HOUSE BY THE CEMETERY Blu-ray Review – Fulci Gore And Lovecraftian Lore
Starring Katherine MacColl, Paolo Malco, Ania Pieroni, Giovanni Frezza
Directed by Lucio Fulci
Distributed by Blue Underground
Lucio Fulci has a handful of top tier titles in his filmography; true horror classics that even those who “can’t get into Italian horror” begrudgingly admit are worth watching for arterial geysers, synth-drenched soundtracks, and the ever-present eyeball torture. But drop down a rung or two from the top and Fulci’s filmography gets murkier than a pool of blood. Nothing past The Beyond (1981) has truly stuck with me… except for The Devil’s Honey (1986) because of that infamously ridiculous saxophone moment. The last vestiges of Classic Fulci were still around for House by the Cemetery (1981), an H.P. Lovecraft-inspired Frankenstein-ish tale about a family that moves into a dilapidated mansion once owned by the eccentric Dr. Freudstein. There’s plenty of Gothic atmosphere to go around and the expected bodily mutilation is frequently accounted for but the story itself is mostly a snoozer despite so many essential Fulci elements being put to work.
The Boyles – Norman (Paolo Malco), Lucy (Catriona MacColl) and their son, Bob (Giovanni Frezza) – are moving out of New York City and into the countryside of New Whitby, a bucolic community just outside Boston, MA. Norman is aware a former colleague of his once owned the home… before murdering his mistress and killing himself, but what nobody knows is the home was first the residence of Dr. Freudstein, a Victorian surgeon who was obsessed with performing “unnatural” work. The basement, the source of his endeavors, has been sealed shut.
Ever since the Boyles moved in there have been strange noises throughout the night. Mae (Silvia Collatina), a local girl who looks an awful lot like one Bob saw in an old photograph, warns the young boy not to stay in the house. But he’s, like, nine years old and can’t really do much on his own. Lucy finds a tombstone in the middle of a room while cleaning and moving out isn’t the first thing she suggests to her husband. Soon enough, everyone learns about the late Dr. Freudstein and his fiendish experiments – or is he late?
Fulci does a fine job of cloaking his story in thick atmosphere; the weathered New England home shrouded in constant mist. The idea of a faceless fiend carrying out murders also plays to Lovecraft’s ideas of formless creatures driving men mad. There are staple horror elements all over this thing – so why don’t I love it? The story is lacking. Fulci even criticized co-writer Dardano Sacchetti’s work as being derivative but I don’t think anything co-writer Giorgio Mariuzzo or Fulci himself improved what is clearly a messy affair. Half the reason I dig this film is Walter Rizzati’s lush synth score but good music is no substitute for good writing. A lot of this is terminally slow, too, and unless someone is being absolutely mutilated for entertainment value it’s kinda draggy until the final act kicks in which I will admit almost reaches Fulci’s former glories.
The acting is decent but nobody was ever gonna bring home an award here. I found Malco to be a bit too subdued and obtuse, especially when his wife tries to speak any reason. MacColl is the best of the bunch and she really sells being a horrified housewife. But, man, Giovanni Frezza really takes the cake for me as Bob because he’s such a strange little child in this picture – mostly because the dubbing was obviously done by an adult putting on a child’s voice and it makes him seem weird.
House by the Cemetery arrives as the latest in a string of recent 3-Disc Limited Edition sets, all featuring transfers remastered in 4K – all of which have looked amazing. House continues that trend with a stunning 2.40:1 1080p image that, while retaining a heavy grain appearance, showcases strong definition and better detailing than any release prior. Colors also get an appreciable boost with deeper saturation and a richer palette overall. It’s gritty and a bit grimy and not totally polished but as far as nailing the aesthetic and intended look of the picture this transfer is top tier.
Audio comes via DTS-HD MA in both English – 1.0 and 5.1 – and Italian – 1.0 mono. I always go with a dub on these films and the multi-channel track provides the best audible experience possible. There are lots of small audio cues creaking and groaning throughout the house that a mono track simply can’t replicate with that same sense of immersion. Walter Rizzati’s score also sounds even more impressive when taking advantage of every available speaker. Subtitles are included for English SDH, French, Spanish, and English for Italian Audio.
- BRAND NEW AND EXCLUSIVE 4K RESTORATION OF THE FULLY UNCUT VERSION OF TEH FILM FROM THE ORIGINAL CAMERA NEGATIVE
- NEW Audio Commentary with Troy Howarth, Author of Splintered Visions: Lucio Fulci and His Films
- Deleted Scene
- Theatrical Trailers
- TV Spot
- Poster & Still Galleries
- NEW House Quake – Interview with Co-Writer Giorgio Mariuzzo
- NEW Catriona MacColl Q&A
- NEW Calling Dr. Freudstein – Interview with Stephen Thrower, Author of Beyond Terror: The Films of Lucio Fulci
- Meet the Boyles – Interviews with Stars Catriona MacColl and Paolo Malco
- Children of the Night – Interviews with Stars Giovanni Frezza and Silvia Collatina
- Tales of Laura Gittleson – Interview with Star Dagmar Lassander
- My Time With Terror – Interview with Star Carlo De Mejo
- A Haunted House Story – Interviews with Co-Writers Dardano Sacchetti and Elisa Briganti
- To Build a Better Death Trap – Interviews with Cinematographer Sergio Salvati, Special Make-Up Effects Artist Maurizio Trani, Special Effects Artist Gino De Rossi, and Actor Giovanni De Nava
DISC THREE: SOUNDTRACK
- The House by the Cemetery Original Motion Picture Soundtrack by Walter Rizzati, placed on a separate CD.
- Illustrated collectible booklet featuring a brand new essay by Michael Gingold
- Reversible sleeve
- 3D lenticular slipcover (First Pressing Only)
ADDITIONAL TECHNICAL SPECS
- English: DTS-HD Master Audio 1.0
- English: DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1
- Italian: DTS-HD Master Audio 1.0
- Optional English, English SDH, French, Spanish, and English for Italian Audio subtitles
Blue Underground has been delivering one definitive edition after the next with this line of limited editions and even though this isn’t one of my favorite Fulci films I would be hard-pressed not to recommend every fan put this release on their shelf.