The House by the Cemetery (1981)

The House by the Cemetery (1981)

The House by the Cemetery (1981)

The House by the Cemetery was written and directed by Lucio Fulchi, and was released in 1981. It is also known by its original Italian title ‘Quella villa accanto al cimitero‘.

The House by the Cemetery comes with a solid horror pedigree – directed by Lucio Fulci, it is the third film in the unofficial trilogy that has become known as ‘The Gates of Hell’ trilogy – which also includes ‘City of the Living Dead‘, yet somehow it manages to split horror fans right down the middle. Some love it, some hate it.

The House by the Cemetery also took a beating by the BBFC in the 1980s during the ‘video nasty’ outrage at the time and suffered many cuts and edits on its releases at the time. A badge of honor for any horror film of the time.

Let’s get a few things clear: Firstly, The House by the Cemetery is not really a zombie film; it a haunted house movie that just happens to have a zombie-like antagonist (emphasis on the ‘like’).

Secondly, if this were a zombie picture, I would open up this review by calling the slowest creature of the movie to be the movie itself.

The pacing in this movie is oh so dreadful. The movie runs under 90 minutes – with credits! – yet it feels like a solid 120. Stale actors give so much exposition in long takes that lack dynamism for so long that by the time anything creepy happens – a mannequin’s head falling off revealing that it apparently has fully working internal organs – it’s too late to arouse any interest in the viewing audience.

The House by the Cemetery (1981)

The House by the Cemetery (1981)

To make matters worse, the long periods of anti-tension are marred by the eventual bloody scares that last inexplicably long periods of time, in theory to ratchet up the horror and use gallons of fake blood that must have just been lying around about to expire, but are robbed of any potential screams and squeamishness that they may generate because so much time is focused on them.

The Plot

Normally it would behoove the reader to have a summary of the narrative, but this movie’s story is stupid and drags on for so long that it hard to make sense of or even justify any of the plot machinations occurring.

The movie focuses on a professor who for some reason moves his family into the house of a colleague who just committed suicide in order to finish that colleague’s research into suicide. While there, weird things happen to the wife and son, while the husband discovers that the house’s first resident was a mad scientist who is still alive in the basement.

The House by the Cemetery (1981)

The House by the Cemetery (1981)

Also there’s a creepy little girl who may or may not be a ghost that hangs out the son. Oh and there’s a babysitter who is written as evil but is then killed by the zombie / Frankenstein’s monster of a former tenant. See how unhelpful that was?

As much as we want to recommend this film due to it being a Lucio Fulci film, we can’t.

It’s not without merit however, it has its interesting moments and also has scenes that are genuinely atmospheric, but this isn’t enough to detract from the flaws…which only serve to unravel any sense of fear that was previously built up.

 The House by the Cemetery (1981)

The House by the Cemetery (1981)

The movie’s utter lack of tension coupled with its nonsensical story and utter lack of understanding of film grammar – the movie repeatedly uses zooms and inserts shots of eyes looking shifty to suggest….something? – makes this a painful one to watch. I couldn’t even imagine the cruelty that would have been inflicted on an audience that saw this in a theater. That would’ve been truly horrific.

This is one for Fulci completists only.

Watch the trailer for ‘The House by the Cemetery’:

Useful links:

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Maybe we are being a bit harsh, it’s not all bad as ‘The House by the Cemetery‘ does have a great soundtrack by Walter Rizzati that blends prog-rock with spooky 80s synths. Check out the main theme from the soundtrack below:


Find out more about the soundtrack at Site of the Dead.