Friday, February 12, 2010

They don't make 'em like this anymore

I've always been kind of fascinated with the Italian horror movies of the 1970's and 1980's but never really followed that up by actually watching them. After all, you can watch all of the films' famous gory bits on You Tube these days and the movies themselves are infamous for incoherent plots, bad acting, and even worse dubbing.

So why waste the time?

Anyway, a friend lent me his copy of Lucio Fulci's The House by the Cemetery the other day so I popped it in last night while fighting the urge to watch I Love You, Man for the twenty-third time this month. I really need to stop watching that movie.

The plot, if you can call it one, is simple. A family moves into a house near Boston so that the father can continue some research that was put on hold when his colleague mysteriously killed his mistress and then hung himself. But little do they know that a zombie doctor is living downstairs in the basement, murdering his victims so he can harvest their organs to stay alive.

And while THBTC commits all of the sins of Italian horror (incoherent plot, bad dubbing, etc), it still manages to be a good and creepy little movie. These Italian horror movies are known first for their gore, and THBTC doesn't disappoint in that regard. But perhaps the second best aspect of Italian horror films are their atmosphere, and THBTC nails the dreamy and creepy atmosphere that most modern horror movies have forgotten about.

I mean, there's a freaking tomb in the floor of the house! How freaking creepy and awesome is that? Also, the house is located right next to a cemetery (hence the title, duh) and horror movies can always use more cemeteries. Perhaps the film's best scene is when mother and son are searching the basement for proof that the child just saw the head of his dead babysitter roll down the stairs (yes, I just wrote that). As they are searching the basement, the killers' eyes pop out of the darkness. It's something you don't expect and while it doesn't cause you to jump out of your seat like the loud jumps that most horror movies employ these days, it does send shivers down your spine.

THBTC is a relic from an era when film makers wanted to genuinely scare you, not treat the movie as if its a roller coaster ride. And that's what I miss about these kinds of horror movies.

But despite as much as THBTC gets right, it gets as much wrong. I mean really, how can the filmmakers ignore such blatant inconsistencies?

Take for instance the family's babysitter, cleaning up the blood from the previous night's murder. The mother notices the sitter cleaning the blood and just asks "what are you doing?" I don't know about you, but if I woke up to find a massive blood smear on my floor, leading to the basement, I'd call the freaking cops! After that scene, I started thinking that maybe the sitter was a protector of the zombie doc, but then she gets killed. There goes that theory!

The film's ending is also a mind-F of the worst kind. We're lead to believe different things throughout the film (is the little girl real?) but at the end, nothing is explained or made clearer. A quote at the end of the movie, attributed to poet Henry James, is actually Fulci's, and does nothing but make the proceedings even more confusing.

But let's be real. We don't watch these movies for the seamless film making. THBTC is basically a prono. You can watch the best parts on line. After all, why sit through all the exposition when all we want to see is people fucking?

So do I recommend THBTC? Not exactly. If you find yourself bored by today's horror movies and miss the atmospheric creepers from the past, check it out.

But I would recommend Ti West's The House of the Devil to a fan of film in general, as it's just a great movie, and not just something for fans of cult movies.

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