Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Cemetery Man

Francesco Dellamorte (Rupert Everett) has an interesting job. The watchman for the cemetery in the town of Buffalora, Dellamorte and his mute assistant Gnaghi (Francois Hadji-Lazaro) dispose of the dead when they come back to life with a hunger for flesh, shooting them in the head or splitting their skull with a shovel. He would report the phenomenon, but then the cemetery would be shut down, and Dellamorte would be out of a job. It's cheaper to buy more bullets. Dellamorte keeps himself isolated from the world around, even spreading a false rumor of impotence. Everything is in routine until She (Anna Falchi) arrives. A widow who visiting her husband's grave, she draws Dellamorte's attention, and soon, he's in love.

To say more would spoil some of the best jokes. Many of them come out of left field, and director Michele Soavi films the the violent and outrageous material in such a droll manner, it becomes hysterical. The best way to summarize Cemetery Man (1994) is to call it the existential zombie movie. We get meditations on life, love, death, sex, indifference, madness, violence, obsession, and necrophilia. It certainly isn't conventional or forgettable.

The structure is more or less episodic. The only connection from one series of events to another is Dellamorte's increasing despondence and derangement. Everett is very good as the weary, cynical, philosophizing, charming loner, and his narration adds layers to his character and provides some good laughs. My favorite has to be explaining how killing the living dead is a public service but shooting someone while they're still alive gets you into all sorts of trouble.

The zombies, while threatening, are mostly a comical afterthought to Dellamorte. He's more bored by them than anything, resuming a telephone conversation after stopping to shoot one at the door. They have good designs, with roots protruding through heads and scrapped fingernails. Even Death himself, the Grim Reaper, pops in for an appearance in what has to be one of his coolest cinematic versions.

So what we have here is a zombie art house movie. Gory violence, gratuitous nudity, bizarre scenarios (I'll just say Gnaghi has one love interest), stylish filmmaking, and grand statements about love and death. It's certainly not for everyone, but those who would love know who they are.


  1. I got my copy from Circuit City a few years back when it was re-released on DVD (probably 2007). It is available on Netflix and Amazon, and you can probably find it at a good secondhand video store like the Exchange. Of course with Halloween coming up, it might be available at Barnes and Noble or Borders.