Cemetery Man (1994)
“Zombies, guns, and sex, OH MY!!!”
Director: Michele Soavi
Cast: Rupert Everett, FranÃ§ois Hadji-Lazaro, Anna Falchi
Synopsis: A cemetery man must kill the dead a second time when they become zombies.
In the small town of Buffalora, Francesco Dellamorte (Rupert Everett) manages a cemetery straight out of some DC comics horror mag (or, more accurately, the Dylan Dog comics from Italy). Filled with tilting gravestones arranged in a haphazard fashion on uneven land, the cemetery’s residents have a habit of reawakening seven days after their burial and trying to chow down on Francesco and his near-mute assistant, Gnaghi (Francois Hadji-Lazaro), who both live in a ramshackle building on the grounds.
The only way to kill these zombies is by delivering a fatal blow to their head, but this is about the only thing Cemetery Man has in common with other zombie flicks. In fact, the film isn’t a zombie movie so much as a stylish and surreal puzzle in which the living are as likely to make love to the dead as to fear them. Dellamorte spots the gorgeous grieving widow She (Anna Falchi) at the funeral of her aged husband, and instantly falls in love with her. Initially resistant to his advances, She eventually succumbs, but insists that they must make love on the grave of her recently departed husband. Unfortunately, this tryst obviously takes place exactly a week after his demise, because he rises from his grave and takes a bite out of his widow that appears to be fatal.
Later, the mayor’s daughter meets her premature death when the motorbike on which she’s a passenger collides with a coach carrying a scout troop. While she and her partner are minced beneath the wheels of the bus, the vehicle careers over the edge of a cliff, killing all those on board. Gnaghi is distraught, as he was in love with the girl, but following her burial, he digs her up again and is delighted to discover that her animated severed head is agreeable to a romance with him. She’s even willing to marry the assistant grave digger, but when her father disapproves, she kills him with a bite to his neck before being eliminated by Dellamorte.
Cemetery Man continues in this vein for its entire running time. Initially, the movie appears to have the threads of a conventional narrative, but as time goes on it becomes apparent that this world created by cult director Michele Soave is some kind of alternative reality that bears a close resemblance to our own world. Death becomes a character, both literally and figuratively, that is embraced by some and feared by others, and this relationship with death seems to be the factor which decides each character’s fate. Some have argued that the entire movie is the comatose dream of one of Cemetery Man’s peripheral characters, someone who must successfully fight his own battle with his fear of death — and love — before he can finally die. They may be right, but the fact is that the secrets within Cemetery Man become increasingly impenetrable as the film progresses, so that interpretation becomes a matter of one’s own set of beliefs and attitude towards death.
Cemetery Man’s horror aspects are as gory as you’d expect from an Italian horror movie, and are likely to revolt those not used to extreme horror — although there are plenty of films out there that show a lot worse. But it’s all packaged in such a stylish presentation that you can’t help but admire the look of the movie, even when it’s showing you a zombie nun’s face being smashed to a pulp. The usually louche Rupert Everett makes a surprisingly convincing leading man when called upon to express the laconic cynicism of a man who has spent too many evenings blasting away at the undead, but loses his way a little when Dellamorte’s sanity begins to unravel. While not the greatest horror movie out there, Cemetery Man is certainly one of the most original and unique of its time, and is therefore required viewing for anyone with an interest in the genre.
(Reviewed 4th May 2014)