Mary and Roberto Vivaldi (played by Lubka Lenzi and Pascal Persiano) would appear to have a perfect life, perhaps because they do. They’re young. They’re attractive. They’re in love. They’re rich. They have a really nice house and they have two children, a boy and a girl. What could go wrong, right?
Well, they could come home from a party and discover that their house is being burglarized. And the burglar could then proceed to graphically and viscously murder them, smashing in Robert’s head and, since this is a Lucio Fulci film, popping out Mary’s eye. In fact, the opening murder is so graphic and so disturbing that it’s somewhat surprising to learn that this movie was made for television.
Of course, what’s even stranger is that the rest of the film is oddly tame, particularly for a Fulci film. Perhaps they only had enough money in the budget for one graphic gore scene.
Anyway, the parents are now dead and the children are now orphans. At the funeral, the children shock everyone by playing and laughing. However, a few seconds later, they’re standing over the grave and crying. Some people would call this an inconsistency but I think it’s the most realistic part of the film. When you lose someone who you love, you do strange things. There is no one proper way to grieve. As someone who suffered through his share of personal tragedy, this was something that Fulci probably understood.
The parents may be dead but they’re not gone! Instead, they’re haunting the house. The children are overjoyed but their new guardian, Aunt Marcia (Cinzia Monreale, who was Emily in Fulci’s The Beyond) is not. Marcia freaks out upon realizing that the house is haunted and it certainly doesn’t help that she’s attacked by a gigantic fly in the attic. Her husband, the incredibly dense Carlo (Jean Christophe Bretigniere), doesn’t think anything strange is happening. Still, Carlo does agree that it would be a good idea to sell the house and move the children elsewhere.
Nope! The parents have no intention of letting that happen! Of course, the dead parents main concern to kill the man who killed them but, once he’s dead (it doesn’t take that long), they’re free to spend their time pushing a real estate agent down a flight of stairs, harassing Marcia and Carlo and eventually causing an exorcist’s hand to melt.
If you’re getting the feeling that both the dead parents and the living children are pretty obnoxious, that’s because they are. I mean, it’s one thing to not want to be separated. That’s something we can all relate to. It’s another thing to melt a man’s hand and then laugh about it. Add to that, neither Marcia nor Carlo come across as being particularly villainous. It’s not like they’re planning on murdering the kids for their inheritance or sending them to a Dickensian orphanage or anything like that. They just want the kids to stop conducting black magic ceremonies and they want to live in a house that isn’t haunted. No matter how much sympathy you may have for the parents or the kids, it’s hard to deny that Marcia and Carlo aren’t being all that unreasonable.
(It also doesn’t help that the film ends with the suggestion that the dead parents can stay with the kids regardless of whether the house is sold or not.)
And yet, I can’t help but like The Sweet House of Horrors. Even though it doesn’t make much sense and it’s hampered by a low-budget (just check out the floating flames that represent the dead parents), there’s a sincerity to The Sweet House of Horrors. The parents really do seem to love their obnoxious children and the film actually does provide some insight regarding the way that children use imagination to deal with grief. Like many of his later film, The Sweet House of Horrors is hit-and-miss but Lucio Fulci still comes up with a few good visuals, suggesting that his heart may have been in this film in a way that it wasn’t in some of the other films he made during the final years of his storied career. Just the fact that The Sweet House of Horrors tells such an openly sentimental story makes it unique in Fulci’s filmography.
The Sweet House of Horrors cannot be compared to such Fulci classics as The Beyond, The House By The Cemetery, The Black Cat, or Zombi 2. But still, it’s an interesting little film and provides a hint that, even during his decline, Fulci still possessed some of the talent that made his earlier films so iconic.