Monday, December 7, 2009

La casa del tempo (1989)

...aka: House of Clocks, The

Directed by:
Lucio Fulci

Like several other Fulci films, this opens with a literary quote; this time from 19th Century French playwright and novelist Honoré de Balzac ("The Human Comedy"), as if it's striving for some sort of respectibility. A very wealthy and seemingly normal elderly couple; Victor (Paolo Paolini) and Sara (Bettina Milne) Corsini, live in a gated mansion along with their maid Maria (Carla Cassola), one-eyed hired hand Peter (Al Cliver) and army of Doberman Pinchers they let roam free outside. Victor believes that the dozens of clocks that fill the home are his "children," and he and his wife are up to something strange involving the rotting corpses of his niece and nephew, which are kept in a locked room. After Maria discovers the bodies, Sara jams a spear into her stomach until her guts start pouring out. Meanwhile, three thoroughly obnoxious 20-somethings; Tony (Keith Van Hoven), Diana (Karina Huff) and Paul (Peter Hintz) are driving around smoking weed, arguing and plotting to break into the mansion. First, they stop by a supermarket, where Diana distracts the cashier by letting him sniff her panties while the other two shoplift dinner. For some reason, one of them also decides to lighten the mood by suffocating a cat in a plastic bag. Nice.

The three end up at the mansion, where Diana pretends to be a stranded motorist to coerce the couple to let her in so she can use their phone. It isn't long until her buddies barge in. There's a struggle over a rifle and the elderly couple, as well as Peter, are all killed. The thieves hide the bodies, start looting the place and plot to leave, but can't because the dogs are gathering around outside the door. Now trapped inside the home, the clocks all begin rewinding by themselves, bodies turn up missing and characters who were killed return to life and start attacking. There are three impalements (including one with a steel fence), three shotgun killings (including a stomach blown away), a hand stabbed with a knife, a head bashed off a table, a strangling, chainsaw and axe usage (both strangely off-screen) and zombie hands emerging from the ground. Despite this, the film actually isn't as gory as most of Fulci's other 80s offerings.

It's confusing, the characters are all horrible people you could care less about and nothing really makes a lick of sense, which has prompted some fans to refer to it as "a surreal gem," which is the same thing the same fans said about his sloppy, horror clip recycling hodgepodge NIGHTMARE CONCERT (1990, aka A CAT IN THE BRAIN). Sorry, but I still don't buy it. It's easy to come up with a senseless story and then not have the courage of your convictions by writing everything off at the very end. In this case (feel free to skip to the next paragraph if you don't want this thing spoiled) the film settles for a groan-inducing "it was all just a dream" twist as our leading lady wakes up from a horrible nightmare and learns that her friends had the same exact nightmare. Now scared, they decide not to actually break into the house and drive off. That's all capped off with an absurd attempt at irony when the bagged kitty cat comes to life, jumps in the driver's face and causes them to crash and be killed anyway! The "moral" ending is surprisingly similar to the one used by Lamberto Bava for GRAVEYARD DISTURBANCE (1987), and I hated the conclusion of that flick, too.

So while I wanted to kill all the characters myself and cringed at the terrible dubbed dialogue and hated the silly "twist" ending cop-out, the movie isn't completely worthless. It has an OK music score, a basic attempt at atmosphere both inside (spinning clocks, light glittering off various things, some coloring...) and outside (fog rolling in...) the mansion, as well as enough red stuff to keep the gorehounds from straying. I'm sure if you love all things Fulci, you'll also love this. Well, if you can look past the very cheap, very soft look of the "telecolor" cinematography.

It was originally made for Italian TV and was part of a four-part series called Le case maledette ("The Doomed Houses"), which also included the Fulci-directed SWEET HOUSE OF HORRORS, as well as the Umberto Lenzi-directed HOUSE OF LOST SOULS and THE HOUSE OF WITCHCRAFT. This one supposedly was too violent for TV, so it briefly played theatrically before heading to video. Though there was no VHS release in America, it got a R1 DVD release via Shriek Show in 2002.



Jared Roberts said...

According to Fulci, neither House of Clocks nor Sweet House of Horrors ever played on TV, because the first two films in the series got low ratings. I have yet to see House of Clocks, but I have seen Sweet House of Horrors, and it's an infuriating film. I hated the main characters, that is, the children and their ghost parents. So I guess annoying characters was what Fulci was into at the moment. Can't wait to see House of Clocks: can never get my fill of despicable characters. ;)

The Bloody Pit of Horror said...

Ah, so the claims of it being "too gory for TV" are probably just bogus PR? Gotcha. I bought Sweet House of Horrors about three years ago and haven't even taken it out of the plastic yet. Guess I shouldn't be in a hurry, eh?

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