Directed by Michele Soavi
Produced by Tilde Corsi, Gianni Romoli, Michele Soavi
Written by Gianni Romoli
Director of Photograpy Mauro Marchetti
Music by Riccardo Biseo, Manuel De Sica
Cast: Rupert Everette, Francois Hadji-Lazard, Anna Falchi, Anton Alexander
1994/99 mins/Color/Dolby Digital 5.1
1.66:1 anamorphic/English/Italy/NTSC Region 1
Review from the Anchor Bay Entertainment DVD
To make life a little easier, we like to put things into categories, which we call genres when referring to films. For example, Gorezone.net is mainly devoted to horror films, and horror films are my favorite genre. (And I certainly get a mixed set of responses when I tell people that. Apparently, everyone has their own idea of what "horror movie" means.) To some extent, most films are easily placed inside of a specific genre. But there are those that are truly unique and thus avoid any such pigeonholing. CEMETERY MAN (AKA DELLAMORTE DELLAMORE) is such a movie, and it's finally making its Region 1 DVD debut.
CEMETERY MAN is set in the small European town of Bufflora. There, Francesco Dellamorte (Rupert Everett) oversees the cemetery with is his mono-syllabilic assistant, Gnaghi (Francois Hadji-Lazaro). The ancient and overgrown cemetery should be a peaceful place, but seven days after being laid to rest, the dead arise from their grave. Dellamorte calls these creatures “Returners” and has no idea why they awaken, but he resolutely dispatches them with his trusty revolver. He sees this zombie killing as just another part of his job. Although there is rarely a dull moment in the cemetery, Dellamorte finds his life to be quite boring and dreary, as he only talks to Gnaghi (who can only say “Nah!”) and Franco (Anton Alexander), who works at town hall.
This all changes when Dellamorte meets a nameless widow (Anna Falchi) and instantly falls in love with her. This chance meeting sets off a chain of events which take Dellamorte’s life in a new direction. Soon, he is questioning his sanity as the line between who is alive and who is dead becomes quite blurred.
When CEMETERY MAN debuted in 1994, it was met with quite a bit of buzz. This wasn't surprising considering that it was apparently a zombie film directed by Michele Soavi, who had to be considered at THE up-and-coming horror film director in Italy. The true surprise was what a Pandora's Box the movie was as it zombie film conceit was only the tip of the iceberg for this truly bizarre and original film.
The script for CEMETERY MAN by Gianni Romoli, based on a novel by comic book author Tiziano Sclavi, uses the Italian zombie movie premise as a jumping off point for the story. This tactic lulls the viewer into a sense of familiarity, as the dead rise in Buffalora Cemetery and Dellamorte sends them back to the grave with his gun. While this is a fantastic premise, Dellamorte's nonchalant approach to his job (played with apathetic brilliance by Rupert Everett) makes this idea seem almost normal and mundane. But, following the first act, CEMETERY MAN turns into something quite different. Dellamorte's "normal" world begins to twist upon itself and the film goes from being a tragic romance to a paranoia thriller. What started as a somewhat odd movie turns into a truly strange movie and by the film's end, the viewer, much like Dellamorte will be questioning what is real and what isn't.
And that's precisely the problem that I've always had with CEMETERY MAN. The movie simply bites off more than it can chew. The idea of starting off with common Italian horror movie themes and then veering off into a David Lynch-like landscape is a perfectly good one, but CEMETERY MAN paints itself into a corner. As the second and third acts progress the movie introduces more and more new ideas (all involving Dellamorte's obsession with Falchi's character(s)), and it gets away from the heart of the movie -- Dellamorte himself. Yes, he's in the entire movie (Everett is in almost every shot), but the turns that the film takes as it approaches the finale rob Dellamorte of the qualities which made him an interesting and entertaining character. And I've always felt that the ending was one downer too many.
Before fans of the film write me off completely, allow me to say that despite these comments, I still consider myself a fan of CEMETERY MAN. This is mainly due to the direction and visual creativity of Michele Soavi. Despite the fact that this man had some moderately successful films, I still feel that he's a vastly underrated and unknown filmmaker who deserves a great deal of credit. (And in case you're wondering, STAGEFRIGHT is my favorite Soavi film. The scene under the stage is one of the most suspenseful ever filmed.) The overall look of CEMETERY MAN is fascinating and while the story can be confusing, the movies contains shots and images which are unforgettable. While most filmmakers would concentrate on making a graveyard creepy, Soavi has made it a world of mysterious wonders, where anything can happen. He also does a great job of differentiating between the viewpoints of Dellamorte and Gnaghi. While CEMETERY MAN certainly isn't for everyone (that's an understatement!), most should appreciate the movie's unique look.
The film is further bolstered by the breakout performance by Rupert Everett. While most American's know him from MY BEST FRIEND'S WEDDING, Everett is asked to carry CEMETERY MAN as the sullen, depressed Dellamorte. Although his gaunt, hangdog look never hints at any happiness, Everett's dry voice-over brings a surprising level of humor to the role. Dressed in black, with his lean figure, Everett looks very much at home in the cemetery and again, his laid-back approach to the role makes Dellamorte truly human amongst the land of the dead.
To be honest, I would have to say that CEMETERY MAN is flawed to a point where I don't consider it a classic. However, it is a truly unique and entertaining film, and it holds an important spot in the history of Italian horror cinema. It is truly a shame that Michele Soavi walked away from filmmaking after making this movie. His cinematic eye is exquisite and he's truly missed. In the meantime, fans who have put off importing CEMETERY MAN can now revel in the fact that the DVD has coming to the U.S.
CEMETERY MAN is exhumed on DVD courtesy of Anchor Bay Entertainment. The film has been letterboxed at 1.66:1 and the transfer is enhanced for 16 x 9 TVs. I don't want to make anybody mad here, but Italian films are notorious for looking bad on DVD. I'm happy to report that CEMETERY MAN looks pretty good. The image is sharp and clear, showing basically no grain and negligible defects from the source material. The colors look good, which is very important for this movie, but they are slightly washed-out at times. (I don't know any other way to describe it other than there are scenes in this transfer which look as if they came out of a movie made in the 60s.) Most of the film takes place at night, and the action is always visible. In fact, some scenes look a bit too bright. Fortunately, artifacting is kept to a minimum. I haven't seen any of the numerous import releases of the movie to compare, but this transfer is certainly worth checking out. The DVD carries a Dolby Digital 5.1 audio track. However, I didn't detect much in the way of surround sound or subwoofer effects. The dialogue is clear and audible and the stereo effects are good, however I definitely wasn't blown away by any surround mix on the DVD.
The CEMETERY MAN DVD has a 28-minute documentary entitled "Death is Beautiful". It contains interviews with Michele Soavi, special makeup effects artist Sergio Stivaletti, screenwriter/producer Gianni Romoli and actress Anna Falchi (who looks completely different). Through these comments, we learn about the making of the film. From the use of Everett's image in Sclavi's comics (There are panels from "Dylan Dog" shown here) to the shooting of the movie, the four share their thoughts on the movie. Soavi also talks about how he got into filmmaking and why he stopped making movies. Overall, a solid featurette. The other extras on the DVD are a Trailer for the film (In Italian) and a text bio for Soavi.
This Film Features:
Review by Mike Long. All Right Reserved. 2006. ©