The House by the Cemetery (Uncut, 1981) Movie Review

UK gore and horror fans have real reason to rejoice as Lucio Fulci’s 1981 gut muncher “The House by the Cemetery” has at last been passed uncut by the dreaded BBFC. The film now returns to DVD in all its gruesome glory via Arrow Video as part of their Masters of Giallo series, and comes complete with trailers, a deleted scene and a pleasant, if not exactly earth shattering short feature on the legendary Italian director’s career. A fair amount of work has also gone into the packaging, with the original artwork being accompanied by some specially commissioned lurid art that nicely capture the spirit of the film.

The film is set in New England, as the unfortunate Dr Boyle (Paolo Malco, also in Fulci’s notorious “New York Ripper”), his wife Lucy (Catriona MacColl, another Fulci and Italian horror veteran, also in “The Beyond” and “City of the Living Dead”) and their odd looking son Bob (Giovanni Frezza, “Manhattan Baby”) move into a crumbling mansion where he plans to carry on the research of his suicidal former colleague. Soon enough, strange things are happening, and the body count starts to rise as the house’s former owner Dr Freudstein emerges periodically from his basement lair to claim victims.

There are so many reasons why “The House by the Cemetery” is a classic of its kind and an absolute must-see for any self-respecting horror fan. Somewhat more focused and less surreal than the other films in Fulci’s gothic trilogy which preceded it, namely “The Beyond” and “City of the Living Dead”, it sees the director on fine atmospheric form and actually attempting to pull together a plot of sorts around the graphic mayhem. Whilst not much makes sense, thanks mainly to the bizarrely ambiguous ending, he manages to attain a certain dream-like suspension of reality, filled with ominous omens of death and where evil can strike at any time. As such, although not particularly frightening and not featuring much in the way of scares, the film is genuinely creepy throughout, and has an almost tangible sense of threat, which not even a hilariously fake looking bat attack can undermine.

This evil ambience goes some way to making the incredible gore scenes even more effective and brutal, and Fulci really lets the viscera and maggots fly. The film is quite obviously organised around its shock scenes rather than any narrative developments, though when the kills are as impressive as they are here, this approach works well. There are a good number of truly memorable gruesome gags interspersed throughout, from throat-slashings and decapitations to unravelling intestines, with the special effects by regular collaborator Giannetto De Rossi being up to his usual excellent standards. It’s great to see these scenes restored, with previous trimmed releases of the film being rather pointless affairs – though why they were cut in the first place is somewhat of a mystery given that far worse and more sadistic imagery has appeared on screen in the years since it was labelled a ‘video nasty’ by the morally confused powers that be.

Whatever the case, full marks to Arrow Video for presenting “The House by the Cemetery” in its uncut form and with a solid DVD transfer (which seems to be the same version used for the previous US Anchor Bay release), giving collectors the chance to own a comprehensive edition of an immortal genre classic and hopefully introducing young impressionable gorehounds to the delights of Lucio Fulci and 80s Italian gore cinema.

Lucio Fulci (director) / Elisa Briganti, Lucio Fulci, Giorgio Mariuzzo, Dardano Sacchetti (screenplay)
CAST: Catriona MacColl … Lucy Boyle (as Katherine MacColl)
Paolo Malco … Dr. Norman Boyle
Ania Pieroni … Ann, the babysitter
Giovanni Frezza … Bob Boyle
Silvia Collatina … Mae Freudstein
Dagmar Lassander … Laura Gittleson
Giovanni De Nava … Dr. Jacob A. Freudstein

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