THE HOUSE BY THE CEMETERY (1981)
Starring Catriona MacColl, Paolo Malco, Ania Pieroni, Giovanni Prezza, Silvia Collatina, Dagmar Lassander. Directed by Lucio Fulci. (86 min)
ON BLU-RAY FROM BLUE UNDERGROUND
Review by Josey, the Sudden Cat😾
Some films are deserving of reassessment. I once wrote a pretty scathing review of The House By the Cemetery for another website, mostly attacking Lucio Fulci himself over his penchant for using audacity and gore to mask a perceived lack of directorial skill. I still think he’s overpraised in horror circles and doesn’t deserved to be mentioned alongside such Italian masters as Bava and Argento, but have to admit I kind-of enjoyed it this time around, for reasons other than the violence that endeared him to gorehounds.
The third and final chapter in Fulci’s tenuously-linked “Gates of Hell” trilogy, The House By the Cemetery is less ambiguous than The Beyond, not as over-the-top as City of the Living Dead, but arguably better-crafted than both.
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The film still has some of the usual issues typical of Fulci...lapses in logic, questionable performances, some atrocious dubbing and shallow characters. From a story standpoint, however, this is also his most accomplished effort since Zombie, a Lovecraftian tale trimmed of the isolated set-pieces created to amp-up the gore but don’t really advance the narrative.
Not that The House By the Cemetery isn’t violent. There’s still plenty of brutal bloodletting – most of it pretty well done – but relatively restrained by Fulci’s sickly standards. Especially memorable is the murder which opens the film, where a young woman is knifed through the back of the head, ending with the tip of the blade protruding from her mouth. While still gleefully gratuitous, these scenes actually serve the narrative, not vise-versa. Even if you took Fulci’s bag o’ tricks away from him, there’s still a fairly engaging story here. At the very least, there’s enough substance between the gore scenes to maintain interest.
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The emphasis on atmosphere helps immensely. For the most part, the film features impressive cinematography and haunting imagery, both of which are enhanced by a moody score from Walter Rizzati, whose sonic palate is more varied than Fulci’s usual collaborator, Fabio Frizzi.
Speaking of which, that score is one of many bonus features included in this beautifully-packaged 3-disc set. Like recent similar 4K restorations from Blue Underground, The House By the Cemetery is accompanied by extensive supplemental material, both new and carried-over from previous releases (outlined below). From a technical standpoint, the movie has never looked or sounded better. As the third Fulci film to get such royal treatment in less than two years, it’s a must-own for his fans.
While I wouldn’t go as far as to say The House By the Cemetery is a great film, it approaches good more often than my original review suggested. It still suffers from some of the trappings that have torpedoed most Lucio Fulci films, but a decent story and suitably moody tone go a long way in glossing over the rough spots, including child character Bob’s daffy dubbing (which I’m glad they retained, because it’s hilarious).
NEW: “HOUSE QUAKE” - An amusing, if somewhat rambling, interview with co-writer Giogio Mariuzzo.
NEW: CATRIONA MACCOLL Q&A – Filmed in 2014, this is an entertaining interview with the film’s star before a live audience. She has quite a few amusing anecdotes about her work in Fulci’s films.
NEW: “CALLING DR. FREUDSTEIN” - As with Blue Underground’s recent Zombie re-issue, Fulci biographer Stephen Thrower discusses the director and the film’s history.
NEW: AUDIO COMMENTARY – By author Troy Howarth.
NEW: LENTICULAR SLIPCASE & REVERSIBLE COVER ART
NEW: SUPPLEMENTARY BOOKLET – Includes photos, promotional art, cart, crew & CD credits and a lengthy essay by Michael Gingold.
NEW: CD SOUNDTRACK – Walter Rizzati’s atmospheric score (31 tracks).
"MEET THE BOYLES” - Interviews with actors Catriona MacColl & Paolo Malco.
"CHILDREN OF THE NIGHT” - Interviews with actors Giovanni Frezza & Silvia Collatina. Amusingly, Frezza begins by apologizing for the famously shitty dub of his voice in the film.
"TALES OF LAURA GITTLESON” - Interview with actor Dagmar Lassander.
"MY TIME WITH TERROR” - Interview with actor Carlo De Mejo.
"A HAUNTED HOUSE STORY” - Interviews with co-writers Dardano Sacchetti & Elisa Briganti.
"TO BUILD A BETTER DEATH TRAP” - Interviews with cinematographer Sergio Salavati, make-up effects artist Marizio Trani, effects artist Gino De Rossi and actor Giovanni De Nava (you know...Snotman).
2 TRAILERS & A TV SPOT
IMAGE GALLERIES – Chock full of international promo materials
PURR-R-R...LIKE A GOOD SCRATCH BEHIND THE EARS.
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