Starring Rupert Everett, Fancois Hadji-Lazard, Anna Falchi
Directed by Michele Soavi
Released by Anchor Bay Entertainment
I’ve been running a horror site for so long, it seems strange when I sit down to review a film that I realize I’ve never offered up any criticism on in the past. Granted, I’ve said many times how much Cemetery Man rocks; anytime the film is brought up, I will re-assert that fact, but I’ve never actually sat down and written a review of it until now. Strange.
That’s all right, though, cause I have plenty to say, both about the movie and Anchor Bay’s treatment of it on DVD.
Our story is of Francesco Dellamorte (Everett), a name that roughly translates to Francis of Death, who is the caretaker of the Buffalora Cemetery. It is a cemetery where, for reasons never explained, some of the dead come back to life 7 days after they are buried. Along with digging the graves and maintaining the ground, Francesco also has to dispose of the living dead before they get out and eat the living. Or, as is more likely the case, before they can eat him. Dellamorte is not the biggest fan of the living.
His only friend is Gnaghi (Hadji-Lazard), essentially an overgrown child who doesn’t speak, only making strange grunting sounds, and is good for company and the more physical duties of the job. He leads a slow, miserable life, indifferent to the world outside the gates of the cemetery because he feels he does not belong to either world: the living or the dead. Dellamorte serves as a narrator for the film as well as its principal character, letting us further into his own psyche so we’re able to see just how alone he is. At one point he explains that his mother’s maiden name was Dellamore, which means love. Hence the film’s original Italian title: Dellamore Dellamorte; Lover of Death.
His existence is given new meaning, however, when a grieving widow (Falchi) arrives to put flowers on the grave of her recently deceased husband. She is the most beautiful thing Dellamorte has ever seen, and every time she comes back, he tries to talk to her. The only way he can get through to her is to show her the ossuary, where the bones of the dead are contained. She reacts to the ossuary with an almost sexual excitement, and a very strange love affair begins.
It ends just as fast when she insists they make love on her husband’s grave, which rouses the corpse from the ground, biting his wife and killing her. Francesco is inconsolable, but will not allow her to become undead, so he keeps watch on her body for the 7 requisite days. When she suddenly sits up one day, he does what he has to do: shoots her in the head. She was not dead, however, and comes back as a rotting zombie 7 days later, only to be killed by Gnaghi for a second time. Needless to say, Francesco doesn’t take it too well.
The love affair between Dellamorte and the dead girl are only one of many strange things going on in the cemetery; others include Gnaghi’s obsession with the severed head of the mayor’s daughter, who agrees to marry him shortly after he digs it up, a girl who refuses to believe her beloved Caludio died while loving another girl, and a busload of dead Boy Scouts. On top of all that, the girl comes back into Dellamorte’s life two more times and causes him to do increasingly horrible things to himself and others, and eventually the only way to escape the madness is to leave the cemetery… but is there even a world outside its gates anymore?
What makes Cemetery Man work so well as a film is not just that fact that it’s a zombie movie; it’s actually a zombie movie in which the zombies are more a nuisance than an actual threat for the most part. No, what makes the film so different and memorable is both the skillful direction by Argento protégé Michele Soavi and the fact that the humor inherentt in the situation these characters find themselves in is played to the hilt. Perhaps because he is so sure that life is fleeting and it’ll all end badly for everyone.
Now here is where Anchor Bay really dropped the proverbial ball. Fans have been waiting for years for this movie to finally come out here in the states, and now that it has all we wanted was for a features-packed special edition. What we get, instead, is a very clean print of the film with fantastic colors and an effective sound mix, but almost nil in the features department.
The only real feature to speak of is “Death is Beautiful”, a brand-new featurette about the history of the film, from it’s origins in the Dylan Dog comics to its trouble production. Within are interviews with director Michele Soavi, actress Anna Falchi, and more, all talking about what the film meant to them and what it was like making it.
Though it is a strong piece, it’s far too short and should have only been one of many features on this disc. Sadly, that’s it. Not even a director’s commentary to spice things up, as much as I don’t feel they’re necessary most of the time. Included in the DVD package is an 8-page collectible booklet which tells of Cemetery Man’s importance in Italian and horror cinema alike, so at least there’s something else to read when you’re done with the DVD.
It’s hard for me to give Cemetery Man a low score, shoddy DVD or not, since the film is so fantastic that it really doesn’t need much else to make it worth a purchase. For many, the fact that it’s finally as clean as can be and re-mixed to a rich 5.1 surround sound track is enough. Those of you looking for features upon features won’t be too happy, but with a film this good maybe that’s not too important.
The only really unforgivable trespass by Anchor Bay, to me at least, is the cover. It’s the same cover the shitty VHS release, complete with the same ridiculous quote, and I still can’t for the life of me figure out why. Anchor Bay is known for their features-laden discs and creative artwork, for the most part, so why this slipped through their fingers I will never understand.
In any event, a DVD release of Cemetery Man is still welcome on our shores so I guess we’ll just have to take what we can get and hope that something better comes along somewhere down the road.
“Death is Beautiful” featurette
8-page Collectors’ Booklet
4 out of 5
Discuss Cemetery Man in our forums!