The House By The Cemetery
Director: Lucio Fulci
Cast: Catriona MacColl, Paolo Malco, Ania Pieroni
Review by Brian M. Sammons
This lesser known (and admittedly, lesser loved) Lucio Fulci flick was released on this side of “The Pond” late last year by Blue Underground and it. Was. Good! Now it’s the Brits’ turn at bat. How does the always capable Arrow Video bring this very strange slice of Italian shock cinema our on Blu-ray? Well let’s find out.
The story behind this movie is deceptively easy to explain, but such a synopsis does very little to describe just how bizarre it is. But hey, got to start somewhere, so here we get a small family moving into a big house in New England with a sordid, bloody history. The young son, Bob, played by cherubic blond haired, blue eyed Giovanni Frezza, has a friend in a little girl only he can see named Mae who keeps warning him to stay away from the house. Not only does this bring up shades of Stephen King’s The Shining, but it’s also my biggest gripe about this movie: that damn kid. No, not the little Italian boy, Giovanni, who’s neither better nor worse than any other child actor, but the screeching, fingernails-on-chalkboard-bad voice they dubbed in for him for the English version of the film. Oh my dear God is it annoying! It’s obviously an adult doing a horrible “little kid” impersonation but the end result is every time little Bob opens his mouth I want to hit him in the face with a brick.
The second thing about this film that keeps it from being really great is the pacing. Once the family moves into the titular house the events proceed at a leisurely, strolling pace at best. The mystery behind the house’s horror (not to mention why a crazed maniac is living in the basement, popping out occasionally to behead, slice up, and rip the throats out of people) is slowly doled out a drip and drab at a time … that is until the end when there a big exposition dump. There are random bits of weirdness sprinkled throughout the film, like an unintentionally hilarious bat attack, and a few gruesome murder scenes, but sadly these seem like a far cry from the glorious gory gags in previous Fulci flicks. There’s a nice knife through the back of a woman’s head that comes out of her mouth bit, but that’s one of the few memorable kills to be found here. There is a neat rotting thing in the basement, a few genuinely creepy moments, but the film’s plot is a bit muddled and illogical, to say the least. How much so? Well when the film was first released on VHS many years ago some of the reels were played out of order and no one seemed to notice! Combine that with a lackluster ending that makes little, if any, sense and you get a movie that is long on mood and atmosphere, but short on logic. If you’re one of those people who need their films to make absolute sense, you might hate this movie. However if you can just go with it and enjoy the ride, you might dig this uneven, yet still mostly competent shocker.
Now this new Blu-ray release from Arrow Video looks pretty good in HD. No it’s not great, but it is very watchable and if you’ve only ever seen this on DVD (or lord forbid: VHS) then you’ll notice a world of improvement here. However where Arrow Video always shines is the shear amount of extras they do for their releases and once again they do not disappoint here. There are two audio commentaries to listen to, for interviews with the actors and makers of this movie, and a very cool 24 minute documentary called “Ladies of Italian Horror” that interviews a bunch of the European scream queens from all sorts of Italian fright flicks, not just those in House By The Cemetery. That special feature is easily the highlight here and is the cherry on the awesome cake that is this new Blu-ray.
The House By The Cemetery is both a bit longer and slower than it should be, and it has that damn screeching voice actor dubbing little Giovanni Frezza in it that drives me up a wall, but it’s still a good, creepy film at its rotting heart. If you’re new to Fulci films then perhaps Cemetery isn’t the best place to start. For that I would suggest Zombie, The Beyond, and/or City Of The Living Dead. But if you want to see something different, weird, creepy, and fun, or if you’re already familiar with some of Fulci’s other flicks, then The House By The Cemetery is for you. And like most of Arrow Video’s releases, this one is region free. I cannot tell you how happy that always makes me.