Review Date: December 8, 2000
Released by: EC Entertainment
Release date: 12/0000
Region 0, NTSC
Widescreen 2.35:1 | 16x9: Yes
EC Entertainment first released House by the Cemetery onto DVD back in November 1999. The EC disc had some great features - widescreen, uncut, interviews, booklets, still gallery, trailers and more. It was a Region 2 import however, and many ended up passing on it either because they couldn't play region 2 DVDs or because they were waiting for Anchor Bay's upcoming release of House by the Cemetery in February 2000, which ultimately got bumped to early 2001.
Now with Anchor Bay's release finally drawing near, EC has gone a step further - they're re-releasing the title yet again. This time it's been remastered with a new anamorphic (16x9) transfer, a larger still gallery, 10 additional minutes added to the Fulci interview - now with English subtitles, anamorphic (16x9) trailer, remastered soundtrack with several distortions removed, new artwork and is once again a region 0 uncut DVD. Will this be the final straw for the remaining holdouts? Will this drive those waiting for Anchor Bay's DVD to finally buy this EC DVD instead? Or can they continue to wait for that Anchor Bay DVD? At a price of $30.00 it's hard to resist. But a more important question is: How's the quality on this DVD? We know Anchor Bay's is bound to be high quality, but can the same be said for this latest EC DVD? Perhaps it will be easier to decide once we take a closer look at the DVD. Without further delay...
Norman (Paolo Malco), his wife Lucy (Catriona MacColl) and their son Bob (Giovanni Frezza) are getting ready for their move from New York to Boston. While his mother is out and about packing, Bob sees images of a young girl warning him to stay away. He sees the girl in the window of a house that's on a black and white painting. When he points it out to his mother, the girl in the painting is gone. The reason for the move is that Norman is really the only capable man that can take over Dr. Peterson's research. Dr. Peterson's research took place in Boston, but before it was finished he killed himself.
Because Lucy changed her mind so many times about whether she was actually going to go with Norman to Boston, the house they were planning on renting had been taken. Fortunately, thanks to Professor Muller (Lucio Fulci - director cameo), they end up getting an even better place to stay - the same house Dr. Peterson killed himself in. When they arrive in Boston, Norman and Lucy run into the local realtor to pickup the keys to their new home and sign the paperwork, leaving Bob behind in the car. Bob then sees Mae (Silvia Collatina), the same girl he saw in the painting. She tells Bob she's been expecting him, then asks him why he came after she warned him. Bob explains that he tried to warn his parents but that they wouldn't listen.
They begin moving into Dr. Peterson's house, a house that is conveniently located right next to a cemetery. Not only that, but inside the house itself there are tombs of the dead. When Norman opens the door to the basement - a door that was boarded shut and locked - a sequence of graphic murders begin to occur in the house. Norman discovers that Dr. Peterson was researching Dr. Freudstein - a turn-of-the-century surgeon that was performing illegal experiments. When norman begins investigating Dr. Freudstein on his own he discovers some shocking secrets that may cost him and his family their lives.
Director Lucio Fulci has quite a large following of fans, and while I can't say I'm such a follower, I am starting to enjoy many of his movies. It seems that so many of his movies are acquired tastes. You don't like them on the first viewing, perhaps not even on the second or third viewing, but eventually you start to love them. Well, that isn't always the case but it is the case for me and many others. Example: First time I saw The Beyond I didn't like it at all. It would even be fair to say that I hated it. However, after the second viewing nearly six months later by opinion changed entirely. I loved it!
Something similar has happened with House by the Cemetery. My first time seeing it (on the EC laserdisc) I didn't like it at all, even more so than The Beyond. The second time I saw it my feelings didn't change. Now, my third time watching it and I'm starting to like it more. Why is this? What is it about Fulci movies that get better after multiple viewings? For me it's usually that I start to observe more of the good points when I watch the movie again. The reason for that may be Fulci's fault alone - the stories usually move too slow and are drawn out. There's too much fluff in between the good scenes, which of course are the gore scenes. This is definitely true with House by the Cemetery. It moves too slow but when you get to the gore scenes they're definitely gory, which so many Fulci fans crave and are usually quite satisfied after watching his movies.
In addition to gore, The House by the Cemetery has some genuinely creepy moments. My personal favorite is when the movie opens - you see shots of the young girl (Mae) in a painting, standing at a window with the curtain open. She's warning Bob to stay away. Then, when Bob tells his mother, the girl is gone and the curtain is closed. When Bob and his mother leave the room the camera zooms in on the paining and sure enough the girl is back with the curtain open. There's a quick cut and then her hand is up against the window, indicating to stay away. That is my favorite scene in the movie. It gave me serious goose bumps!
While the story is a bit slow and has some holes that may bring down the overall enjoyment of the movie, Fulci fans tend to look past that. After all, you generally aren't watching a Fulci movie for the story. It's the visuals...the scares...the music...THE GORE! Fulci himself makes an interesting statement in the interview that's on the DVD. He tells the audience at Eurofest 1994 that the Zombie movie that they're showing later has Italian dialogue since that's the only uncut print they could find. Then he goes on to say that the dialogue doesn't really matter for a movie that's titled (alternate title) Zombie Flesh Eaters. How true that is, and now that I'm beginning to realize that I'm also beginning to realize something else - I'm becoming a big Fulci fan.
Horror fans, especially gore fans, be sure to put this on your "must see" lists. To the large number of people that have written me telling me how much they dislike the Fulci movies they've seen (e.g. The Beyond, Zombie, etc.), be sure to follow my advice in this review. Watch the movie a few times, spread the viewings out over a few months, and pay close attention to the visuals. You may just find yourself becoming the Fulci fan you never thought you'd be...
EC Entertainment presents The House by the Cemetery in an anamorphic widescreen transfer in it's original 2.35:1 aspect ratio. First up let me say that I used to own the EC laserdisc for House by the Cemetery, which is the same transfer as the Region 2 DVD they released. This is definitely an improvement but there's still problems. There's definitely a lot less grain, and the image itself does appear a bit sharper than the laserdisc. However, there are still lots of print blemishes on this most recent DVD - scratches, dirt, white lines fading in and out, and more. Perhaps the biggest problem are some small circular blemishes that appear on the top of the screen throughout the entire movie. Just take a look at this screenshot where you can clearly see the two blemishes I refer to (I've even circled them). I'm fairly certain these weren't in the laserdisc release so I'm a bit surprised to see them here. At times they are masked by darker scenes and bright colors, but they're definitely still there. While they're not usually distracting, it's still a problem.
Colors are a bit faded and flesh tones are actually a bit pinkish in color. Also, on the laserdisc some of the dark scenes - of which there are many - are too bright. That generally isn't the case on the DVD. Most of the dark scenes are perfect with nice solid blacks. Less grain than past releases and a sharper image is a big plus, but I wish they cleaned up the blemishes a bit more. Overall a good transfer, but I have to rate this one at a B- whereas the last release I probably would've rated a C or maybe a C-. If the blemishes weren't there I'd probably be rating this a B+ easily.
House by the Cemetery is presented in mono sound with English dialogue. This section as a big improvement over the laserdisc release, which did has lots of hisses, pops and the dialogue wasn't always clear. This latest releases fixes all of those problems, which is quite impressive. I can't say this is the most impressive Fulci score, but it definitely helps add to the tension and scare level of the movie.
Certainly the highlight of the disc is the interview with Lucio Fulci and David Warbeck at Eurofest 1994. I've never even knew what Fulci looked like before watching this interview. It seemed as if he was a very nice fellow and was certainly honest about everything he discussed. He talks about past projects such as The Beyond, New York Ripper, and many more. He also discussed his current project, which ultimately turned out to be The Wax Mask, though he ultimately ended up not working on it all that much because he passed away. He even said that if his next project (again, that turned out to be Wax Mask, which was his last) was successful he'd love to do The Beyond 2 and even The Beyond 3. Was he joking? Probably not. Warbeck himself didn't do much talking but obviously most fans are going to want to question Fulci. A great interview that will certainly be cherished by many Fulci fans. The only bad part of it was that he tends to ramble on in his answers, plus you have someone translating them to English for the audience, so there's really not all that many questions that are asked. Still, Fulci fans will probably enjoy those long answers...I know I did. With a runtime of 42 minutes it will be a real enjoyment for both new and old Fulci fans. I should also note that the interview has 10 additional minutes that weren't present in the last EC DVD release, plus it has English subtitles this time around since the audio isn't all that great.
Also included are theatrical trailers for A Blade in the Dark and The House by the Cemetery. The last DVD release from EC had those two along with Mountain of the Cannibal God, but Mountain was pulled due to space issues on this new DVD. Also included is a still gallery containing tons of photos and artwork (even more than the last DVD). This was pretty enjoyable as you get to see the various covers to the House by the Cemetery releases around the world for laserdisc, VHS, DVD, CD, etc. Along with that are stills from the movies, most of which are very high in quality.
Certainly not packed with extras but as I said the interview alone is a real treasure. It's unfortunate that we'll never be able to get a Fulci commentary track, but interviews are the next best thing.
A nice, new 16x9 remastered transfer and remastered sound has definitely improved the a/v quality over the last EC DVDs and laserdisc releases for House by the Cemetery. However, there's some annoying print blemishes that still remain. Supplements are lean but the 40 minute Fulci interview that's on this DVD will no doubt be a treasure to all Fulci fans, perhaps enough to by itself justify the cost of ownership. The movie itself is enjoyable overall if you can look past the slow and somewhat pointless story and stick to what matters - gore and scares, of which there are plenty.
The remaining question is whether you can wait for the Anchor Bay release. Will it have this same Fulci interview? Perhaps that and MORE extras? Will it have these annoying print blemishes? I don't know the answers yet, so I leave it up to you to decide on which release to get. I have a feeling many of the die hard Fulci fans are going to end up owning both. This EC DVD, even with the problems mentioned, is a terrific DVD overall that many are going to enjoy.
Movie - B
Image Quality - B-
Sound - A-
Supplements - B
- Running Time - 1 hour 22 minutes
- Not Rated
- 1 Disc
- Chapter stops
- English mono
- English, Dutch Subtitles
[list][*]Lucio Fulci / David Warbeck interview[*]Theatrical trailers[*]Still Gallery[*]Booklet - artwork + Lucio Fulci Fulci filmography