After a furtive sex date in the basement of a New England house, a beautiful young woman is stabbed in the head by an unseen assailant. This house (which, spoiler alert, is located next to a cemetery) is soon to welcome some new residents: Norman Boyle, a New York academic conducting a study on old houses, his wife Lucy and his son Bob. The assignment is already shrouded in mystery (a former colleague of Norman's committed suicide after living in the house), yet Bob's parents ignore his assertions that a young girl has offered him dire warnings to avoid the house at all costs.
A mid-career opus from Italian horrormeister Lucio Fulci, House by the Cemetery is less epic and apocalyptic in scope than Fulci's best-known masterpieces (ZOMBIE, THE GATES OF HELL, THE BEYOND). It's as dreamlike as those films (in other words, it makes little sense), but the more intimate setting of the film gives it a healthy dose of comparative realism. Clearly influenced by films like THE AMITYVILLE HORROR and THE SHINING, HOUSE BY THE CEMETERY taps more human fears. The zombie-populated hellscapes of his other works are gorey fantasias that return us safely to our lives, but here Fulci plays with still -palpable childhood fears. Though this film was certified a video nasty during a censorious period in British cultural history, it's no more vicious than a fairy tale. The fear of the bogeyman in the basement (and of parents who ignore our warnings) is something we all share, and Fulci knows it.