Cemetery Man (1994)

Own it!

review by Scott Hamilton and Chris Holland
See also:



Sometimes Aunt Martha Does Dreadful Things

Cemetery Man

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Our rating: two LAVA® motion lamps.

"I'd kill to be in a movie
with Julia Roberts."
There's nothing worse than a pretentious zombie movie.

OK, that's not true. There is one thing worse: a pretentious zombie movie that stars Pia Zadora.

But with that one exception, we stick by our statement. The movie under discussion here, Cemetery Man (originally titled DellaMorte, DellAmore) does not, to its credit, star Pia Zadora. Cemetery Man also has plenty of other things to its credit but by its end left us feeling unsatisfied. Its trailer bills it as a cross between From Dusk Till Dawn and Night of the Living Dead, but Dawn of the Dead meets Brazil is closer to the truth (with no disrespect intended towards Gilliam's Brazil).

We should also mention (for the sake of those people who will complain if we don't) that Cemetery Man is apparently a sequel, the third in the Demons series. However, we don't see the connection.

The main character is Francesco DellaMorte (Rupert Everett), a young man who works as the cemetery night watchman in a small Italian town named Buffalora. In this particular graveyard, the dead come to life after about seven days and begin stalking the living. Actually, it seems all of them make a beeline towards Franceso's office, where Francesco is waiting for them with a loaded gun. One shot in the head, and they go back to being corpses and he reburies them. Francesco is not sure if the coming-back-to-life thing is specific to his graveyard, or if it's happening everywhere. What he does know is that if he tells anyone, the graveyard will be shut down and he'll be out of a job. So he sits in his office, talking on the phone and blowing the zombies away.

What follows is a series of bizarre episodes revolving around DellaMorte's circumstances. He falls in love with a widow who can only get excited in a graveyard, but their love is not to last. She is bitten to death when she is attacked by her late husband's corpse. Then the mayor's daughter is beheaded in a motorcycle accident, and her re-animated head falls in love with Gnaghi, Francesco's incoherent assistant. After a while, Francesco goes insane and begins shooting the living as well as the dead. Suffice it to say that Cemetery Man, while initially entertaining and spooky, soon performs so many plot twists that we, as viewers, were lost.

"I'd die to be in a movie with
Julia...Ahh, forget it."
On the good side, there are some wonderful visual images on display in Cemetery Man. Almost enough for us to recommend this film. One particularly striking image is the Angel of Death, who encourages Francesco to just shoot living people in the head before they become zombies, thereby cutting through all the red tape. Granted, it looks like director Michele Soavi stole the Angel of Death prop from the set of the Adventures of Baron Munchausen, but that's not surprising -- he was Munchausen's assistant director. There are also many beautiful shots invoving fabrics being blown by wind and such.

We know that if anyone from Video Watchdog Magazine reads this they'll probably revoke our subscription, but we'll never understand the fascination with gaillo horror movies. They are gory, yes, but in their quest to show splattering brains they often reveal the falseness of their props. Cemetery Man is no exception, as several times it is apparent that Francesco has just shot or clubbed a mannequin head full of red paint. If only these kinds of films would cut away from the gore quickly, they would probably look more realistic.

Fortunately, Cemetery Man does have Rupert Everett (most recently stealing the show as Julia Roberts' gay friend in My Best Friend's Wedding) as Francesco, exuding attitude (and bullets). Everett's performance is one of the few constants in the film: he's nearly always cold as ice as he performs his gruesome job, and convincingly distraught at the contortions he must go through to find love.

Anna Falchi (Dellamorte's bad-penny lover) and Francois Hadji-Lazaro (Gnaghi) also play nicely in their respective roles, although we became rather tired of Gnaghi's repetitive hygiene nastiness by the end. Imagine Uncle Fester during a food-fight, and you've got Gnaghi pegged. Falchi, on the other hand, became a joke: her character keeps re-appearing as different women in Francesco's life, and we got a kick out of guessing which hair color she would display next. ("Blonde! Twenty bucks on blonde!" "Blonde? Are you crazy? She's gonna be a red-head.")

Cemetery Man is one of those films you either love or hate. If you can appreciate a posturing, gun-toting good guy who fights flesh-eating zombies and you can tolerate the occasional surrealist plot-twist so long as people continue to get blown away, you're probably going to love this film. If you expect stories to make sense, then you're probably going to hate it.

Own it!

Review date: 10/29/1997

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