Director: Lucio Fulci
Screenplay: Dardano Sacchetti, Giorgio Mariuzzo and Lucio Fulci
Starring: Catriona MacColl (credited as Katherine MacColl), Paolo Malco, Ania Pieroni, Giovanni Frezza, Silvia Collatina, Dagmar Lassander, Giovanni De Nava, Carlo De Mejo
Running Time: 86 min
BBFC Certificate: 18
By 1981, the year The House by the Cemetery was released, director Lucio Fulci had already made a number of the films that would be known as his most iconic, gruesome and, at times, controversial: Zombie Flesh Eaters, City of the Living Dead, and The Beyond – though his most controversial yet, The New York Ripper, was just around the corner.
House by the Cemetery still contains the blood-soaked moments that made Fulci famous but takes its time to get to the gore (aside from a vicious opening murder). It plays like a mystery, with ghostly elements, and really ratchets up the atmosphere with lots of strange sounds and characters left alone, unaware of exactly what might be lurking round the corner.
Following the grisly murder that opens the film, the story turns its focus to the main characters, the Boyle family; Lucy and Norman, and their young son Bob, who move to an old house in New England. Norman’s ex-colleague Dr Peterson murdered his mistress in the house before committing suicide, and it soon becomes clear why – and it’s to do with Petersen’s research into a Victorian surgeon called Dr Freudstein.
Fulci’s films are often incredibly atmospheric, mainly due to the cinematography and production design – just look at the other two entries in The Gates of Hell Trilogy that House by the Cemetery is the final part of: the highly stylised City of the Living Dead and The Beyond. The House by the Cemetery maintains this atmosphere, but feels less other-worldly and stylish, and more like a classic haunted house film. The cinematography is excellent and features several point-of-view shots that really add to the tension, with the camera slowly moving through the house. The score, by Walter Rizzati, is also memorable and adds to the mood.
Yet, whilst it feels more sedate than the average picture by the director, this is a Fulci horror film and his fans know exactly what that means – the blood will eventually flow, and this is no exception. There may not be too many gory scenes but, when they occur, they are particularly vicious and bloody, and the ick factor (maggots and worms) is also present and accounted for. These scenes have the usual Fulci flourish and, together with the aforementioned elements that create a haunting atmosphere, make for a fine addition to The Gates of Hell Trilogy; that nightmarish collection of three of the great Italian horror films.
In closing, The House by the Cemetery is an incredibly atmospheric, though slower paced, horror from the master of splatter Lucio Fulci. Haunting imagery, brutal deaths, an iconic location, and great performances by some of the most recognisable horror actors in Italian cinema, all come together for a classic slice of horror.
The House by the Cemetery was released on 9th October on region B Blu-Ray and region-free UHD by Arrow Video. I reviewed the Blu-Ray edition. The transfer is excellent, far better than Arrow’s earlier Blu-Ray edition, released in 2012. Detail is rich, the filmic quality of the print is maintained and the colours are vivid. I can’t imagine the film looking any better. Audio is also first class. There are three options – restored original lossless mono English and Italian soundtracks and a lossless 5.1 English dub. It’s an outstanding technical package for the movie and, with the physical and on-disc extras, the best release yet of the film – which is saying something as it’s had some other great releases, notably several USA editions from Blue Underground, from whom the 4K restoration was sourced for this release.
Limited Edition special features:
- 4K restoration from the original negative by Blue Underground
- 4K (2160p) Ultra HD Blu-ray presentation in Dolby Vision (HDR10 compatible)
- Restored original lossless mono English and Italian soundtracks
- Optional lossless 5.1 English soundtrack
- Optional English subtitles for the deaf and hard of hearing for the English soundtrack
- Optional English subtitles for the Italian soundtrack
- Audio commentary by Troy Howarth, author of Splintered Visions: Lucio Fulci and His Films
- Archival audio commentary with star Catriona MacColl, moderated by Calum Waddell
- Archival audio commentary with co-star Silvia Collatina, moderated by Mike Baronas of Paura Productions
- 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 – interview 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 Giannetto De Rossi and actor Giovanni De Nava
- House Quake – interview with co-writer Giorgio Mariuzzo
- Q&A with Catriona MacColl at the 2014 Spaghetti Cinema Festival, Luton, England
- Calling Dr. Freudstein – interview with Stephen Thrower, author of Beyond Terror: The Films of Lucio Fulci
- Deleted scene
- Alternate US opening titles
- Archival introduction by Giovanni Frezza
- Back to the Cellar – archival interview with Giovanni Frezza
- Cemetery Woman – archival interview with Catriona MacColl
- Wax Mask: Finishing the Final Fulci – archival interview with filmmaker and special makeup effects artist Sergio Stivaletti
- Freudstein’s Follies – archival interview with Giannetto De Rossi
- Ladies of Italian Horror – archival interviews with Italian horror cinema stars Stefania Casini, Barbara Magnolfi and The House by the Cemetery‘s Silvia Collatina
- The House by the Cemetery Q&A – 2011 panel at HorrorHound, Indianapolis, Indiana featuring the film’s cast
- International theatrical trailer
- US theatrical trailer
- TV spot
- Poster and still galleries
- Limited edition packaging with reversible sleeve featuring two original pieces of poster artwork
- Limited edition 60-page perfect bound book featuring new writing on the film by Roberto Curti, Stephen Thrower, Alexandra Heller-Nicholas and Rachael Nisbet
- Fold-out double-sided poster featuring two original pieces of poster artwork
- Six double-sided collector’s postcards
Comprehensive is how I’d describe the on-disc extras in this fantastic edition – three commentaries, interviews with a number of the cast and crew and more.
The Troy Howarth commentary kicks off the package and is excellent, packed with information and a breeze to listen to. Howarth shares his memories of the film, shines a light on some of the actors and staunchly defends Fulci, who is unfairly maligned by some critics. If you only delve into one commentary on this release, make it this one.
Calum Waddell moderates an archival commentary, which also appeared on Arrow’s original 2012 Blu-ray release of the film, with lead actress Catriona MacColl. It plays at times more like an interview, with the actress’s views on the three Fulci films she starred in, him as a director and her career. She also gives her views on scenes from the film and discusses the growing reputation of Fulci at the time of the commentary, when his films were starting to get reappraised. An informative and entertaining listen.
The third commentary, another archival commentary from the 2012 Arrow release, features Silvia Collatina, the iconic child actress who here portrays Mae Freudstein. It’s moderated by Mike Baronas. There are some awkward pauses but overall this is an insightful commentary with lots of recollections from the easy to listen to actress.
Next up are some interviews which have been ported over from a previous USA Blue Underground release of the film. All are excellent and great additions to this brilliant package.
Meet the Boyles is a 14 minute interview with stars Catriona MacColl and Paolo Malco. There are some cool recollections, particularly about how sweet Fulci was around the child stars. There are also some nice memories about the bat sequence from both stars. MacColl’s interview is in English and Malco’s is subtitled.
Children of the Night is a 12 minute interview with the child stars of the film, Giovanni Frezza and Silvia Collatina. It’s a light-hearted and affectionate interview – Frezza starts by apologising for his character’s voice (often the target of criticism) in the English dubbed version. Both stars share a bit about how they got into the movie industry, before sharing their memories of filming the film.
Tales of Laura Gittleson is a 9 minute interview with Dagmar Lassander who plays the estate agent in the movie. Lassander is a great interview and packs a lot into the short time. Like some of the other interviews, she shares how this movie apparently isn’t that popular in Italy, however films like this and other Fulci features have a strong cult following in the UK and USA. It concludes with footage from Lassander’s first horror convention.
My Time with Terror features Carlo De Mejo, who plays Mr Wheatley in the movie. It runs for 9 minutes. He talks about his mother, the iconic actress Alida Valli, and has some nice memories.
A Haunted House Story features interviews with co-writers Dardano Sacchetti and Elisa Briganti. The 14 minute feature, subtitled in English, features insights into screen writing, including setting the film in America.
To Build a Better Death Trap runs for 21 minutes and features subtitled interviews with cinematographer Sergio Salvati, special make-up effects artist Maurizio Trani, special effects artist Giannetto De Rossi and actor Giovanni De Nava, whilst House Quake is a 15 minute interview with co-writer Giorgio Mariuzzo. Both include a lot of background information to film-making and the making of Cemetery, in particular.
The Catriona MacColl Q&A dates from 2014 with the star speaking at the Spaghetti Cinema Festival in Luton. The 30 minute Q&A, moderated by Callum Wadell is great fun, sharing why she was billed as Katherine in Italian films, as well as looking at the open ended nature of the films in The Gates of Hell Trilogy.
Calling Dr Freudstein is, as is to be expected, a brilliant overview by the always reliable Stephen Thrower, whose tome Beyond Terror: The Films of Lucio Fulci is the definitive book on the director and well worth seeking out. So much is packed into the 20 minute run-time, beginning with how the film came about, including changes to the original script, influences on the film from literary horror, its poetic style, location work (including more recent footage of how some of the locations look in the US town of Concord and Scituate in Massachusetts), it’s UK release, and, of course, the gore. Essential viewing and, alongside the Howarth commentary, the standout extra on the release.
The deleted scene, which runs for around 30 seconds following a text intro and the end of the proceeding scene, is silent and follows the bat attack. A brief but nice addition.
The alternate US titles feature different music, more mournful and classical horror. Not as strong or memorable as the music used in the original release, in my humble opinion, but still great to have included.
A section of archival special features from Arrow’s previous Blu-Ray release of the movie includes an intro plus 15 minute interview with Giovanni Frezza, a 30 minute interview with Catriona MacColl, an 8 minute interview with special makeup effect artist Sergio Stivaletti, a 10 minute interview with special effects artist Giannetto De Rossi, 24 minutes of interviews with Italian horror cinema actresses, and a 44 minute Q&A with the case of the film from a 2011 panel at HorrorHound in Indianapolis, Indiana. Excellent to see these have all been included as they made the first release worthwhile.
The publicity section includes the international theatrical trailer, the US theatrical trailer, an original TV spot, and two poster and stills galleries. The first gallery has over 70 images, mostly posters and covers from various home video releases, and the second is a montage form the Anchor Bay DVD days.
The 60 page booklet is up to Arrow’s typically excellent standards with four great essays. The Curti essay packs a lot in, and the Thrower and Heller-Nicholas ones, in particular, are fun reads.
Rounding out the set is an awesome physical package – gorgeous new artwork by Colin Murdoch for the rigid slipcase, six postcards featuring lobby cards from the original release, and a double-sided poster featuring one of the original posters on one side and Murdoch’s artwork on the other.
If it’s not clear already, I adored this release. An iconic Fulci classic is given the definitive treatment with an excellent audio-visual presentation, a wealth of informative and worthwhile on-disc extras, and an insightful booklet of extras, all contained in an outstanding limited edition package. Highly recommended.