Oak Mansion is a purgatory for the victims of Dr. Freudenstein’s ravenous appetite for the life extending blood of the innocent. Each new victim finds their soul trapped for all eternity in Freudenstein’s old New England style mansion. The past and present collide for the ghosts that dwell the old house by the cemetery. Existing in a perpetual dream like state, these poor souls often experience episodes of extreme déjà vu as they gaze upon the living world from beyond the veil of death. Characters from the past and present can co-exist in this reality, a limbo between worlds brought on by Dr. Freudenstein’s mad experimentations. By consuming their life force Dr. Freudenstein tethers their soul to this reality, never allowing them the peace of death. The children victims seem to be able to recognize their situation; perhaps youth grants are more sensitive connection to the spiritual world. The little girl with auburn hair (Mae) tries repeatedly to warn Bobby about his families impending doom at the hand of Freudenstein, something that seems almost destined or fated to occur. Bobby however has no luck convincing his parents of any immediate danger from Oak Mansion, although it’s apparent that something is amiss the moment they step into town.
Like all Fulci films during the Italian splatter era House by the Cemetery focuses on the gushing gore on screen; the camera held in one spot, zoomed in, seemingly fixated by the violence. Fulci not only cuts the narrative and logic to pieces, he cuts the characters on screen to pieces as well. The real estate agent had it the worse, but her fat ass cracked Freudenstein’s tomb. She kind of had it coming in a movie like this. For my money nobody shoots gore like Fulci, and I doubt anyone ever will again.
The scene where the bat attaches itself to Norm’s hand is a perfect example of Fulci’s focus on over the top gore. The scene seemingly goes on forever with the bat causing a crimson arterial spray to fly from Norman’s hand. As he struggles his family is covered with the flying streams of blood cast from the bat bite. Of course this over the top amount of blood could be attributed to Fulci simply doing his best to be a gorehound crowd pleaser, but I think the blood Norm covers his family with, his own blood, has some subjective meaning as well. Bob and Lucy would have not found themselves in Oak mansion if it had not been for Norm’s eagerness to appease his employer. And Norm seems to ignore Lucy and Bob’s reluctance to stay in Freudenstein’s mansion until it is too late to move. As Freudenstein brought destruction upon his own family through his crazy experimentations, Norm brought destruction to his own family by his persistence at completing the work of his former peer. Much like The Shining, there is a deliberate re-occurring theme of fathers bringing turmoil to their own families out of a selfish pursuit to “get ahead”.