It can be difficult finding horror films of quality, so allow me to welcome you to your salvation from frustration. “Zena’s Period Blood” is here to guide you to the horror films that will make you say, “This is a good horror. Point blank. PERIOD.”
Do you love when a movie hooks you from the first scene? It opens, does something bizarre, and before you know it, you accept the rules of this world, which is considerably different than yours. Well, this describes Michele Soavi’s Cemetery Man (1994), which opens to a normal guy. He’s on the phone, hears a noise at his front door, opens the door to a bedraggled man, shoots the man between the eyes, and resumes his phone call. Based on Tiziano Sclavi’s book Dellamorte Dellamore, Cemetery Man is a movie I recently watched for the first time—and one that instantly resonated as a classic in my heart.
Francesco Dellamorte (Rupert Everett) is a cemetery caretaker in Buffalora, Italy. He lives in a rundown shack with his friend and partner Gnaghi (François Hadji-Lazaro). Unfortunately, Francesco’s duties extend beyond the simple funeral receptions and grounds upkeep. It includes killing “Returners”, a word coined by Francesco that describes the living dead who revive within seven days of passing. Their sole intent is the butchery of the living. Now, this situation could be enough for an exciting yet simple story, but love often complicates the simple. We witness Francesco fall in love with a recently widowed woman. That same night, Francesco gets the booty on her husband’s grave. This steamy connection ends as Francesco plunges a bullet in her head deep enough to reach the end of her life. Tormented, Francesco continues to see her among the living. This ignites his search for meaning beyond the life he has grown accustomed to at the cemetery.
From the actors to the locations, this film flaunted beauty. But nothing resonated more for me than cinematographer Mauro Marchetti, who used wide angles to welcome us to new scenes. When we first see Dellamorte’s friend Franco (Anton Alexander), we observe his sea of file folders. Though the office is small, the wide angle allows us to take in the filing monstrosity that dwarfs Dellamorte and his plea for an investigation into the returners. Another awesome wide-angle shot included Claudio (Alessandro Zamattio), who glides from his grave, mounted on the motorcycle his family buried with him. For some reason, this one-shot made me applaud all of the 90s for its creativity.
Although Cemetery Man is considered a comedy, one cannot leave this film without noting the life questions and lessons it imparts. I expected nothing less from director Soavi, who trained under visionary director Dario Argento (Deep Red, Suspiria). In one scene, Francesco questions why we care about love, especially when we all end up in the cemetery sooner or later. Then, he dives deeper into thought when he asks, “Who knows if the rest of the world even exists?” Often times, we wonder about another world, in spite of the lack of evidence that it exists. At other times, we are so stuck in our own world that we refuse to accept there may be another out there.
“I don’t know the difference between the living and dead,” Francesco revealed later in the film. “The living dead and the dying living are cut from the same cloth.” Sometimes, I feel this way. I see in other people, and have once or twice been victim to, a life without meaning. But Francesco asked the right question at a powerful point in the film. “Where are you going if you don’t understand the difference between life and death?”
I got a little deep with this review. Whew. Well, if you are in the mood to ponder the meaning of life while watching some sizzling sex scenes and laughing in between, look no further than Cemetery Man. It is a great 90s horror film. Point blank. Period.
In addition to contributing to Dread Central, Zena Dixon has been writing about all things creepy and horrific for over six years at RealQueenofHorror.com. She has always loved horror films and will soon be known directing her own feature-length horror. Feel free to follow her on Twitter @LovelyZena.