Cemetery Man (1996)
Release Date: April 26th, 1996 MPAA Rating: R
Director: Michele Soavi Actors: Rupert Everett, Francois Hadji-Lazaro, Anna Falchi, Fabiana Formica, Katja Anton, Barbara Cupisti
rancesco Dellamorte (Rupert Everett) is the watchman at the cemetery in the small town of Buffalora. He’s faithfully accompanied by his very own hunchbacked, imbecilic, assistant gravedigger: a silent hunk named Gnaghi (François Hadji-Lazaro), who harbors a passion for collecting brittle leaves. On occasion, a body will creepily rise from the dead on its seventh day of burial and knock on his door, requiring a casual bullet to the head or a spade to the skull. This ensures they’ll remain lifeless once more. Dellamorte dubs them “returners.”
At a funeral, Francesco spies the most beautiful woman he’s ever seen (Anna Falchi), mourning the death of her much older husband, Augusto Martin, a scowling man who she claims was an excellent, tireless lover. Francesco attempts to woo her, but she ignores him – until he shows her the shabby ossuary, filled with grisly skulls, cobwebs, and pooling water. Here, she embraces him, but only after she covers his face with a red scarf. That evening, they make love in the cemetery, under the moonlight and adjacent to Martin’s tombstone. Sure enough, the widow’s former husband bursts from his coffin and attacks the couple; she’s bitten and dies from a heart attack, while he resorts to skewering Martin’s face with a sizable crucifix. As more and more bodies keep resurfacing, Francesco is visited by Death himself, who suggests that the wayward youth start slaying the living to prevent them from reappearing as chomping zombies.
Nearly all of the happenings are stylized, weird, and overly dramatic, making the peculiar characters and their idiosyncrasies just that much more hilarious. Blending horror and comedy, an insincere approach is taken toward zombie attacks, combat, and calamitous accidents. A gang of motorcyclists led by Claudio (Alessandro Zamattio) is run down by a bus (splattering skulls like balloons) full of boy scouts, which in turn plummets down a steep hill. One of the victims is Valentina Scanarotti (Fabiana Formica), the daughter of the mayor, who Gnaghi is sweet on and now only has to wait a few days before continuing his romancing.
While several moments are moderately scary simply because of shadows, eerie sounds, and building anticipation, humor is never too far away. The role of Gnaghi is almost entirely comic relief. The gore and makeup effects are perfectly horrendous, going overboard with blood and fleshly devastation in the vein of “Dead Alive” and “Evil Dead II” to contrast the hokiness of undead onslaughts, slow-motion, gratuitous nudity, necrophilia, decapitations, ample bloodshed, odd camera cuts, and somberly poetic narration. A towering grim reaper is particularly enjoyable, along with a homicidal spree that is coupled with light-hearted music, like something out of “A Clockwork Orange.” But the plot doesn’t know where it’s going, frequently spiraling off in random directions as if to simply pad the running time. And much of it is hallucinatory, alluding to the unreality of Francesco’s actions. A subplot concerning impotency, betrayal by numerous women to put Francesco off of love, the repeated confrontations with girls that resemble Mrs. Martin, a copycat killer, and finally a police investigation that can’t resolve anything, leads to a conclusion that also fails to be resolute. In its attempt to be artsy, “Cemetery Man” (originally titled “Dellamorte Dellamorte” in Italy) loses its grip on entertainment value.
– Mike Massie