Review: The House by the Cemetery (Blu-ray)

Blue Underground brings Lucio Fulci's atmospheric gore classic The House by the Cemetery to Blu-ray!

  • Director: Lucio Fulci
  • Starring: Catriona MacColl, Paolo Malco, Giovanni Frezza
  • Year: 1981
  • Runtime: 86 Minutes
  • Company: Blue Underground
  • Format: Blu-ray
  • Discs: 1 - 50GB
  • Video: 2.35:1 - 1080P - AVC
  • Audio: English & Italian 2.0 DTS HD Mono
  • Region: All
  • Released: 10/25/2011

After two horny teens are gruesomely dispatched by an unknown killer in an abandoned mansion, we're introduced to New York couple Norman (Paolo Malco, New York Ripper), Lucy (Catriona MacColl, The Beyond) and their young son Bob Boyle (Giovanni Frezza, Manhattan Baby). Due to Norman's research job, the family has to move to sleepy little town New Whitby in Boston for 6 months despite Bob having visions of a little girl warning them of the evils that await them at their new home. Both parents dismiss it as playing and journey towards their new life. Turns out aforementioned abandoned mansion is coincidentally the Boyle's new estate and it's conveniently located right next to a barren cemetery. They soon discover it was once home to Dr. Freudstein, a mad surgeon who fancied brutal & illegal experiments. Things take a turn for the worse as the family is subjected to supernatural, physical  and psychological terror leading to a creepy finale that will have you pondering for days.
I'm slowly catching up on Lucio Fulci's filmography. Thanks to the re-releasing of his films onto Blu-ray , it's beginning to become easier to check off the film's I haven't seen on my list. It's not due to lack of interest, in the endless void that is the horror genre you kinda get sidetracked sometimes. I've seen far too many obscure oddities before tackling the classics that make any genre truly stand out. I can tell you how many times I've been given that, "What the hell, you haven't seen..."speech. Yes, I've seen Strike Commando instead of any of the Rambo films. Get off me. Chalk it up to saving the best for the right time I suppose. The House by the Cemetery is one I can finally add to my seen list, and it doesn't disappoint.
House by the Cemetery is kind of like seeing Fulci in a new light, for me anyway. A lot of time (more than any other Italian horror) is surprisingly spent on character development and making them likeable. Lucy spends the majority of the film in an anxiety fit due to moving, something we can all relate to on some level. When shit hits the fan the Boyle's try their hardest to move out of the house, something other movie families should take a que from. There are still a few bone head moments (parents never listen to kids, husband never listens to wife, etc.) but for the most part it's pretty believable instead of head-aching.
Lucio's infamous trademark bloodshed is along for the ride too, just not in the same capacity as his other gore filled films. That is in no way a strike against HBTC, it's actually refreshing. The kills are still gory as hell but it's more story fused instead of an obligatory body count. The practical FX absolutely still hold up to this day, courtesy of make up masters Maurizio Trani & Gino De Rossi. You'll still be in shock and awe of the onscreen carnage despite the minimal use of it. For that fact alone, this is definitely one of Fulci's more restrained and professional films in his oeuvre.
The film's score provided by Walter Rizzati is phenomenal and chilling, a melodic nightmare that perfectly accommodates the motion picture. I've had it on repeat all day and is definitely one of my favorite horror film scores now. Something my ears absolutely hated is of course Bob's vocal dubbing. If House by the Cemetery has a con, it's undoubtedly this. It's horrible, obnoxious and completely off putting. Nails on a chalkboard would be more comforting. Despite that hellish goofiness, I have no complaints. Oh the things you experience in the wonderful world of Italian cinema.
House by the Cemetery is simply a tour de force of atmosphere and shock. Fulci and co. created a visual nightmare that is much a kin to maestro filmmaker Mario Bava. It very much feels like a children's horror fantasy adaptation with it's colorful palette and dream like cinematography. This may even be one of Fulci's more accessible films, catering to both loyal gorehounds and arthouse lovers.

    • Video
    Remastered from the original uncut negative, Blue Underground brings this to Blu-ray for the first time, and it's without a doubt the best House by the Cemetery has looked. First, the good. Color get's a huge boost in contrast and clarity is stunning. HD certainly brings out depth and detail that was absent to a lesser degree in past releases. Dark and nighttime scenes are accurately on the level and never discolored. Film grain is minimal but a nice layer is present. Much concern has been raised on Blue Underground's recent Italian HD transfers concerning grain. There are scenes in the film that look way too soft and slightly odd, but it is in no way distracting unless you are hunting for it. I am in no way an AV specialist, just a fan that likes what he sees. In my opinion Blue Underground has done a top notch job that is a definite upgrade.
    • Audio
    A DTS HD 2.0 English & Italian mix is included and, I opted for the English mix and I was satisfied. Audio is always clear and speakers do a nice job of fluctuating the different musical cues. I did have to turn my speakers up higher than normally, but remember this isn't a surround heavy action spectacle. And yes, Bob's dubbed voiced is even more annoying in lossless. English, French & Spanish subtitles are included.

    Bonus Features
    • Interview - "Meet The Boyles"
    Actress Catriona MacColl and Actor Paolo Malco discuss their time on House by the Cemetery and other Fulci directed films they worked on. Red Shirt Pictures produced all of the supplemental features (in HD to boot) on the disc and like always it's phenomenal. 
    • Interview - "Children of the Night"
    Actor Giovanni Frezza (Bob) is all grown up and right away frankly apologizes for the horrid dubbing in the film! Giovanni gives a fun and candid interview reminiscing about working on HBTC. Also chiming in is the spooky little redhead girl Silvia Collatine (Mae) giving her take on the production, which she is extremely fond of.
    • Interview - "Tales of Laura Gittleson"
    Actress Dagmar Lassander discusses her character's death in the film and working with Fulci & co. She looks like an extremely nice lady and is fortunate for fans die hard love for horror, includes footage shot from a horror convention recently for a cast reunion.
    • Interview - "My Time with Terror"
    Euro horror & Fulci regular Carlo De Mejo (Dr. Wheatley) talks of his career and the three films we worked on with Lucio. It's great to see him in good spirits and share fascinating anecdotes.
    • Interview - "A Haunted House Story"
    Co-Screenwriters Dardano Sacchetti & Elisa Briganti talk about the origins of the films, most of which is stemmed from child psychology.
    • Interview - "To Build a Better Death Trap"
    Last but not least of the interviews is with Cinematographer Sergio Salvati, Special Make-Up FX Artists Maurizio Trani, SFX Artist Gino De Rossi & Actor Giovanni De Nava (Dr. Fruedstein). All give an excellent in depth insight to the films production & legendary practical gore effects.
    • Deleted Scene
    The sole omitted scene runs about 50 seconds and shows the bloody aftermath of the bat attack on Normans hand. The audio could not be located sadly and is presented as is.
    • Theatrical Trailers
    • TV Spot
    • Poster & Still Gallery