Back in the early eighties and in the height of the video nasty boom, horror fans in the UK were spoiled rotten with a vast array of entertainingly excessive and gruesome horror movies. Perhaps the most enthralling of all these was the selection of lurid titles that originated from Italy involving cannibals, killers and best of all zombies. It was generally accepted as the norm that the zombie was a mindless creature that lumbered around seeking the flesh of the living to munch on but with the arrival of Lucio Fulci's 'House by the Cemetery' that was all to change.
I would be astounded if any of you reading haven't already seen this Fulci classic many times before now, but for the stray visitor that perchance has arrived here I'll quickly run over the basic plot...following the death of his work colleague Dr Peterson, Norman Boyle and his wife (Lucy) and son (Bob) relocate to smallville New England so Norman can finish Peterson's work. On arrival at their temporary home away from home Lucy is unnerved by the creepy old house which is cannily (per the title) desolate beside an old cemetery. Not helping matters along for the poor woman also is the ramblings of son Bob who is insistent that he's communicating with a young girl that only he can see, she soon reaches breaking point when it is uncovered that the old house was residence of insane old human butcher Dr Freudstein. Bloody carnage soon ensues and the dark plot thickens even more with some bewildering red herrings thrown into the mix to keep both the slowly despairing wife and the viewer enthralled.
Without doubt 'House by the Cemetery' is one of the golden greats of the modern horror scene and as such is perhaps one of Fulci's finest works. Beautifully directed and visually stunning, the film is an engrossing terror trip that contains a finely balanced blend of unnerving horror and brutal gore. Of the cast involved it is without doubt the performance of Katherine McColl that is the most impressive as you watch her slippery descent into borderline insanity through mistrust and fear of her environment, great stuff. And lest I not mention the beautiful Ania Pieroni as the silently ominous babysitter (her eyes bore their way into my soul!) But on the other hand, one of the most irritating characters to appear in a genre film must go hands down to the son Bob (played by Giovanni Frezza) and more significantly the nerve shreddingly awful English dub voice that the character has. This dub voice has annoyed me for almost 20 years now of loving this movie and even though to this day I wish the character would be killed off early in the movie it was never to be. That said it's my only small quibble in this otherwise near perfect horror classic.
As well as Fulci's sumptuous direction there is also the great collaborative script that Fulci prepared with the great Dardano Sacchetti and Giorgio Mariuzzo. Even with the questionable and unanswered plot threads (why does everyone think that they've met Norman Boyle before?) it's still a delightful work. Also of note is Walter Rizzati's memorable score and last but by no means least is the stunning effects work by Gianetto de Rossi that even on occasion steal the show.
This new remastered release from EC Entertainment is probably as good as it gets also. The film print itself has been remastered from the original 35mm negatives and is presented in anarmorphic widescreen. The image is vibrant and colourful, looking far better than it has one before. The extras included here are kinda cool too - there's a nice anarmorphic theatrical trailer for the film (and one for 'Blade in the Dark' also), an impressive and extensive stills gallery and best of all there's a lengthy filmed interview with Fulci himself filmed onstage at a UK horror film festival Eurofest (alongside the late David Warbeck) that is both fascinating and at moments quite sad (in particular when he announces that he will soon be collaborating with Argento on 'Wax Mask', a venture that his death would intervene).
If you haven't yet added 'House by the Cemetery' to your DVD collection then now really is the time to do so. It's a classic horror movie from an era long gone and this presentation from EC Entertainment is simply gorgeous (and can be found at an attractive budget price). Essential movie and a great disc to boot - buy it!
Review by Alan Simpson
|Directed by Lucio Fulci|
|Released by EC Entertainment|
|Trailers, Stills gallery, Interview|