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          Francesco Dellamorte is a cemetery watchman whose job is to slaughter the living dead when they rise hungry from their graves. But following a tragic tryst with a lusty young widow, Francesco begins to ponder the mysteries of existence. Is there long-term satisfaction in blasting the skulls of 'returners'? Will his imbecile assistant find happiness with the partial girl-corpse of his dreams? And if death is the ultimate act of love, can a psychotic killing spree send Dellamorte to the brink of enlightenment?

"The living dead and the dying living are all the same. Cut from the same cloth. But disposing of dead people is a public service, where as you're in all sorts of trouble if you kill someone while they're still alive."
                         - Francesco Dellamorte

          Michele Soavi's Dellamorte Dellamore is not to be confused for a zombie splatter flick, it is actually a strong character study in form of a black comedy. Of course, the words 'Italian horror' and 'character study' are not the kind of stuff you read in the same review. That is what makes this intriguing little film, along with Argento's psychological thriller Stendhal Syndrome, one of the last great horror films to come out of Italy. Dellamorte Dellamore was even given a theatrical release in Uncle Sam's land circa 1996 under the name Cemetery Man and it did quite well thanks to Rupert Everett's star power.
          We know this is going to be something special from the very first scene: After the camera zooms out of a skull (very cool effect) we are inside a small room while a young man answers a phone call. Then someone knocks on his door and when he opens it… tcham! A rotten zombie enters the room. The audience is surprised, but the man isn't as he grabs a gun and calmly shoots the thing in the head. He returns to the phone like it was some bizarre daily routine as the camera reveals he lives right by a cemetery. Roll titles.
          We then learn, through a continuous narration, that the man happens to be Francesco Dellamorte a caretaker of a local cemetery of a small Italian town. Dellamorte is one lonely and unhappy man: The entire town makes fun of him for being apparently impotent and having a miserable sex life. Every night, with the help of his mute nerdy assistant Gnaghi he is forced to dispose of the living dead who return from their graves seven days after their burial. This is a major factor of the film that is left unexplained as we are left to assume the zombies exist thanks to an unknown plague. It doesn't even matter anyways, this is the whole set-up of the movie and instead of having a linear plot, Gianni Romoli's sharp script (based on an Italian comic book series) is a string of semi-unconnected events that shape the film as an episodic piece. In fact, one could somehow consider Dellamorte Dellamore as an anthology film linked together by the characters.
          Throughout the film's duration, Francesco falls in love with many nameless women (all of them are played by the same actress: Anna Falchi) and these affairs usually end in bad consequences. The first woman is recently widowed nymph who is apparently turned on by ossuaries. When her jealous husband comes back to the grave and kills her, Dellamorte is left shocked and hopeless. But fortunately for him she is buried in that exact cemetery and not even death can split them apart. Then he ends up falling to the mayor's secretary who happens to have a strange phobia that forces Dellamorte to give up his manhood for love. Will he do it? And finally there is a strange college girl who ends up being too easy. What is her secret? These affairs end up driving Dellamorte insane until the point where he becomes a serial murderer and gets back at all the town folks that originally made fun of him. But is Dellamorte really committing the murders? Or is it someone else? Are those women real or a product of his imagination? Is his insanity getting out of hand? 
          Cemetery Man is so unusual for an Italian horror film, a genre that has been fairly stereotyped over the years as hot-blooded women being chased by schizophrenic, knife-wielding, black-gloved killers. It actually has interesting dialogue, sharp plot, and strong character development. Not only that, but it is filled with black humor that actually works. One of the (many) comedic subplots involves Dellamorte's mute assistant Gnaghi falling in love with the mayor's daughter named Velantina who is later decapitated at a road accident. Guess to whom Valentine's (talking) zombified head hooks up? The Valentina/Gnaghi subplot is actually a very sweet and funny touch in the film and you actually feel sorry at the tragic outcome. The ridiculous idea of a talking head reminded me of Dario Argento's terrible attempt that same year in Trauma where the Italian maestro used it in a serious tone. It all gets more bizarre when Mayor Scanerotti (Stefanio Mascearelli) uses his daughter's death as political propaganda, proving that politicians don't have a soul indeed. During the beginning of the film I thought Detective Straniero's failure at suspecting there was something wrong with Dellamorte was a plot hole when later I realized it was actually being played for laughs. And I laughed. Is Cemetery Man parodying the usual narrative problems with Italian horror?
          The entire movie is revolved around Rupert Everett who is given a lot to do here from the narration to the actual on-screen performance. It is a shame that Everett's performance in this is never mentioned when people talk about his work. In fact, his horrendous role along with Madonna in 1999's Next Best Thing gets more recognition. I would go as far as saying Francesco Dellamorte is the strongest role I've ever seen Everett play. He nails the character's offbeat sense of humor from the very first scene and seems to play the whole thing dead serious, making us somehow laugh anyway.
          Michele Soavi was one of the most enigmatic horror directors to come out of Italy. Being a strong protégé of Dario Argento early on his career, the young gifted director completed many music videos as well as some documentaries and assistant-director credits before making his directorial debut in 1987's Stagfright. With the international success of that film, Soavi soon became hot stuff and was said being the next carrier of the torch that was originally passed from Mario Bava to Argento, but sadly it wasn't so. After directing four acclaimed films (with Cemetery Man being the last) Soavi retired and isolated himself from the movie-making business never to be heard from the international public again. Sad really, one can only imagine what his career would have been like if he kept directing because Cemetery Man is so well-crafted. Soavi breathes style into the picture that mirrors the work of Mario Bava, Sam Raimi, Tim Burton, Peter Jackson, and others. He is even inspired by Orson Welles at some point and I won't tell you where… 
          The special fx-work was made by Argento regular Sergio Stivaletti (Phenomena, Sleepless) and it is one of the most puzzling aspects of the film. For most of the time, the gore looks horribly fake. But one can only guess that was the intention. The zombies look and act so exaggerated and the gore looks so forced and corny one can't help but laugh at it. And were all those visible 'invisible' wires intentional?
          Few films manage to be as haunting, imaginative, weird, and even as darkly funny as Cemetery Man. If you ignore some weak dubbing (the one problem the Italian horror industry will apparently never get rid of) you will have one great time. From the eyebrow-raising introduction to the enigmatic conclusion, it will be frustrating to know that Michele Soavi wasn't able to save the Italian horror industry from being taken over by Asian horror as the major alternative from Hollywood slasher flicks and now the industry is far from the 70's glory it once had, with Dario Argento managing to come out with a few minor hits over the years.

Cast & Crew   |   Pictures  |   Coroner Report
Video Clip   |   Trailer

          - According to Director Michele Soavi, The "returners" get their energy from the Mandragola roots in the cemetery.

          - Tangerine Dream was originally supposed to do the soundtrack, but something else came up.

          - The cemetery sets used in the film were built inside an actual deserted cemetery.

          - Many sources incorrectly state that this film is derived from Tiziano Sclavi's comics featuring the hero Dylan Dog; it is in fact an adaptation of a Schlavi Novel (also called Dellamorte Dellamore) that does not contain the Dylan Dog character. Years earlier, however, Schlavi did base his Dylan Dog drawings on the facial features of Rupert Everett which is probably how the confusion began. An American Dylan Dog movie was developed a few years after the release of this movie, but never came to fruition

          - The ossuary which was used for filming was real. One member of the crew took some of the human bones home and claims he was visited by a ghost. He promptly returned them the next day.

          - An American company was willing to fund and distribute the movie if Matt Dillon was cast as Francesco.

          - When Francesco and "She" are kissing in the crypt with the shroud over their heads, the shot mimics the painting "The Lovers II" by Rene Magritte.




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