Let’s face it…unless your last name is Bava or Argento, as an Italian horror director, you suck.
Yeah, I know a lot of people throw Lucio Fulci’s name in there with the greats. But really, aside from some classic gore scenes in his best-known films (probably “Zombie” and “The Beyond”) can anyone really argue with a straight face that he possessed any distinctive talent as a director? No, Fulci is a cult-legend because of his audacity, not his ability. He simply had the balls not to turn the camera away during scenes of eyeball-puncturing, organ vomiting or skull drilling.
As a storyteller, he sucked. His only true gift was creating unusual and grisly ways for people to die. That’s not always a bad thing, but once you run out of those ideas, you still have to tell a story. Which is why “The House by the Cemetery” is a depressing and colossal bore. Coherent narrative was never Fulci’s strong point (what he has, in the past, euphemistically described as surrealism), and despite some savage scenes of carnage in this film, not only are they nothing the seasoned horror fan hasn’t seen before, they are few and far between. Fulci inserts a few half-assed gore set-pieces into a flimsy ghost story with irritating characters we don’t give a damn about (the most obnoxious being a child character whose voice is laughably dubbed by an obviously-adult voice actor).
Still, a lot of horror fans love the guy (though they should probably direct that love more towards Fulci’s special effects teams). This disc is probably one completists will want in their collection, since it includes a lot of extras the original Anchor Bay DVD did not). But even fans are likely to admit “The House by the Cemetery” does not rank among Fulci’s most audacious efforts. If you really want the definitive Fulci film, pick up “Zombie” or try to find the Grindhouse release of “The Beyond.”
“Zombie” is Lucio Fulci’s best film. That doesn’t necessarily mean it’s a great one, or even a good one. But it is his most polished and coherent horror effort, and the one most beloved by hard-core horror fans (and there’s a lot them).
I may be crucified for saying this, but it really is a crappy film. The acting is terrible, the dialogue is laughable, the dubbing is atrocious and the music score sounds like it was composed on a cheap Casio keyboard (and don’t get me started on the piss-poor editing job). Go ahead, you zombie cultists…tell me in all honesty that I’m wrong about any of those points I just made.
Arguably the main reason “Zombie” continues to enjoy its status as a cult classic lies in its gore effects, which, while not always convincing (sorry, the classic eyeball-skewering scene really does look pretty phony, especially since the victim never blinks), are still pretty fun to watch.
More importantly, despite its numerous flaws, at least “Zombie” never commits the sin of being boring. As bad as it is, it still manages to entertain (sometimes by virtue of its awfulness).
Since anyone reading this is likely already a fan, and who probably already owns the 25th Anniversary Edition released in 2004, is there a real reason to fork-out for a second 2-disc “ultimate edition”? I guess it depends on your level of zombie geekness. Shriek Show’s 2004 release sported a pretty damned good transfer, and to be honest, I didn’t notice the overall image quality of this one being so much better that it’d be worth buying again.
That leaves the extras, most of which are all new, and are the best part of this set, especially the featurettes on the second disc. I especially enjoyed the cast interviews, since some of them, like Ian McCullough, were quite candid when discussing their experiences and opinions of Lulci himself (not everybody had a lot of love for the man). The interviews with producers, writers and the composer tended to be a bit self-congratulatory, but the segment featuring the make-up artists were admittedly fascinating. Also of interest is a short feature in which filmmaker Guillermo del Toro talks about why he loves the film so much. Rounding out the extras are the usual trailers, stills and radio spots. If acquiring every little tidbit of trivia about “Zombie” is your thing, then you’ll be in hog heaven.
For the casual fan, however, “Zombie” ranks far down the list of truly great films about the undead, and can be credited (or blamed) for the surge of depressing and god-awful gore flicks which oozed out of Italy in its wake (many of which were made by Lulci as well), and make “Zombie” look like “The Exorcist” in comparison.
“City Of The Living Dead” is visually interesting, but the lack of plot and developed characters hurts the film. Continue reading