I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve seen Lucio Fulci’s The House by the Cemetery. Back in the late ’90s and early 2000s, I got into Italian horror films from directors like Argento and of course Fulci. I sought out all I could get my grubby hands on and The House by the Cemetery was one of those films. I remember reading about the movie online and how it was exceptionally gory and insane. However, back then it was rare that you could get an unrated cut of a film, so when Anchor Bay released the flick fully uncut and in widescreen, you had to have it. I don’t remember where I bought the DVD, but I do remember watching it for the first time and being incredibly confused, which shouldn’t surprise fans of Fulci as most of his movies are confusing. Years and many releases later, the movie still confuses me to no end, but, thanks to the work of Blue Underground and their Blu-ray/4K UHD Blu-ray, the film has never looked better. Still, that doesn’t fix the fact the movie itself is still incredibly convoluted.
The House by the Cemetery is the third film in a trilogy known as the “Gates of Hell”. The other movies are City of the Living Dead and The Beyond. Don’t fret if you haven’t seen them as they don’t connect in an obvious manner. (Nevertheless, you should still check them out as they are considered by many as some of Fulci’s best work). The story follows a family of three as they move into the old Freudstein house – which, yes, resides by a cemetery. The husband, Norman, played by Paolo Malco (best known for his roles in other horror films), is a researcher(?), whose colleague murdered his mistress and committed suicide in the very same house. Norman is hoping to find out exactly what happened to him. There is also the potential that Norman is hiding a secret from his wife, Lucy (Catriona MacColl – another Fulci staple), as people keep mentioning that they have seen Norman in town before. Norman says they must be mistaken, but when a mysterious lady shows up at the house (Ania Pieroni and her striking eyes), we start to see maybe Norman isn’t telling the whole truth. Of course, this is all hearsay and never explained, so in the end, the side plot is entirely pointless.
Meanwhile, Norman and Lucy’s child Bob (Giovanni Frezza but hilariously dubbed over by Lyle Stetler) is talking to some ghost girl called Mae. She is trying to warn Bob to get out of the house before it’s too late as there is something in the basement waiting to kill them all. In between Bob looking utterly confused, we have random bat attacks, gory murders, creepy librarians, a hot realtor (Dagmar Lassander), and basement reveals with a “huh?” ending.
Honestly, even though I always end up more confused each time I watch The House by the Cemetery, I still love the film. It has stunning practical effects with plenty of gore splashing all over the place. Gorehounds will appreciate the movie for Fulci’s no-holds-barred style of murder. As for the confusing plot, it makes me love the film even more. I know when I pop in a Fulci flick I am not watching it for the coherent story, and The House by the Cemetery is far from being such a movie, yet I’ll gladly pop it back in to show it to another unsuspecting viewer.
Blue Underground has released The House by the Cemetery several times before. First, they put out a DVD in 2007, and then they released it on DVD/Blu-ray in 2011. Then they released it again in 2015 on a three-pack with City of the Living Dead and New York Ripper. Then(!) they released it yet again in 2020 on Blu-ray in a three-disc limited edition set with a new 4K remaster. At that time you probably proclaimed that finally you owned the ultimate version, or so you thought because Blue Underground has just released a 4K UHD version this past August 2020. Finally, finally, we have the definitive version (that is until the inevitable 8K release comes out).
The new 4K UHD release uses the existing 4K remaster and provides buyers with the bonus of HDR. Now, my setup at home is not updated to take advantage of all this new technology, as my TV is lacking HDR (I will be remedying this soon!) so I cannot say with 100% certainty that it makes all the difference. I can tell you the film looks fantastic, but of course, I thought the previous Blu-ray also looked fantastic. The colours pop, the detail in the scenes is sharp, and I never noticed any damage or dirt to the film. However, I also thought the same thing with the Limited Edition Blu-ray, so in all honesty, I think the decision on whether you buy this 4K UHD versus the LE Blu-ray is entirely up to whether you are currently collecting Blu-ray or upgrading to UHD. I want to point out that with the Limited Edition Blu-ray you get the soundtrack on CD and a bonus booklet. With the UHD disc, you get the bonus of Dolby Atmos sound with the English dubbed track and the Dolby Vision HDR but are missing the CD and booklet.
As mentioned, the audio provided on the UHD release includes English Dolby Atmos, 5.1 DTS-HD, 1.0 DTS-HD, and Italian 1.0 DTS-HD. I do not have the proper setup to support Dolby Atmos (another thing I will soon be correcting), but I can tell you that the sound quality is still very top of the line and uses all speakers quite nicely.
Extra features for the UHD release are the same as the Limited Edition Blu-ray. The UHD disc includes the audio commentary with Troy Howarth, a deleted scene, trailers, tv spots, and galleries. The second disc is a reg Blu-ray that includes the features that were on the previous release. In terms of special features, you cannot go wrong with either release.
Disc 1 (Blu-ray) Feature Film + Extras:Disc 1 (4K UHD Blu-ray) Feature Film + Extras:
NEW Audio Commentary with Troy Howarth, Author of Splintered Visions: Lucio Fulci and His Films
Deleted Scene (SD; 1:01)
Theatrical Trailers (unrestored HD; 3:22)
TV Spot (SD; 0:32)
Poster & Still Gallery 1 (chapter breaks; 1:13)
Poster & Still Gallery 2 (no chapter breaks; 2:21)
Disc 2 (Blu-ray) Extras:
Meet the Boyles – Interviews with Stars Catriona MacColl and Paolo Malco (HD; 14:17)
Children of the Night – Interviews with Stars Giovanni Frezza and Silvia Collatina (HD; 12:18)
Tales of Laura Gittleson – Interview with Star Dagmar Lassander (HD; 8:56)
My Time With Terror – Interview with Star Carlo De Mejo (HD; 9:21)
A Haunted House Story – Interviews with Co-Writers Dardano Sacchetti and Elisa Briganti (HD; 14:07)
To Build a Better Death Trap – Interviews with Cinematographer Sergio Salvati, Special Make-Up Effects Artist Maurizio Trani, Special Effects Artist Gino De Rossi, and Actor Giovanni De Nava (HD; 21:32)
NEW House Quake – Interview with Co-Writer Giorgio Mariuzzo (HD; 14:46)
NEW Catriona MacColl Q&A (HD; 29:37)
NEW Calling Dr. Freudstein – Interview with Stephen Thrower, Author of Beyond Terror: The Films of Lucio Fulci (HD; 19:34)
Limited Edition Blu-ray Release –
Disc 3 (CD):
THE HOUSE BY THE CEMETERY Original Motion Picture Soundtrack by Walter RizzatiBONUS! Collectible Booklet with new essay by Michael Gingold
Arrow Video (2017)
Fulci in The House: The Italian Master of Splatter
Arrow Video (2012)
Audio commentary by actress Catriona MacColl and critic Calum Waddell
Audio commentary by actress Silvia Collatina and Paura Productions Mike Baronas
Introduction by Giovanni Frezza
Back to the Cellar interview with Giovanni Frezza
Cemetery Woman interview with Catriona MacColl
Finishing the Final Fulci interview with Sergio Stivalett
Freudstein’s Follies interview with Gianetto De Rossi
Ladies of Italian Horror featurette
Sergio Martino on ‘Mountain of the Cannibal God’ featurette
Start-up trailer for “Arrow Video” promo
The House by the Cemetery Q&A interview
Bonus “Italian Horror” trailers
The House by the Cemetery may not be as highly regarded as say, Zombie or The Beyond, but it still ranks up high on the list of Fulci films to check out. It has the requisite gore and nonsensical story we have come to love from Fulci. Blue Underground has gone above in beyond in treating the film with great care, and whether you are buying the Limited Edition Blu-ray or the new 4K UHD release, you will be happy with your decision.