Blu-ray Review: House by the Cemetery (1981)

January 25, 2020

Written by DanXIII

Daniel XIII; the result of an arcane ritual involving a King Diamond album, a box of Count Chocula, and a copy of Swank magazine, is a screenwriter, director, producer, actor, artist, and reviewer of fright flicks…Who hates ya baby?

Hot shot New York City doctor Norman Boyle (Paolo Malco) takes over the investigation of a historical home down Massachusetts way started by his pal Dr. Petersen, who just so happens to have offed himself after making his mistress extinct. I certainly hope the former owner of the house had nothing to do with all that unpleasantness…

Anyhow, ol’ Norm packs up his wife Lucy (the loverly Catriona MacColl) and his son Bob (who has been having all manner of weird psychic connections to the house in the form of communications with an odd little girl named Mae (Silvia Collatina)… which as strange as that is, doesn’t even come close to matching the blazing nonsense that is his voice in the English dub) and heads to Mass to take up residence in that dread dwelling.

One deranged babysitter (Ania Pieroni) and a trip to the basement later, and it becomes clear that the malevolent presence of the house’s previous owner Dr. Freudstein (Giovanni De Nava) has made the scene and he looks as shitty as his disposition!

Part of a film cycle that also includes 1980’s City of the Living Dead and 1981’s The Beyond, House by the Cemetery represented Italian horror maestro Lucio Fulci’s desire to create films with heavy Lovecraftian influences without being based on any particular H.P. Lovecraft tale. To that end we have a New England setting, folks dealing with a madness-inducing supernatural menace, and a family cursed by preternatural forces (and they aren’t even the protagonists)… all tried and true elements of ol’ Howard Phillips’ oeuvre for sure (not to mention a pinch of The Amityville Horror here and The Shining there what with the house with a dark past and the father figure who has “been to the remote location” before even though he has no recollection of being there… not to mention that both were popular box office draws of the time).

Adding to the frightful fun are plenty of late Autumn exteriors, cemeteries, fever-dream logic, and the titular House itself; a dilapidated Victorian-era number complete with glowing spectral eyes, cobwebbed rooms, and a horrorshow of a basement featuring postmortem interior decorating courtesy of Dr. Freudstein (himself a wonderfully unique and grizzly design courtesy of  make-up effects wizard Maurizio Trani). Not to mention choice cuts of grizzly gore sure to satisfy the terror tooth of any horror hound!

All of this congeals into a heady blend of the surreal and horror movie tropes that rocks n’ rolls along like a particularly nasty nightmare experience that lovers of the horror biz will be reticent to wake up from; in other words, it’s one of the nicest slices of Italian genre cinema you are ever likely to consume!

While House by the Cemetery is one of Fulci’s all-time best flicks, and worth your time and dough on it’s own, Blue Underground has really pulled out all stops on the bonus content on this Blu-ray release!

First up we get a new audio commentary courtesy of Fulci scholar and author Troy Howarth, that covers all aspects of the film’s production in a fantastic listen that provides the info in an upbeat and fun manner, followed by a deleted scene, trailers (one featuring narration by the ever-awesome Brother Theodore no less), a TV spot (Theo makes the scene here as well), and poster and still galleries… and this is merely disc one of three!

Disc two brings us archival interviews with stars MacColl, Malco, Collatina, Giovanni Frezza (Bob! And yes… he’s aware of the dubbing and good-natured about it), Dagmar Lassander, and Carlo De Mejo, Co-Writers Dardano Sacchetti and Elisa Briganti, Cinematographer Sergio Salvati, Special Make-Up Effects Artist Maurizio Trani, Special Effects Artist Gino De Rossi.

Appearing for the first time on this edition are an interview with Actor Giovanni De Nava, a Q&A sesh with MacColl, and a retrospective of the film courtesy of author Stephen Thrower.

Disc three contains the film’s original motion picture soundtrack composed by Walter Rizzati, and also included (as if there wasn’t enough ghoulish goodies on hand) is a collectable booklet featuring a new essay by Rue Morgue’s Michael Gingold.

Bottom line, House by the Cemetery is Italian fright flick royalty, and belongs in the creepy collection of every horror hound that digs on the off-kilter world of spaghetti shockers!




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