The House on Tombstone Hill Blu-ray Review
Written by Robert Gold
Blu-ray released by Vinegar Syndrome
Written and directed by J. Riffel
1989, 95 minutes, Not Rated
Blu-ray released on September 25th, 2018
Mark Zobian as Ron
Victor Verhaeghe as Bob
Sarah Newhouse as Jamie
Douglas F. Gibson as Mark
John Dayton Cerna as Steve
Naomi Kooker as Linda
Eugene Sautner as Joey
Rob Moretti as S
James Griffith as Ricky
Mark has recently purchased the old Leatherby house, a rustic mansion in the middle of nowhere. He got a great price, but the place needs a lot of attention. Mark enlists the help of seven friends to renovate the building and the group arrives on a quiet summer evening eager to get to work. One of his friends destroys an old tombstone while they are inspecting the grounds for a potential garden, waking an evil spirit. Upon entering the house, they come across a former resident who has chosen not to leave. Before this issue can be resolved it is discovered that the doors and windows are stuck shut and the group is trapped inside. After losing sight of the resident, they search the house and this is where the trouble begins. Someone starts murdering people one by one, but in an odd twist, the dead don’t stay down. They re-animate and join into a supernatural wave of killing that threatens the other members of the group. Who will survive and what will be left of them?
The House on Tombstone Hill (aka The Dead Come Home, as the print is titled here) is a mix of a classic haunted house picture and a standard slasher film. Keeping the action in one central location gives the story a claustrophobic feeling that pairs nicely with the suspense being built by the stalking killer. Our heroes are killed off in creatively disgusting ways leaving audiences guessing which will be the last one standing. Written and directed by James Riffel (Night of the Day of the Dawn of the Son of the Bride of the Return of the Terror), the classic “Old Dark House” premise is put through its paces as the kids try to survive the night in the creepy mansion. Riffel offers a unique spin on the villain of the film, one that is both surprising and engaging, although not entirely scary. Allowing the house and previous victims to participate in the murders is also a fresh approach to the classic story structure.
The acting is serviceable across the board without any real standouts to speak of. Nobody stinks up the joint, but they are forced by the script to bicker a lot. An odd choice comes in the third act when two new characters are randomly introduced into the house without readily identifying either. It feels a bit late in the picture to start bringing in new blood. There is also a lot of repetition of people trying to open doors and windows, which while practical and realistic, is not very cinematic or engaging. The real star of the show is special make-up effects artist Ed French (Blood Rage) and his crew, whose gory murder-set-pieces shine in their execution. He keeps the blood flowing as people are impaled, chopped, decapitated and cut in half. Riffel lingers a bit too long at times, but the work looks good more often than not.
This is a slow-moving film that disguises padding as stalking, but features enough payoffs to merit a screening. The movie was released as a pickup from Troma Entertainment and given the new title Dead Dudes in the House, which is how I first discovered it. Their colorful marketing campaign featured a group of fresh new faces that do not appear in the movie and a hip-hop vibe to the whole image and font. Granted, the movie you get is better than the one advertised, but seriously a classic bait-and-switch destined to disappoint viewers everywhere. Pacing and marketing issues aside, The House on Tombstone Hill is definitely worth a look for fans of both slashers and haunted houses.
Video and Audio:
An all-new 2K scan of the original film elements presented in the 1.78:1 aspect ratio looks like a totally different movie from the earlier Troma releases. Colors are strong and black levels are bottomless, as a lot of this film takes place at night. There’s plenty of small-object detail in hair and fabrics too.
A DTS-HD MA 2.0 audio track preserves the original sound recording and is faithfully presented here. Dialogue remains clear and free from distortion and is well-balanced with music and effects cues.
Optional English subtitles are included for anyone in need.
In the new featurette Three Dead Dudes (29 minutes), actors Mark Zobian, Victor Verhaeghe and Douglas Gibson are interviewed separately and discuss their early days chasing auditions. They share production stories from the making of this film and their thoughts on the direction and make-up effects. Each shares confusion over the multiple titles and Troma’s questionable marketing campaign.
Director James Riffel sits down for a lengthy audio interview (42 minutes) moderated by video producer Chris Poggiali. This is a wide ranging discussion that covers a lot of ground and makes for some interesting listening. Riffel has a lot to say and takes his time telling production tales. Unfortunately, he is on a phone line and sounds really tinny. The interview plays over a series of promotional stills from the feature.
A behind-the-scenes photo gallery reveals some of the work that went into making the picture as well as a look at the cast and crew between shots. The gallery plays as a slideshow over quiet music.
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