Film, DVD, Blu-Ray & Streaming Reviews - By Fans For Fans



Directed by Lucio Fulci.
Starring Catriona MacColl, Paolo Malco, Giovanni Frezza, Ania Pieroni, Dagmar Lassander.
Horror, Italy, 86 mins, cert 18.


Released in the UK on Limited Edition 4K UHD & Blu-ray via Arrow Video on 9th October 2023.


Isn’t it funny that once upon a time, THE HOUSE BY THE CEMETERY was heavily cut by the BBFC and consequently put on the video nasties list. We celebrate its release in an expensive 4K UHD box set four decades later. You even get some art cards and a selection of cover sleeves.


Initially released in 1981, THE HOUSE BY THE CEMETERY is the third film in Italian splatter master Lucio Fulci’s ‘Gates of Hell’ trilogy, a loosely connected trio of bizarre gore-fests that also includes CITY OF THE LIVING DEAD (1980) and surreal classic THE BEYOND (1981).


Dr. Norman Boyle (Paulo Malco), his wife Lucy (Catriona MacColl) and their young son Bob (Giovanni Frezza) move into a house in New England that was previously occupied by a former colleague of Norman’s who killed his mistress and then himself. Bob starts to receive warnings from a mysterious girl named Mae, who tells him to get out of the house, and after discovering the graves of Dr Freudstein and his wife Mary, it transpires that Norman’s former colleague wasn’t a murderer; it was the zombified Dr Freudstein that killed him and his mistress. Unfortunately for the Boyle family, Freudstein still lurks within the bowels of the house and is quite partial to killing off whoever enters so he can use their body parts to stay alive.


Although THE HOUSE BY THE CEMETERY is probably the weakest of the three ‘Gates of Hell’ films, there is still more than enough here to satisfy most gore hounds. The throat rippings, stabbings and Fulci’s obsession with eye trauma are all here as you would expect and done very well, and Dr Freudstein himself is a creepy enough villain, with Fulci using his point-of-view stalking shots to add more of a creeping dread feel. The main issue with the movie is – now as it was then - the rather annoying overdubbing of Bob, which, although probably necessary, completely takes you out of any traumatic scene that he may be involved in and almost wills you on to support Freudstein to finish the little blighter off. The movie has the traditional Fulci narrative (i.e. none whatsoever). However, when put up against other similarly nonsensical plots like THE BEYOND – which makes as little sense as this does, but it does at least have a dream-like quality to it that gives it a kind of logic – it does seem to be slightly lacking as the filmmaker tries to add some Lovecraftian elements for a little more credibility. Still, it makes some more severe features seem somewhat sillier.


However, given the age of the movie and how many times Arrow Video have put it out on different formats, chances are that anybody buying this new release will already know what to expect and want to know whether the upgrade is worth it. The answer is a definite ‘yes’ as THE HOUSE BY THE CEMETERY has never looked so fresh, thanks to the 4K restoration from the original negative. The colours do pop out of the screen, and not just during the gore scenes – which look fantastic, despite the differences between the actors’ skin tones and the latex appliances, but this was made over 40 years ago, so who knew? – but also just the décor of the house, such as the coloured stained-glass windows. The blue tint on the exterior shots of the house from previous releases is still there, but the rest of the exterior scenes have a more natural look. Then, when things kick off inside the basement, the clarity is sharper and more detail is present, especially when showing off Dr. Freudstein’s features. For extras, the audio commentaries and interviews from Arrow’s previous Blu-ray release have been ported over, along with a new audio commentary by author Troy Howarth, an interview with author Stephen Thrower and various other cast and crew interviews, all housed in limited edition packaging that features art cards, a poster, reversible sleeve and 60-page perfect bound book featuring new writing on the film by Roberto Curti, Stephen Thrower, Alexandra Heller-Nicholas and Rachael Nisbet.


So, overall, it is another brilliant package from Arrow Video. If you are new to Fucli, are a fan of Italian horror, haven’t yet got hold of this film in any version or are looking to upgrade from a previous release. This extras-filled package is the definitive word as far as THE HOUSE BY THE CEMETERY goes, as it has never looked better and probably never will. It is the weakest of the three ‘Gates of Hell’ movies in terms of gross-out entertainment, but it does have a spooky Gothic feel all of its own, and hopefully, 4K UHD releases of the other two movies won’t be too far behind, so you can complete the trilogy in style.


Chris Ward.





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Film, DVD, Blu-Ray & Streaming Reviews
By Fans For Fans