Blu-ray Review: The House By The Cemetery (1981)

The House By The Cemetery DVD CoverDistributor: Arrow Video

BBFC Classification: 18

Director: Lucio Fulci

Starring: Catriona MacColl, Paolo Malco, Ania Pieroni, Giovanni Frezza

Isn’t it funny that once upon a time The House by the Cemetery was heavily cut by the BBFC and consequently put on the video nasties list and here we are three decades later celebrating its release on an HD format? You even get a selection of cover sleeves to choose from…

Originally released in 1981, The House by the Cemetery is the third film in Italian splatter master Lucio Fulci’s ‘Gates of Hell’ series, a loose trilogy of bizarre gorefests that also includes City of the Living Dead (1980) and surreal classic The Beyond (1981).

Dr. Norman Boyle (Paulo Malco), his wife Lucy (Fulci regular Catriona MacColl) and their young son Bob (Giovanni Frezza) move into a house in New England that was previously occupied by a former colleague of Norman’s who killed his mistress and then himself. Bob starts to receive warnings from a mysterious girl named Mae who tells him to get out of the house.

After discovering the graves of a Dr. Freudstein and his wife Mary, it transpires that Norman’s former colleague wasn’t a murderer; it was the zombified Dr. Freudstein that killed him and his mistress. Unfortunately for the Boyle family, Freudstein still lurks within the bowels of the house and is quite partial to killing off whoever enters so he can use their body parts to stay alive.

Although The House by the Cemetery is probably the weakest of the three ‘Gates of Hell’ films there is still more than enough here to satisfy most gorehounds. The throat-rippings, stabbings and Fulci’s obsession with eye trauma are all here as you would expect and done very well. Dr. Freudstein himself is a creepy enough villain and his stalking point-of-view shots are effective enough. The trouble with the film comes from the rather annoying overdubbing of Bob, which although may have been necessary completely takes you out of any traumatic scene that he may be involved in. The film has the traditional Fulci narrative (i.e. none whatsoever), although when put up against other similarly nonsensical plots like The Beyond – which makes as little sense as this does but it does have a dream-like quality to it that gives it a kind of logic – does seem to be lacking slightly.

Anybody familiar with any of the various bare-bones versions of the film that have been released over the years would probably think they were watching a different film, as the visual quality on this release is superb. The film is presented in its original 2.35:1 ratio, transferred from the original 35mm negative, and looks fantastic. Obviously not as crystal-clear as modern HD-shot films, nevertheless for a low-budget video nasty shot over thirty years ago it looks surprisingly clean.

So overall it’s another brilliant package from those good folk at Arrow Video. If you’re new to Fucli or are looking to check out some of his works then this probably isn’t the best place to start as the feature is really one for fans only. That said, if you’re a fan of Italian horror and haven’t yet got hold of this film in any version, or are looking to upgrade from a previous low-grade release, then this extras-filled package is pretty much the definitive word as far as The House by the Cemetery goes.

The House By The Cemetery

Special Features: Audio commentary with star Catriona MacColl, moderated by Calum Waddell, audio commentary with co-star Silvia Collatina, moderated by Mike Baronas of Paura Productions, introduction to the film by star Giovanni Frezza, Back to the Cellar featurette  with Giovanni Frezza, Cemetery Woman: interview with star Catriona MacColl, Freudstein’s Follies: interview with special effects artist Giannetto De Rossi, Wax Mask – Finishing the Final Fulci: interview with Sergio Stivaletti about his completion of Wax Mask after Fulci’s passing, Ladies of Italian Horror featurette with interviews with Silvia Collatina (The House by the Cemetery), Stefania Casini (Suspiria/ Bloodstained Shadow) and Barbara Magnolfi (Suspiria/ The Sister Of Ursula), House by the Cemetery onstage Q&A cast reunion, Italian trailer compilation, deleted scene, original trailer and TV spot.

UK Release Date: 31st May 2012

Arrow Films – Website

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