One of the many low-to-no-budget, regionally-shot Troma pickups from the late-’80s, James Riffel’s THE HOUSE ON TOMBSTONE HILL (1988) – or DEAD DUDES IN THE HOUSE, as it’s more commonly and funkily referred to – was released straight-to-video under that completely misleading latter title coupled with an even more blatantly misleading ad-campaign. Thanks to the efforts of Vinegar Syndrome and their on-going attempt to release a good deal of mostly forgotten Troma-related titles, THE HOUSE ON TOMBSTONE HILL has never looked better in this slick-looking new Blu-ray / DVD combo package.
A group of friends arrive at a dilapidated old house in hopes of renovating it. However, Mark (Douglas Gibson), who has purchased the property for next-to-nothing, is completely unaware of its horrific past. Before they know it, they all become trapped inside the place as its previous owner, a craggy ol’ hag (Gibson again, under heavy makeup) with a penchant for murder, kills them off one-by-one. But, in an unexplained plot twist, the victims proceed to come back from the grave, not to party but to help her finish the job…
Originally released as THE DEAD COME HOME (the current title on VS’ print) before Troma gave the film its belated home video release on VHS tape back in 1999 (early into the ‘DVD era’), the film – had it been released a decade-or-more earlier, during that format’s heyday – might have garnered a much more appreciative and affectionate audience; something which VS’ new disc release will undoubtedly do now (better late than never, as they say!). In spite of the film’s highly – if unsurprisingly – deceptive ad campaign, which makes it look like some early-’90s hip-hop teencom (?!?!), the film’s one-note structure (without doubt inspired by Sam Raimi’s still-influential THE EVIL DEAD ) works surprisingly well, and although its supernatural elements are only flimsy at best, this fact doesn’t hinder its basic entertainment value any. The numerous gory set-pieces provided by New York-based makeup F/X guys Ed French and Bruce Spaulding Fuller are certainly technically competent and compelling enough, with most of the, uh, ‘disposable’ cast members meeting some sort of horribly grisly demise every few minutes; which also includes an exceedingly gory bodily bisection care of a supernaturally-propelled windowpane.
As with their other Troma acquisitions, VS have once again given this little-seen film a complete – and very welcome – overhaul, from top to bottom. THOTH has been (quote) “scanned and restored in 2K from its 16mm original camera negative”, and the results are most impressive, to say the least. Of course, there is simply no comparing it to any of the previously-released – and awfully drab – VHS and DVD releases. Visual details are far more defined, naturalistic and colourful (e.g., with nice bright, deep reds!), and this is especially pertinent to the movie’s many over-the-top gore scenes, for obvious reasons. The DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 is also clear and robust and, although it falls somewhat short of being demo-quality material, it nonetheless sounds terrific given the film’s poverty row pedigree. English subtitles for the hearing impaired are also included.
Extras begin with Three Dead Dudes (29m14s), which features on-camera interviews with three of the film’s stars: Mark Zobian, Victor Verhaeghe and Douglas Gibson. All three of them have plenty to say about their experiences including how they landed their roles; the Cherry Valley, New York locations, including the film’s titular house; the laidback shoot; and also the numerous Ed French makeup F/X. In the next extra, Temple of Schlock’s ever-knowledgeable Chris Poggiali conducts an audio interview (which plays over assorted still shots from the film) with the film’s director, who discusses much of the film’s pre-production phase; the cast and crew; Troma’s ad campaign, which was initially modeled after The New Kids On The Block; the changing industry; as well as how he at one point confronted some bootleggers who were selling his film on eBay. In addition, a generous – and supercool! – behind-the-scenes still gallery (4m33s) is also provided, but it’s too bad VS couldn’t locate Troma’s original trailer for the film, which would have been interesting to see, just for an added bonus. And speaking of bonuses, VS have, as per usual, also provided the package with reversible cover art, which includes both Troma’s misleading DEAD DUDES poster art and a 1,500-unit Limited Edition slipcover designed by Earl Kessler, Jr., and this edition is still available from Vinegar Syndrome.