House of Clocks, The (1989)

Author: Brett H.
Submitted by: Brett H.   Date : 2008-02-26 04:34

Directed by: Lucio Fulci
Written by: Lucio Fulci, Gianfranco Clerici and Daniele Stroppa
Produced by: Marco Grillo Spina and Massimo Manasse

Reviewed by: Brett H.

Lucio Fulci is without a doubt my favorite director. His balls to the wall, violence is art attitude has intrigued me since I first stumbled upon his name and more exactly, the cover to the film that gave him his first big break in the genre, Zombie. Fulci’s early work in the genre speaks for itself, masterpiece after masterpiece of cinematic terror. As his health began to wane and horror died out, his films seemingly lost the touch they had in his early days. Although rarely would they be completely devoid of entertainment, they never came close to matching those done in his glory days from the early seventies to early eighties. Nearing the end of the eighties, Fulci and fellow Italian genre director, Umberto Lenzi were involved in the “House of Doom”, which was to consist of four horror films done for Italian television. Although deemed too violent to air, Fulci’s Sweet House of Horrors and The House of Clocks have found their way into his fans’ living rooms on DVD courtesy of Shriek Show, giving fright fans worldwide the chance to see lost films from the maestro of Italian horror.

Maria (Carla Cassola) is a maid in the house of a seemingly harmless and proper elderly couple. One night she suspiciously wanders about the house and goes down to the basement, breaking into a door to find two corpses decaying. They turn out to be the couple’s nephew and his wife, both of them being of them lying with spikes nailed through their necks, these two aren’t going anywhere, or are they? It turns out all is not what it seems as the couple, Sara (Bettine Milne) and Victor (Paolo Paoloni) have murdered the two young people and not only that, but tend to them often. Sara generously applies makeup to the rotting corpse of her nephew’s wife and speaks to her as though it was nothing. Apparently the two were involved with Sara and Victor only for their money and wanted to leave the couple alone in the villa, and they weren’t having any of that.

Maria begins acting appropriately strange around the two and tells them she must go and won’t be returning. Sara tries to talk her out of it, but Maria insists. Sara does what any lovely old lady would do in such a situation… she stabs Maria in the vagina with a long, sharp stick and has her taken care of by Peter (Al Cliver), the one eyed full-time gardener, part-time gravedigger. At the same time, three young hooligans are approaching their villa in hopes of robbing the elderly couple’s vast home, which happens to be completely filled with clocks as Victor has been collecting them for some seventy years. Their robbery turns to murder as things don’t go as planned and leaves Victor, Sara and Peter dead in the dining room of the home. Suddenly all clocks in the house stop and begin to move backwards. The recently deceased aren’t planning to let the three punks get away with it that easily.

House of Clocks is a weird film, there’s no other way to describe it. It’s a haunted house movie at heart, with many creaky doors and the villa being an appropriate gothic setting, far from the big cities, but there’s so much more to it. The significance of the man’s infatuation with clocks is really a neat concept for this very interesting film. To fully explain it, you’d have to give away what makes the film such an entertaining ride. The best way to sum up the film would actually be to just repeat the quote that is present at the beginning of the film. “… if time turned back, our sins would also have to start anew…” In normal Fulci fashion, he leaves a lot of the movie up to the viewer to decide what is going on, but rather leaving an open ending, the ending in House of Clocks ties things up a lot more than the typical Fulci fare, but still doesn’t explain how or why these strange things are happening.

Other than Maria, the film doesn’t have any characters that are likable, but it still manages to work well because it is basically only bad people grinding it out against bad people in the film, even from beyond the grave. Fulci’s directing style is great to look at and there’s some pretty good shots for a movie made for TV (of course, the film was also intended to be sold internationally) and he turns the quote mentioned above into an exciting film where you are left with a totally uneasy feel because you never know just what is going on. There’s some nice eerie colored lighting present in a couple scenes and Fulci has his trademark dogs, black cats, sick touches (Sara kisses her nephew’s wife’s corpse when a piece of eyebrow comes off in her mouth) and surreal imagery, although his facial close-ups aren’t as prevalent as in his other features. If you really get down to it, the ghosts in the film are much like zombies, but have a strange quality about them that separate them from either of those. The villa itself is beautiful and provides a wonderful backdrop to the horrifying images portrayed on screen.

Don’t let the made for TV description fool you, this film has all of the trademark Fulci aspects. Much like Lamberto Bava’s A Blade in the Dark, the film may have been made for TV, but there’s no shortage of red stuff, I guess these guys never thought that what they were shooting would be hard pressed not to get cut to play in theatres, let alone be allowed to air on television. At the same time, this is also what makes you respect these guys so much, they would shoot things they damn well knew would be cut to get their original vision out there. It didn’t seem very logical at the time, but now with uncut DVDs it makes perfect sense and you can’t help but tip your hat to them for following their instincts. It’s truly made all the difference. Huge bloody bullet holes, rotting corpses, daggers through hands are all present and even more metal objects have no qualms about tearing through the flesh of the not so innocent. It’s not up there with the likes of The Beyond or House by the Cemetery gore wise, but then again, few are. There’s even a set of breasts, but you have to squint to make them out, and I’m certain you will. The music really sets the mood and builds suspense, being creepy throughout and adding a sense of mystique.

Fulci fans have discovered a gem that few knew to exist in The House of Clocks and it may just appeal to fans of Italian horror that are more about plot and twists than the brutal imagery Fulci is known for in his more famous films. People seem to forget that although the man directed some gorefests, he has some really great thrill rides out there such as A Lizard in a Woman’s Skin and Don’t Torture a Duckling that easily rival the more acclaimed Dario Argento’s best works. House of Clocks is a fitting movie for Fulci this late his career, a bit over the hill but still with a lot left to contribute to the genre. When you think, “Lucio Fulci TV movie that never aired”, you sure as hell don’t think of such a good film. Shriek Show’s uncut DVD has interviews with Paolo Paoloni and Carla Cassola and the image quality is very nice, as is the soundtrack. Paolo doesn’t seem to remember much about the film and hasn’t seen it in years, but Carla has more than a few great stories to tell regarding her character and how they pulled off a scene in which she was completely buried under the earth. Take a look at your Timex and you’ll see it’s about time to Buy it!

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