9/13/08

The Freudstien Monster




 "No one will ever know if the children are monsters or the monsters are children." -Henry James

This quote appears on the screen in the final moments of today's film. It would be an interesting quote from the author of Turn of the Screw if he had ever said it. It was made up by Lucio Fulci to be the summation of this movie. What it had to do with anything, I don't know, but I can tell you this for sure. After having gone to a mall, or McDonald's, or a Zoo, I would be the first to say that it was one of the truer statements ever put to print. The children in tonight's feature are respectively annoying and random but never really live up to the monster epitaph. However, there's plenty enough that does.

The House by the Cemetery (1981) starring Catriona MacColl, Paolo Malco, and Giovanni Frezza. Directed by Lucio Fulci.

Dr Norman Boyle has got himself a new job, and he's moving his whole family to a small town outside of Boston so he can take over the research his college has been doing. As they pack, his young son (the very annoying) Bob looks at a picture of their new house and sees a girl in it telling him to stay away. Naturally, his parents don't listen, and I can't say that I blame them. If I had a kid like Bob, I would try not to listen to his screechy little voice as much as I could. They move up to the town of New Whitby and into the Oak Mansion. There we are introduced to Bob's new nanny, the seemingly sinister Ann, and the girl Bob saw in the photo, Mae. It's very unclear, as with every character in this movie, what either of their intentions are. 

From the time they move in, strange things start happening in the house. Sounds of crying, walls knocking, a mysterious locked basement, and a crypt found in the living room. Now this Bug would be out of there, but Norman tells his wife, Lucy,  that she's just got to get used to it. The pair then go to investigate the basement where Norman had spied Ann taking the boards off last night. He has somewhere found the keys and goes off down into it only to be bitten by a giant fake bat. He stabs the fake bat over and over until finally it falls off him in a bloody mess. I have never in my life seen worse bat prop. It looked something akin to a tribble with wings. However before they can get attacked by anymore fake animals, the couple decides it's high time they move out. 

The next day their realtor comes by to tell them she has found them a new place, and get's summarily killed and dragged off to the basement. This leads to one of my favorite scenes. Lucy comes in and finds Ann scrubbing the blood coated floors and asks her what she's doing. Ann stands up, wrings out her bloody rag, and says "I made coffee." Lucy unflinchingly accepts this as a response. Now I know some people that love coffee. Miss Directed and Fran Goria would both overlook a lot if they wanted a cup of coffee, but I feel fairly assured that a bloody trail leading to the basement might put a kibosh on their caffeine fix. Norman eventually discovers their house had one been owned by a Dr. Freudstien, a disbarred doctor for doing unethical experiments, but before Norman can return home and warn his family, all hell breaks loose. 

Lucio Fulci succeeds in this film to create an atmosphere of melancholy creepiness that carries the film along, but the narrative itself is full off holes, red herrings, and confusing motivations. When the big reveal finally happens, it will leave you wondering what all those "clues" along the way were really about.  However, the gore scenes are marvelous, but they do literally "go for the throat" a few too many times. The experience the film gives through it's confusion and twists and turns is unsettling, and it is shot very well. As with most Fulci movies, I do always find fault with the drastic jumps in the sound editing where it goes from a loud part of the score into a quiet scene with no kind of transition, but that is a minor complaint and doesn't really take away from the experience as a whole. I would recommend this movie to anyone interested in Italian horror, but go into it with an open mind and try not to follow the movie's logic too closely. The reward with this film is the uneasiness and the atmospheric qualities Fulci brings and the lesson that if you move into a house by a graveyard where spooky shit is happening, then get out. It's like people in movies have never seen any movies.




1 comment:

  1. tarquin fortiscue hetherington (esquire, as it were), formerly of her majestys grenadier guardsNovember 4, 2008 at 12:08 PM

    surprisingly my favorite bit in this film is where the geezer is listening to the tape recording of the other geezer as he goes slowly insane, i genuinely think that its one of the greatest moments in the entire history of horror movies.

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