A.J.’s Big ’80s Horrorthon #2: “The House of Clocks” (1989)
by A.J. Hakari
A word to the wise: if you’re fifteen minutes into a horror film and not a damn thing makes sense, it’s probably Italian. The terrible dubbing and the fact that the plot never gets any more coherent should confirm that, as was the case with Lucio Fulci’s The House of Clocks. I know that playing fast and loose with the rules of reality is part of the appeal with movies like this, but on this occasion, Fulci biting his thumb at logic only amounts to a frustratingly convoluted way to show peoples’ guts pouring out.
Three troublemaking teens set course for a mansion in the country, their sights set on robbing the joint blind. Unfortunately, a few kinks in the plan result in having to blast away the old couple living there, but hey, more fine china for them. But time truly is on the victims’ side, as their vast collection of clocks, watches, and assorted timepieces start winding themselves back to see that revenge is exacted. Soon, the young thieves are trapped in a nightmarish scenario, forced to watch as the couple returns and gets a chance to get back at their would-be killers. It’s like Home Alone, if Kevin was even more of a sadistic prick.
It’s a bad sign when a flick would be better off without the one angle making it mildly unique. In short, The House of Clocks never finds an effective way to incorporate the time motif into its thrills. Just think, we could’ve had the horror version of Back to the Future Part II, with the characters witnessing their own deaths, running from homicidal alternate versions of themselves, and what have you. Fulci is sitting on a gold mine of mindfuckery here, but all he does with the premise is have someone get stabbed every so often amidst what feels like hours upon hours of shots of clocks running backwards. The picture isn’t entirely inert, but the macabre visuals barely register when surrounded by so much tedious downtime.
If The House of Clocks has anything going for it, it’s the kindliest old couple to ever drive a nail through your throat. These seniors commit various acts of cold-blooded murder nonchalantly throughout the movie, and the sweet smiles on their faces as they do so make them feel legitimately eerie. But in the end, it’s a thin beef, as the constant ticking and tocking of The House of Clocks just serves to remind you that a nap is long overdue.