House by the Cemetery (1981)
By: Julian on June 6, 2007  |  Comments  |  Bookmark and Share
Anchor Bay (USA). All Regions, NTSC. 2.35:1 (16:9 enhanced). English DD 2.0. 87 minutes
The Movie
Director: Lucio Fulci
Starring: Katherine MacColl, Paolo Malco, Giovanni Frezza, Ania Pieroni
Screenplay: Giorgio Mariuzzo, Dardano Sacchetti, Lucio Fulci
Music: Walter Rizzati
Country: Italy
AKA: Quella villa accanto al cimitero
As a filmmaker, Lucio Fulci could best be described as a 'censor-baiter'. Having stirred the pot with Zombie and City of the Living Dead, the notorious and occasionally brilliant Italo-exploitation director submitted House by the Cemetery, which proved to be something of a heartache once again. Banned initially in Australia, it debuted on VHS in cut form and, to this day, has no DVD release. The Brits didn't take a liking to it either and it was deprived of 33 seconds of 'detailed violence against women' upon reclassification in 2001. Unfortunately, House by the Cemetery fails to live up to the hype, and is shadowed by Fulci's bigger, nastier entries into the horror genre.

The film begins nastily enough when a young couple staying at a mysterious house are brutally murdered by someone (or something) in a pre-credits sequence. We fast-forward to the new occupants of the house, the Boyles – dad Norman (Malco), mum Lucy (MacColl) and little Bob. Norman, a Professor, is out to discover what happened to his friend, who killed his mistress and then himself under mysterious circumstances. Despite protests from Bob (who encounters a mysterious girl telling him not to go into the house) and his wife's increasingly bizzare hallucinations, Norman continues with his work. As the plot unravels, the sinister past of the titular location is revealed, and its late owner, Dr. Freudstein, may not be so dead after all…

Perhaps it was all this talk of 'banning' and 'truncated footage' that produced high expectations, but while House by the Cemetery can be good fun, it isn't consistent enough to make for a fulfilling evening's viewing. While ripping off/homaging was staple to the Italo-exploitation subgenre, the references to The Shining (Bob channeling Danny) and even Fulci's own films are clear and blatant, and you end up wishing for the original product. The acting is typically poor, though at least some of this can be attributed to comically bad dubbing. House by the Cemetery had potential, but its dull first act blew it for when things turned nasty.
Presented in the 16:9 enhanced 2:35:1 aspect ratio, this is the best House by the Cemetery has ever looked. Moments of grain are few and far between, and certainly permissible in a film of this age and genre.
The English audio is presented in Dolby 2.0 surround audio. In most part it's fairly good, with a few slight cracks and dull moments throughout the film.
Extra Features
Not a great deal – the best on offer are two theatrical trailers (both the American and European versions), a TV spot, still galleries and Fulci biography that seems to be the same on all Anchor Bay releases. There's an Easter Egg to be found – when in 'Extras', hit the left button on your remote control to highlight a blood splatter. Press 'enter' to view a one-minute, silent deleted scene.
The Verdict
As much as I am a Fulci fan and would love to give this a glowing review, House by the Cemetery just didn't do it for me. The violence was sparse, the dubbing atrocious, and the film required such a ridiculous suspension of belief it's not funny. It's a far cry from Fulci's sublime work on The New York Ripper and Zombie, and it may have marked the director's attempt to go 'serious'. While the scenes of gore are graphic and crowd-pleasing, it is clear that Fulci is working at his most restrained. It's all very matter-of-fact and lacks Ripper's sleaze or the surreal quality of Zombie. However, it certainly isn't all bad, and one of Cemetery's most redeeming features is the black humour that permeates the film, though whether it was intentional is a different matter. Recommended for exploitation fans, but Fulci newbies can do considerably better.

Should really get a two out of five, but the superior sound and picture quality bumps the rating up a notch for the faithful.
Movie Score
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