Sunday, October 28, 2012

Cemetery Man (Michele Soavi, 1994)

When I think of the 1990s, the last thing that comes to mind is great horror. In fact, I can't think of any horror movies from that particular ten year period that are worthy of the unique brand of praise I like to dole out on a regular basis. Sure, there are lots of cool horror flicks from 1990, 1991, 1992, and 1993. But those years are basically the late '80s (the last gasp of a dead decade, if you will). Try finding anything of note that was made beyond early '90s, and you will find yourself watching I Still Know What You Did Last Summer on a loop (my God, how did I get here?). Which is why I was somewhat taken aback by the undiluted awesomeness that Cemetery Man (a.k.a. DellaMorte DellaMore) was putting out there. I know, I shouldn't be surprised–after all, it was directed by Michele Soavi (pronounced: me-káy-lay so-áh-vee), the genius behind such films as Stage Fright and The Sect, and the story is based on the Tiziano Sclavi novel of the same name (his comic book "Dylan Dog" was apparently an influence as well)–but the last thing I expected to find was a darkly funny tale about an impotent "engineer" who enjoys reading the phone book and shoots zombie boy scouts in the head for a living. Hell, even the film's mentally challenged, comically rotund sidekick has a romantic subplot, and he barely grunts more than two words. You can't see it right away, but this film is special. Call me a sick twist dangling in a perverted wind, but the moment our "hero" shoots a bespectacled nun in the eye (just because she told him he couldn't smoke in the hospital's intensive care unit) was when I first realized that this film is not your typical zombie flick. And, by the way, I'm a little uncomfortable calling this film a "zombie flick," as it's not really about them. You could tell that the film wasn't just by observing the devil-may-care attitude Rupert Everett exudes while dispatching the so-called "returners."
They [the zombies] are more of a nuisance than an actual threat. The frailties of a human heart, on the other hand, play a bigger part in the world of Cemetery Man, as the love Francesco Dellamorte (Rupert Everett) feels for a mysterious widow (Anna Flachi), the new mayor's girlfriend (Anna Falchi), and a local prostitute (Anna Falchi) are what dominate the proceedings. Wow, that's a lot of acting heavy lifting for a someone so top heavy. What I mean is, Anna Falchi doesn't look like the kind of actress who's equipped to take on one role, let alone three. Of course, I was completely off base in my assumption, as Anna Falchi manages to give each incarnation of the woman who vexes the film's morbid protagonist a distinct personality. You think I'm kidding about him being vexed? Check this out, he forces a doctor to castrate him when he learns that one of Anna Falchi's alter egos has an erection phobia. Don't worry, though, the doctor opts for chemical castration instead of the old snip-a-roo.
Shooting returners in the head with his trusty six shooter seven days after being laid to rest has so commonplace at the Buffalora Cemetery, that he can't even seem to muster a sly smile while he casually ventilates their rotting skulls. It's true, every once and a while he gets to crush their heads with a shovel. But it's safe to say that Francesco Dellamorte is in a bit of a rut.
This changes, however, when Dellamorte spots "the most beautiful living woman I have ever seen" walking with a funeral procession. There to bury her dead husband, the widow (Anna Falchi) is obviously sad. But Francesco doesn't care, he must talk to her. However, shooting the dead with a brain-destroying accuracy and chatting up shapely Italian women are two totally different things. In other words, he blows it. Wondering if he'll ever get another chance to talk her, Francesco mulls over his options. Luckily, the widow is quite punctual when it comes to putting flowers on his dead husband's grave.
Ossuary: A container or receptacle, such as an urn or a vault, for holding the bones of the dead.
Who would have thought the cemetery's ossuary would turn out to be the reason the widow takes a liking to Francesco. Personally, I thought Rupert Everett's handsomeness was going to be the deciding factor. But, no, it was the cemetery's fully-stacked ossuary that made the widow's Italian pussy ache with desire.
Even though she's wearing a black veil over her face, you could easily tell that the widow was turned on by the ragged clothing, the bones, the tree roots, the wetness, and the general creepiness of the ossuary. Hey, whatever floats your boat, honey.
Running off in a huff after they started to make out (she doesn't want to dishonour he husband's memory), Francesco finds the widow standing in the moonlight (just one of the films many stunning images). Well, since she ran off, it's obvious that the widow has done some impromptu soul searching, and eventually decides that having sexual intercourse on her husband's grave with Rupert Everett is not only the correct course of action, it's the only sane one.
Was it, though? Whatever do you mean? It's Rupert Everett. So, yeah. Of course it was the "correct" thing to do. But her husband "returns" during a post-coital lull and bites her. I guess that's one of the negatives about having sex on the graves of loved ones in cemeteries known for having somewhat of a zombie problem.
Looking at him, you wouldn't think that Gnaghi (François Hadji-Lazaro), Francesco's developmentally challenged assistant, would turn out to be such a compelling character. After all, he's sharing the screen with Rupert Everette and Anna Falchi. But, to put it bluntly, Gnaghi rules! In town to meet with the mayor, Francesco, who has brought along Gnaghi, is there to talk business. When all of a sudden, Gnaghi spots Valentina Scanarotti (Fabiana Formica) sitting across the table from him. Who is she, you ask? Why she's the mayor's adorable teenage daughter. And judging by the amount of vomit that spews from his mouth (most of it landing on Valentina, causing her fly backwards in her chair), it's clear that Gnaghi is in love.
As expected, the puke approach wasn't a very effective method when it came to picking up the mayor's daughter. Distraught, Gnaghi runs home crying. Oh, poor Gnaghi. Why can't you catch a break? Wait a minute. What's this? Word on the street is that Valentina was just decapitated in a terrible motorcycle accident, one that also killed her biker boyfriend Claudio and a bus filled with boy scouts. Yay! Gnaghi is going to so pleased. What the hell? Don't you see? In roughly seven days, Gnaghi can begin wooing Valentina's severed head.
Of course, before the courtship of Valentina's severed head can begin, Francesco and Gnaghi must to fend off the hordes of zombie boy scouts that are about to come their way.
Speaking of cemeteries, did you know I used to cut through a cemetery when I walked to school? And get this, I didn't really have to. You see, there were two options when it came to walking to school. The first involved traversing the grounds of a Catholic school and the other was the cemetery option. And even though the former was somewhat quicker, I usually went with the latter. Unfortunately, the crowd/unruly mob I rolled with eventually shunned the cemetery root. Leaving me with a difficult decision. And that being, to quote "Subdivisions" by Rush, "conform or be cast out." 
That's fascinating and all, but would you walk through the cemetery featured in Cemetery Man? Well, let's take a look at the pluses and minuses, shall we? On the plus side: You might spot the hunky watchman and his shapely Italian girlfriend having sex on a tombstone. As for the minuses? Duh, flesh-eating zombies. Actually, the fact that it's so damn hilly was the cemetery's biggest minus. And I ain't walking up no fucking hill to get to school. Someone get my ass a bus pass, stat!  
The film gets increasingly dark and twisted when Death (who manifests himself by using the charred pages of a burnt phone book) tells Francesco Dellamorte to just kill the living. The logic being that it will save him the trouble of having to shoot them when they inevitably emerge from their coffins. He also starts to wonder what the rest of the world looks like (he has spent most of his life in the cemetery). Complicating matters even more is when different versions of Anna Falchi start to show up. My favourite, of course, being Zombie Falchi.
At the end of the day, I was most enamoured with the relationship between Gnaghi and Valentina's severed head (which he keeps in his broken television). We only get a brief glimpses of its majesty, but from what I saw, it was downright squee-worthy. In fact, I would have liked to have seen a spin-off that featured these two; a sitcom or maybe even a mini-series. The obvious title being, "Head Over Heels," the less obvious one being, "Undiagnosed Schizophrenic Loves Teenage Head." Oh, and fans of unorthodox camera angles will love the scene where Valentina's head lunges at her father's neck. Anyway, Cemetery Man is easily one of the best horror films of the 1990s. Oh, and keep an eye out for Michele Soavi regular Barbara Cupisti as a college student (her presence was sorely missed in The Sect).

video uploaded by TheIluvdvds


  1. I saw this one! After I saw Another Country, I was on a Rupert Everett kick. (This was before he was in that Julia Roberts movie.)

    It was weird.

    So, the movie with a shirtless Jemaine, was it Dinner with Schmucks?

    We just saw Argo. Canadians are awesome.

  2. @DrunkethWizerd: Word.

    @Karim Amir: I can totally picture you on a Rupert Everett kick. :D

    Weird? The Rupert Everett kick or Cemetery Man? ;)

    Gentlemen Broncos. Technically, he's wearing a shirt. But it ain't buttoned.

    Martin Short played Ken Taylor in an SCTV sketch...'s a Canadian fact.

  3. One of the best zombie flicks ever!

    But those fake tits on the "love interest" BLECH

  4. Weird? Well, both, I guess? But I meant Cemetery Man. :D

    Yummers, thank you SO much for reminding me of that SCTV skit. I saw it years ago and laughed myself silly at the Magnum PEI bit.

    Victor Garber played Ken Taylor in Argo. I guess Gordon Pinsent played him in an earlier film.

  5. Great cast, great story, directed beautifully and with a hot girl to boot. The 90s did one thing right...

  6. Did you know that the Rupester played a new romantic pop star in Hearts of Fire with Bob Dylan? I have the soundtrack, and he does a cover of Tainted Love, and it is fucking horrible. It's not on Youtube though, but it's probably for the best.

  7. @phairhead: Fake?!? Say it ain't so.

    @Karim Amir: The Rowdyman bit looks like it was filmed at the Scarborough Bluffs.

    "Miami Connection" was featured in EW this week. Talk about WTF.

    @Kev D.: I'm always discovering cool horror flicks made between 1990-1993. But as for the rest of the decade...not so much.

    @Thomas Duke: I did not know that. Horrible cover of "Tainted Love" notwithstanding, I'm adding "Hearts of Fire" to my list. :)

  8. What does it say about a movie when the healthy romance is the one between the animated severed head and the developmentally challanged man-child? Someday, I so want to have a relationship like Gnagi and Valentina's. Unfortunately, up to this point it seems like all mine turn out like Delemorte's with his stream of "dream girls."

  9. You know what is best about this film? Not for the morbid sex/death fetish film it starts out as, but for the mediation on reality it turns into.

    Its too bad Soavi never followed up on this excellent work with more films that pushed the barriers.

  10. @Nine-Fingered Menace: Maybe that's why Dellamorte was so quick to put the kibosh on their love; he was jealous of its relative normalcy.

    @ido: Yeah, the film goes to unexpected places during its final third. Culminating with a hauntingly surreal ending.

  11. @Yum-yum: I don't like sitcoms, but now I really want to see "Head Over Heels."

    This is also another English retitling that I'll never understand. They fuck-up Hong Kong and Japanese film titles horribly all the time. But isn't the original Italian title something like "Of Love, Of Death"? How the hell do you get "Cemetery Man" from THAT?! Maybe the director picked that title because it was the goddamn theme of the film. Don't go trying to see it like an exploitation film when it isn't.

    Sorry. Stuff like that makes my brain hurt.

  12. I'm not a fan of the title [Cemetery Man] either. Nor do I like the DVD art for the North American release.

  13. One of my favorite zombie films, it's equal times artsy, surreal and symbolic and equal times gory and nasty. Love it to death.

  14. Just to let you know, 2019: After the Fall of New York review coming soon.

  15. Cool, I bet you dug it! It's totally nutzoid, looking forward to reading your thougths on it.