, I’ll plan a marathon of the entire trilogy and discover connections, even if it’s only the graphic style of Fulci.


Tomorrow, check Richard's post at:

The name I'm giving him (first letter of first name must be first letter of last name, Fulci) is:

Click here to see what other participants are doing for the Countdown!

28 views0 comments

Recent Posts

See All
bottom of page