|Plot Outline: Somewhere in Italy there lives an old, perhaps senile, married couple. They live like kings in their large mansion full of the old man’s clock collection. The only thing that makes this couple different than a lot of old rich folk, is that these two are sadists who enjoy a good murder every now and then. We are shown this when they dispose of a maid who was catching on to their twisted affairs. Somewhere else in Italy we run into a group of disturbed young thieves. Two males and one female. They spend their days traveling in car, looking for homes to rob and gas stations to knock over. After successfully stealing a large quantity of supplies from such a gas station, these party animals look for their next victims. They find them in the house of the two previously mentioned old people. The girl pretends to need their phone after her car broke down, as the two guys make their way around the back with a fake gun. Things go somewhat smooth until the gardener busts in with a shotgun, and things go to worse when the gardener is cracked on the head and accidentally kills the old man. Anyway, cut to the chase, we’ve got three dead people and three thieves stuck in their home. You see, there’s a bunch of dogs outside so they are forced to stay the night in this house full of clocks. As one might imagine, things get freaky real soon.|
The Review: If you’ve read any of my Fulci reviews by now it should be abundantly clear that I’m a Fulci fan. I sometimes scold myself for feeling like an apologist for some of his weaker films, I can’t help it, I just like the man’s work. Even when the film in question is something like Cat in the Brain which has almost zero decent attributes other than gore, I still enjoy watching it only because I like watching Fulci films. The House of Clocks though, turns out to be quite the strange turn of events. Reading reviews over the net, seeing the fairly high scoring on the imdb, one would think I would go gaga for this film. Yet, while watching it, I actually grew to hate it as it played. Hate is a strong word and I never like to use it for any film, but I rarely derived much pleasure from House of Clocks. With Cat in the Brain, which is far worse from a filmmaking standpoint, at least the film made up for most of it’s stupidity with cheap gore and bad dialogue that I could laugh at. House of Clocks, for me, was just a frustrating and irritating mess. Their are plot holes abound but what really makes the film so annoying is the fact that there is no one in the film you can even like the tiniest bit. This isn’t just a anti-hero film or something along those lines, the characters here are whiny pests. You read reviews (even some of mine I’m sure) where someone will rant about how they wished the characters would just die so they could get on with their lives, well House of Clocks was the first film I have ever felt such passion for the deaths of the supposed protagonists. I was hoping throughout the whole film, every second after their introduction, that they would be gruesomely murdered. I didn’t want it just because of how bored I was, which I most certainly was throughout much of it, I wanted them dead because I couldn’t stand their crap. Having unlikable characters as your leads isn’t some new concept or anything and for some they might just be able to distance themselves enough from the film to just not care. Perhaps if you focus harder on the way the story unfolds than on the behavior of the characters, but for me I just couldn’t do that. Thinking over the film I’m always drawn to the comparison between it and House on the Edge of the Park which I loved. Park also featured absolutely no likable characters throughout the film, but what Ruggero Deodatto did with that film was play with it’s audience. He made us grow to understand the evil characters, made us hate the victims and made us hate everyone all around, but the big difference between that film and this is that Deodatto left me with questions while in this Fulci just leaves me with bitterness. Fulci delivers these despicable and annoying characters, but then tries to develop tension while waiting for their demise. For me, this just doesn’t work. I will give credit where credit is due and that is the fact that towards the end Fulci does deliver quite a bit of suspense, but when feeling these emotions I had to check myself and I wondered why I was feeling this for such an abomination of a character. Truly an interesting piece of movie making, but one sequence isn’t enough to save a miserable film that perhaps tries to be too ambitious.
I wonder to myself, why did Fulci make the thieves in the film such a terrible group of people? What exactly was the point? He could have made them thieves and yet still decent people if a little mislead, that’s the magic of movies. Instead he made them brash and annoyingly self centered. The biggest moment where this is ever present is soon after we are first introduced. This following might be considered a small spoiler, but it takes place in the first twenty minutes and is only used as part of the character development. After stopping in at a gas station our characters take off in their car, only to find a cat lying on the floor of the back seat. So the wiliest of the group takes the cat and for no reason raps it in a plastic bag where it will then smother to death. The female of the group tells him once to stop it, but lets it go so easily that for the viewer she’s just as responsible for the death of the cat as the guy who did it. I’m no ‘save the animals’ kind of guy, but I do own a cat and maybe I’m a little bias, but if you’re wanting to ever provoke any kind of sympathy for a character on film, do not have him kill an innocent pet for no reason. Especially not in such a sadistic way. The scene didn’t disturb me or anything to that effect, it just made me hate every character in the car with a passion and seeing their prolonged behavior through the rest of the film didn’t help anything. The film has no one to care for, no one to root for and doesn’t press enough buttons to make it work. It’s like an episode of the twilight zone but where everyone deserves to die and the audience hopes dearly that they will. To be generous, it’s probably one of Fulci’s most ambitious films. Fulci takes the film into surreal levels towards the end and tries new ways to break apart his narrative, but it’s all for nothing. The script it’s self is far too sloppy to withstand too much real thought. Just for instance, one of the first things that hit my brain while watching was how moronic these thieves would have to possibly be to do anything like they do in the film. They decide that it would be a good idea to sleep in the house of a couple of people they kill just because there are two dogs outside? They have a shotgun! Their first plan after seeing the dogs shouldn’t have been ‘hey let’s find somewhere to crash’, it should have been let’s find more shells to kill those mutts! But of course that would require pondering over the question of how to keep them in the house for far too long. If you went over the script with a fine toothed comb you could point out a dozen or so other little inconsistencies, but what’s the point. The script is weak, that’s all there is to it. The best parts of the film that I think I can really say I liked was the soundtrack, atmosphere and of course, the gore. The soundtrack provided by Vince Tempera isn’t the most fantastic thing you’ve ever heard, but it comes in extremely handy in setting the atmosphere for the film. The film does get quite moody in certain areas as well, which is probably the biggest compliment Fulci’s directorial style can
receive from such a film, but he hits many of the right notes even if it doesn’t compensate for much. Then there’s the gore, if you’re a diehard Fulci fan, this really isn’t all that much. It’s just the only thing that really makes you continue watching the film. The gore isn’t very extreme, and it mostly consists of a few cool shotgun blasts to the abdomen, but I’m running low on things to praise here so give me a break.
I can’t really recommend it all that much. Is it really a terrible film? I suppose not. If the characters weren’t so contemptuous, I think it would be just be something to let it roll over my shoulders. I would still dislike it because nothing can save the film, but the added bits of grievance just weren’t worth having. If you absolutely must see every Fulci film ever made, or you’re just interested by all of my ravings then feel free to check it out but if you’re just a occasional Fulci fan or someone wanting to check out his works’, then keep away from this one. It’s not worth your time. Now to find out why everyone seems to like this flick except me…