Sunday, March 28, 2010

The House by the Cemetery - Billups Allen

There is no confusion like Fulci confusion, ‘cause Lucio Fulci confusion don’t stop. Amidst a successful career spanning a wide variety of genre films, Italian film director Lucio Fulci hit big on the coattails of George Romero’s Dawn of the Dead (1978). In Italy, Dawn if the Dead was called Zombi, a cue for someone to come along with Zombi 2 (1979). Zombi 2 was a straightforward zombie narrative designed to appear as if it were a sequel to the Romero classic but was soon seen to hold its own in the arena of zombie films. Fulci achieved international success with this horror classic, so much so that he perfected his technique of producing films that sound like Romero films with his next project City of the Living Dead (1980). The title brought out horror fans anxious to see the successful zombie formula replicated. The film had little to do with zombies, (there are some), but what horror fans got was a marvelously convoluted story about a priest who hangs himself in a cemetery and accidentally opens the gates of hell. 

It’s hard to tell what Fulci was thinking as he made it; or what moviegoers must have been thinking when they saw it. The movie plays as if four films are beginning in the first ten minutes. The head of the séance is thinking about a guy in an abandoned house who finds a blow up doll. Then there is a newspaper reporter talking to a cop in New York City. A priest rubs worms in a woman’s face. A woman bleeds through the eyes and vomits out her guts. Along the way, patrons in a rural bar where a mirror cracks without provocation refer to the priest hanging himself. Wait, there’s the plot again. 

City of the Living Dead was the launching point for an unofficial trio of films known as the Gates of Hell trilogy. Fulci followed immediately with a southern gothic tale called The Beyond (1981) about a house in Louisiana that was, yes, built on a gate of hell.

The third film in this unofficial trio is The House by the Cemetery (1981). House by the Cemetery begins with a family of three moving, surprisingly, into a house by a cemetery. Norman and Lucy Boyle (Paolo Malco and Catriona MacCall) have a creepy kid named Bob (Giovanni Frezza) who keeps seeing another creepy little kid Mae Freudstein (Silvia Collatina) around. Mae keeps warning Bob not to stay in the house as if an eight year old has any say in the family’s living situation. There is a creepy babysitter named Ann (Ania Pieroni) who either used to be a mannequin, or still is one in some capacity. From there, the plot shoots off in an orgasm of nonsensical twists that lead to interesting murders and some of the most unique macabre imagery ever to grace a screen. The House by the Cemetery is so convoluted that the company in charge of the American video release got the reels out of order and nobody could tell the difference. 
Lucio Fulci earned the nickname “Godfather of Gore,” around this time, a title he shares with American film director Herschell Gordon Lewis. All three of these movies share the common theme that something or someone opens a gate of hell. It becomes a convenient plot device when you have a continuity nightmare on your hands. Still, nothing can derail Fulci when he is in the zone. These films are comprised of some of the most genuinely unique gore scenes, some of the most unimaginable death scenes, and some of the most original reimagining of gothic elements ever put to film. Never mind that the films don’t always make sense. When hell comes to your house, there is no reason to figure things out anyway.  

THE HOUSE BY THE CEMETERY - Monday, March 29th at 8:00 p.m.

It's MONDO MONDAYS at The Loft, celebrating weird, wild and wonderful flicks from the Mondo side of the silver screen! Admission is only $2.00, and don't forget to check out our yummy "Mondo Munchies" snack bucket ... fill a cup for a buck!

Billups Allen's interest in writing began composing lyrics for the band Shoutbus and later for the band Corn on Macabre. Lyrical duties led to writing poetry and short stories. Several of his short stories were published in a book entitled Unfurnished published by Florida’s now defunct Schematics Records. Allen currently lives in Tucson, Arizona where he writes Cramhole comic zine, writes reviews for Razorcake Magazine and the Tucson Citizen and hosts a radio show called The Groove Tomb.

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