Review Date: December 8, 2000
Released by: Anchor Bay Entertainment
Release date: 6/20/2001
Region 0, NTSC
Widescreen 2.35:1 | 16x9: Yes
Anchor Bay's long awaited The House by the Cemetery DVD has finally hit DVD. With two versions already released onto DVD through EC Entertainment, many fans may have opted to not wait for this Anchor Bay DVD and get one of those EC discs instead. Certainly there's no doubt many fans waited for this Anchor Bay DVD, hoping for a superior transfer with nice supplements. So, now that it's out, how does the Anchor Bay DVD hold up to the EC DVD? Lets take a closer look and find out.
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...
Anchor Bay Entertainment presents The House by the Cemetery in an anamorphic widescreen transfer in its original 2.35:1 aspect ratio. Nice transfer overall, with just a few small problems I observed. Several scenes contain light to heavy grain, and small blemishes appear in several spots during the presentation. Image is consistently sharp overall, and boasts strong, solid colors.
In comparison to the transfer on the recent EC Entertainment DVD, I'd have to say that this Anchor Bay DVD easily takes the cake. It has less blemishes, brighter, more solid colors, and is a bit sharper as well. Some people complain I'm too easy on Anchor Bay DVDs, but the fact is, they create some wonderful transfers. When their transfers have problems, I'll be the first to point them on, but that is certainly becoming a rarity.
House by the Cemetery is presented in English Dolby Digital Surround 2.0. There's moderate use of surrounds during various scenes that can take advantage of it. The result in a pleasing impressive 2.0 mix. Dialogue is clear and no sound distortion was found.
If there's one area that the EC DVD blows away the AB DVD, it's the supplements. The highlight on the EC DVD, which is actually the same supplement found on many EC Fulci DVD releases, is a 42 minute interview with Lucio Fulci and David Warbeck at Eurofest 1994. Sadly, the best supplement the AB DVD has to offer is a small still gallery. The remaining supplements on the AB DVD are theatrical trailers, a TV spot, talent bios, and liner notes by Anchor Bay's Michael Felsher. These are all nice standard type supplements, but that 42 minute interview is a real gem. The only AB DVD to have any sort of footage from that interview, at least to my knowledge, is their Beyond DVD, which has only a few minutes of the interview.
Anchor Bay wins on transfer and sound, EC wins on supplements. If you want the best a/v quality, go with the Anchor Bay DVD. Or, if you can afford to, buy them both. That Fulci interview is great, and it was one of his last. FYI, if you own one of the other EC DVDs that has that Fulci interview, then don't bother getting the EC House by the Cemetery at all. I highly recommend the Anchor Bay DVD, but I'm a bit disappointed at the lack of extras on it.
Movie - B
Image Quality - B+
Sound - A-
Supplements - C
- Running Time - 1 hour 27 minutes
- Not Rated
- 1 Disc
- Chapter stops
- English Dolby Surround 2.0
[list][*]Theatrical trailer[*]TV Spot[*]Still Gallery[*]Talent Bios