Thursday, May 29, 2014

The House by the Cemetery (1981)

Note:  This review is reposted from my Epinions account.

Growing up, I used to find a lot of the Asian martial-arts films amusing, mostly because of the low video quality and the poor dubbing.  Low-quality films like that aren’t limited to Asia.  I’ve been finding a lot that came from Italy.  I know that you’ll probably want some proof to back up that claim.  House by the Cemetery is your proof.

The movie starts with a woman going around her house calling for her boyfriend, Steven.  She discovers that he’s been murdered only to suffer the same fate moments later.  Cut to little Bob Boyle staring at a picture of a house.  His mother, Lucy, is telling Bob to pack his ties, but Bob insists that the girl in the picture is telling him not to go to the new house.  Lucy doesn’t believe him, pointing out that there’s no girl in the picture. 

Several months have passed since the double murder.  The reason that the Boyle Family is moving is that Dr. Norman Boyle, the father, is to pick up a colleague‘s work after said colleague committed suicide.  When they arrive in the new town, the only place available for them to stay is this creepy old house that looks just like the one in the picture that Bob was staring at.  Norman dismisses it as coincidence.  There must be a thousand creepy old houses in the area.

As if being located next to a cemetery wasn’t bad enough, the door to the basement is boarded up and the lock is sealed shut from age.  In a totally bonehead move, Norman decides to take off the boards and unlock the door, which he has to do with great force.  When he makes his way down there, he’s attacked by a bat.  This is no ordinary bat.  This is the Demonic Superglue Bat From Hell that just cannot be dislodged from your hand or killed by repeated stabs with a kitchen knife.  Once the bat is eventually taken care of, it’s promptly forgotten about and we cut to a new scene.

The Boyles also hire a babysitter named Ann that’s freaky in her own right.  When Lucy walks in on her cleaning up blood, Lucy rightfully asks Ann what she’s doing.  Ann simply tells Lucy that she made coffee.  Call me old fashioned, but if someone were cleaning up some dark red liquid on my kitchen floor, I’d probably want to ask more than, “What are you doing?”  Lucy’s apparently fine leaving it at that.

It isn’t until much later that Lucy gets hysterical enough to go back to the real estate agent that put them in the creepy house and insist that they be moved by tomorrow morning.  Lucy is so hysterical about the house that she has no problem spending one more night there.  If it were me, I’d take up at the nearest hotel in the meantime.  Instead, the Boyles go back home and apparently forget it ever happened.

By now, you’re probably wondering what all of this has to do with anything.  (Quite frankly, so am I.)  You see, the house once belonged to a Dr. Freudstein.  This was one sick, twisted individual.  He performed some tests that were so gruesome that he was barred from practicing medicine ever again.  Apparently, even though Dr. Freudstein died many years ago, he’s still haunting the place and he doesn’t like people trespassing on his property.

For some totally random and unknown reason, Norman goes to the cemetery where Dr. Freudstein was buried only to be told by the caretaker that Freudstein was never buried there at all.  (That and the cemetery is closed, so get lost.)  This is strange because Norman sees a plate in the floor saying that Dr. Freudstein is buried in the house, which isn’t unusual given that he died in the winter.  It is unusual because the area under the plate is in the basement and there’s no coffin to be found.  I’m sure that this is supposed to make total sense, but it doesn’t.

The movie is filled with all sorts of strange tangents like this.  There are two scenes, for instance, where Lucy is walking down the street and sees someone that she knows, but is seemingly ignored by the person in question.  In a very weird scene, someone walks by a mannequin and it suddenly (literally) loses its head.  The head just falls off for no reason into a pool of blood.

Also, there are scenes where Bob is talking to the little girl in the picture, but Bob is the only person that can see her.  She tells Bob to get his family out of there, but his claim of an invisible friend falls on deaf ears, not that he really puts in much effort.  Giving a warning makes sense, but why do those trying to warn someone always tell the one person least likely to be able to do something about it?  No reason is given why the boy is special.

As I said in the opening, the video quality and dubbing are on par with those martial-arts films I grew up with.  There are some points in the movie where one character’s voice matches up with their lips almost perfectly, but they’re talking to someone that’s totally off.  Most of the people’s voices seem appropriate.  The only exception was poor little Bob, who was given a very high-pitched voice in the English dub.  I don’t like high-pitched voices, so this really was a problem for me.

This movie has pretty much nothing going for it.  I’ve never heard of any of the actors, who all seem to have starred solely in other Italian films.  It has a very uneven plot, dated special effects and a substandard script.  There are too many questions left unanswered.  Why is it a big deal for a kid to be packing is ties?  Socks, yes.  Underwear, I can see.  Ties?  I guess that early in the script, they may have still been actually trying.

While I was watching the movie, I kept thinking about how it was a cheap imitation of the movie based on Stephen King’s The Shining.  You have a father that moves his family to a creepy/haunted building that they’ll be living in.  The child has paranormal visions associated with past tenants of the building.  The father takes an axe to his family member.  There’s at least one non-family member helping the family.  If you’ve seen The Shining, you’ll probably notice a few more connections.

I got this as part of a nine-movie set.  The only reason I sat through the whole thing was to be able to link to all nine reviews in my review of the set.  I’d only recommend getting this as part of a set if you’re going to buy or rent it.  It’s definitely not worth getting by itself.

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