Lucio Fulci's House By The Cemetery: 3-Disc Limited Edition [Blu-ray]
Blu-ray ALL - America - Blue Underground
Review written by and copyright: Robert Segedy (18th March 2020).
The Film

Lucio Fulci fans rejoice, because here it is! The third volume in the Lucio Fulci Death Trilogy: "City of the Living Dead" (1980), "The Beyond" (1981), and "House by the Cemetery" (1981). Throw away all your older versions because this edition is processed from a brand new 4k restoration print. Now you can see all the details and depth in this production, and it is literally like seeing the film for the first time! As you may or may not know, this film had been banned in the UK as being one of the 39 films prosecuted under the 1980 Obscene Publications Act. So, rest easy now gore hounds, your deluxe package has arrived.

The plot is an unusual one for Fulci as the focus is on the family: Norman (Paolo Malco) and Lucy Boyle (Catriona MacColl) and their son, Bob (Giovanni Freezi) are getting ready to leave NYC for a retreat to New England for six months. The house in question is a large creepy looking mansion located in New Whitby, Massachusetts: the grounds include some old gravestones, a large tombstone embedded in the middle of the living room floor, and apparently the place is haunted by a young girl, Mae (Silvia Collatina). Apparently, the girl appeared in an old photograph that hung on the wall in the New York apartment, warning Bob not to come to this house. Yes, Bob’s parents are the typical self-occupied individuals that are much too busy to heed their child’s warning. So, get this detail: Norman has decided to pursue his former colleague’s studies and it is his old abode that the family is going to move into. However, the “Old Oaks” as it is known was the site of a family homicide where good ole Dr. Peterson wiped out his entire family before hanging himself in his library. Yipes! Don’t any of these people watch horror films; I mean hello, "The Shining" (1980) is a good example of what can happen to a family when they decide to move to a haunted joint. Same identical family set up as well; I can’t say that the Torrance’s listened to their son, Danny’s warnings either. However, I am getting ahead of myself here.

The film begins with a couple in a deserted house where they have secreted themselves for some hidden love making. This is a good scene to set the mood for the rest of the film. Fulci establishes this house as the center stage for all the mayhem that follows; the couple finds the large gravestone embedded in the living room floor and simply dismisses it as a strange New England custom. Then the boy wanders off alone, leaving the nervous girl to repeatedly call his name. She is dispatched in a typical Fulci move with the thrust of a large butcher knife into her skull so that the knife just from her mouth. The body is dragged across the floor to a door leading to the basement by a large grotesque decaying hand. This is the house that Norman and his family are headed.

The atmosphere of “The Oaks” is that of a haunted house and there is a doorway to the basement through the kitchen that is heavily boarded up. The house is old and atmospheric, we hear unexplained noises from the basement, and it is clearly occupied by more than the Boyle’s. Why the family insists on residing here boarders on the absurd; the local realtor acts strangely when the family stops by her office, leaving Bob to experience an encounter with the spectre that he had previously seen in the old photograph on the wall in New York City. She informs him that her name is Mae and she repeats her earlier warning: “You shouldn’t have come.” Arriving at the house, we can clearly see several tombstones on the grounds. Later, Bob will be out playing in the yard when Mae will appear and inform Bob that this is the grave of the doctor’s wife, Mary Freudstein. Suddenly a pretty, but strange girl arrives at the house named Ann (Ania Pieroni); she has been sent from the realtor’s office to act as a babysitter for Bob. Again, these incidents occur with the Boyle’s merely accepting them as being normal and innocuous, but to the audience, they are all adding up to a foreboding feeling of impending doom.

Lucio Fulci is credited as being one of the script writers along with the participation of Dardano Sacchetti, Giorgio Mariuzzo, and Elissa Briganti, have created a combination ghost story plus splatter film. Perhaps if the writers had stayed more focused on a single plot instead of mixing the genres together, then this film would have a wider audience, and that is one of my major complaints. Fulci fans just want to see the red stuff delivered in only the manner that the maestro could deliver, but the elements of a ghost story intermingling throughout the film only leads to a watered-down product. Obviously die-hard horror fans don’t really crave a linear plot with believable characters, but this film really challenges one’s sense of plausible denial. For example, throughout the film, there are numerous incidents that are shrugged off as being merely coincidental or are ignored completely. The large tombstone that is centrally located in the middle of the living room space is regarded as a creepy New England tradition; when babysitter Ann finds a large puddle of blood in the kitchen, she inexplicably starts mopping the grue up, and simply remarks that she has made coffee when Lucy comes downstairs. Viewers are left to puzzle this behavior out or simply nod and laugh it off as another strange habit of the director. I mean, to be fair, the film starts with the extremely violent killing of the amorous couple, and this is a horror film, meaning that we are to expect some extreme violence. I reckon that I just haven’t warmed up to Fulci’s innovative approach to storytelling.

Meanwhile Norman is at the library investigating Dr. Peterson’s research looking for some clear clues to why he slayed his family and then committed suicide. Norman discovers Peterson’s notes and it is here that he learns of Dr. Jacob Freudstein and how he was banned from practicing medicine for life. Instead of acting as a resounding warning shot that only trouble lies ahead, Norman, like any scientist in a horror film, vows to delve deeper into the mystery. Arriving at home he is confronted by a visibly upset Lucy, who has stumbled upon the macabre grave marker of Dr. Freudstein in her living room floor. Norman coolly explains the bizarre incident with some stupid sounding explanation of the ground being too hard outside. Lucy apparently swallows this lie without any hesitation. Norman then has the bright idea of removing the boards that block off access to the basement; anyone with a lick of common sense knows that this is truly the entrance to hell.

It is noted that the actress Catriona MacColl had been in two previous Fulci films and this makes her third appearance for the maestro. Obviously Fulci had liked her presence and what she brought to the screen; I am not sure what psychological aftereffects one would suffer after being submitted to the terrors of "City of the Living Dead" (1980) and "The Beyond" (1981) and then ultimately being sacrificed to the horror of Dr. Freudstein in this film. We must give the actress credit where credit is due for her performances in this blood-soaked trilogy.

Opening the cellar door was a big mistake and afterwards things start to turn deadly for the occupants of the house. Mrs. Gittleson (Dagmar Lassander), the realtor stops by the house to see how the new occupants are faring, but the house is seemingly unoccupied by the family. She manages to become a victim to Dr. Freudstein by having her foot become trapped in a crack in the tombstone; he snuffs out her life with a handy fireplace poker, repeatedly puncturing her chest. It is this large bloodstain that Ann is scrubbing off the floor the next day when Lucy comes downstairs and all that Ann say when confronted is “I made coffee.” Well, thank god for that. Everyone else will easily become a victim next as the undead in the basement start to roam.

The bloodshed continues as Ann and Bobby are lured all too easily into the basement where the lurching corpse of Dr. Freudstein is on the loose. Ann is nastily decapitated in a gruesome scene that has her pretty head rolling down the stairs and thus mirroring an earlier hallucinogenic scene where Ann is looking in a shop window at a mannequin that uncannily resembles her. Poor Bob is trapped in the basement with the undead doctor and in a Shining like homage, Dad comes home to find the basement door locked, and in a brilliant moment, grabs an axe and starts swinging for the fences. Little does Norman realize that poor Bob’s head is being pressed against the door by the good doctor as the axe wickedly penetrates the wooden door, coming mere inches from Bob’s terrified face. Fulci is certainly in rare form here as he keeps turning the knob increasing the suspense while steadily increasing the body count.

Eventually the family ends up in the basement where they come face to rotting face with the shambling visage of Dr. Freudstein. Of course, it is not explained how he came to possess supernatural strength or exactly what his purpose is, but like I said previously, this film works under its own oddball logic. Norman tries to save his family and goes mano a mano with the towering giant corpse, thrusting a butcher knife into the thing’s chest, but this yields only a gross out revelation as a stream of maggots and earthworms leak out of the incision. Norman is easily dispatched in a bloody denouement. This leaves Ann and Bobby trying to make a futile escape through the cracked tombstone in the floor at the top of a staircase. Fulci plays a game of cat and muse with the viewer’s expectations as the scene plays out with the remaining family members crouched at the top of the stairs and the slow-moving menace draws near. Poor Ann is the next to die as her son is forced to witness her bloody finish. Bob is desperately trying to force his body through the enlarged crack in the tombstone as Dr. Freudstein makes a grab for him. Then suddenly, appearing as if by magic, is Mae as she makes the save and pulls Bob to safety. Then Fulci pulls a fast one and has the remaining house seemingly purported to a previous time as both Mae and Mrs. Freudstein welcome Bob to their apparently altered time and dimension. Huh? I know, I know. This ending is a complete skullf**k and as the film ends the camera pulls back showing the three characters walking away from the house of horrors, but to where? Roll the credits!

Video

Presented in 2.35:1 HD 1080p 24/fps mastered in AVC MPEG-4 compression from a new 4K master. The image features excellent skin tones and the details come alive. There is an increased sense of depth in certain scenes, like in the basement, and overall the production is a significant improvement over previous releases. The cinematography by Sergio Salvati is wonderful, and the special effects by Maurizio Trani and Gino De Rossi really stand out.

Audio

Three audio tracks are included in English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 surround, English DTS-HD Master Audio 1.0 mono, and Italian DTS-HD Master Audio 1.0 mono. Whether you listen to the English track or the dubbed Italian version, you will be impressed with the overall results. A word of warning: Bob’s English dubbing job is atrocious and can have a negative effect upon viewers. The soundtrack by Walter Rizzati is effective and used properly. I watched the film with the Italian dialogue track turned on because that’s how I roll. Optional subtitles are included in English (for Italian soundtrack), English HoH (for English soundtrack), French, and Spanish.

Extras

this is really where Blue Underground shines and they do an outstanding job presenting this film like it is "A" list title.

DISC ONE: BLU-RAY

The film includes an audio commentary with Troy Howarth, author of the definitive "Lucio Fulci Text Splintered Visons: Lucio Fulci and His Films". This is a worth track that features some great content for fans.

There are a collection of theatrical trailers that include:

- "International" theatrical trailer (3:22).
- "US" theatrical trailer (1:48).

There's also a TV spot (0:32, 480i).

There's also a deleted scene (0:59) - "Bat Attack Aftermath!" presented without audio this a small scene in the kitchen after the bat attacks Lucy in the basement.

The first disc also features "Poster & Still" gallery #1 (step-through) and "Poster & Still" gallery #2 (2:21).

DISC TWO: BLU-RAY

"Meet the Boyles" (14:17), a brief interview with stars Catriona MacColl and separately Paolo Malco regarding their experiences on the set.

"Children of the Night" (12:18), interviews with Giovanni Freezi and Silvia Collatina on working with Fulci and how he was as a director.

"Tales of Laura Gittleson" (8:56), an interview with star Dagmar Lassander including a story about a stuffed black cat prop and how it created a rumpus at customs.

"My Time with Terror" (9:21), an interview with actor Carlo De Mejo.

"A Haunted House Story" (14:07), interview with screenwriters Dardano Sacchetti and Elissa Briganti, Italian with English subtitles, on story structure and influences felt while working on the script.

"To Build a Better Deathtrap" (21:32) interview with cinematographer Sergio Salvati, special make-up effects Maurizio Trani, special effects artist Gino De Rossi, and actor Giovanna De Nava, Italian with English subtitles, they discuss the various effects utilized and De Nava who played Dr. Freudstein talks about the extensive make-up that was used for his gruesome appearance.

"House Quake" (14:46), interview with co-writer Giorgio Mauriuzzo about his contributions to the script.

"Q&A with Catriona MacColl" (29:37) interview recorded live at the 2014 Spaghetti Cinema Festival, features the actress fielding some surprising questions from the fans regarding her career and this film.

"Calling Dr. Freudstein" (19:34) interview with Stephen Thrower, author of "Beyond Terror: The Films of Lucio Fulci". Plenty of clips included as Thrower dissects the film and adds insightful commentary.

DISC THREE: CD

Soundtrack by Walter Rizzati (31 tracks, 57:11):

01. "Quella Villa" (2:56)
02. "I Remember" (1:19)
03. "Blonk Monster" (2:14)*
04. "Chi Sta Arrivando?" (1:09)
05. "Tema Bambino" (1:33)
06. "Verso Il Terrore" (1:16)
07. "Verso Il Terrore #2" (1:56)
08. "Blonk Fascia" (2:17)*
09. "Verso Il Terrore #3" (1:15)
10. "Verso Il Terrore #4" (1:47)
11. "Incontro" (1:21)
12. "Voci dal Terrore" (1:53)
13. "Blonk Fascia #2" (1:01)*
14. "Verso Il Terrore #5" (1:40)
15. "Chi Sta Arrivando? #2" (1:29)
16. "Voci dal Terrore #2" (1:54)
17. "Walt Monster End" (0:57)
18. "Chi Sta Arrivando? #3" (2:06)
19. "Quella Villa #2" (2:04)
20. "Blonk Suspense" (2:02)*
21. "Chi Sta Arrivando? #4" (0:59)
22. "Blonk Fascia #3" (2:43)*
23. "Tema Bambino #2" (1:31)
24. "Voci dal Terrore #3" (3:16)
25. "Blonk Monster #2" (3:09)*
26. "Tema bambino #3" (1:49)
27. "Verso Il Terrore #6" (1:44)
28. "Verso Il Terrore #7" (2:14)
29. "Blonk Monster End" (1:51)*
30. "Walt Monster End #2" (1:53)
31. "Tema Bambino #4" (1:53)
*composed by Alessandro Blonksteiner.

The package also includes a collectable booklet with new essay by Michael Gingold.

Packaging

Comes packaged in a special 3D slip-case with Blu-ray and CD in a clamshell keep case.




Overall

Based on the overall production and appearance of the film itself, this is a keeper. Sure, it doesn’t make a lick of sense, but it is a delight to the eyes and ears. The film is presented on a 50 GB dual layer Blu-ray with a 1080p image mastered from 4K elements. Colors are nicely presented, and blacks are strong. The film looks excellent!

The Film: A Video: A Audio: A Extras: A Overall: A

 


DVD Compare is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program and the Amazon Europe S.a.r.l. Associates Programme, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to amazon.co.uk, amazon.com, amazon.ca, amazon.fr, and amazon.de.