Cemetery Man

Year: 1994

Director: Michele Soavi

Written by: Gianni Romoli

Threat: Undead

Weapon of Choice: Spade

Based upon: novel - Dellamorte Dellamore - Tiziano Sclavi

Color/B&W/3D: Color

Language: English

Country of Origin: Italy

IMDb page: IMDb link

Cemetery Man  Cemetery Man

Other movies in this series:
Demons 2

The tyranist's thoughts
Years ago, when the site was still very young, Rish and I sat down to watch this little gem. I absolutely adored it. He found it befuddling and actually ended up sleeping through most of the last half hour of the movie. When Anchor Bay recently re-released it on DVD, we jumped at the chance to watch it again. I wanted to see if it held up after years of horror flicks both good and bad. I think Rish wanted to find out if that bit he slept through made all the difference and a movie he disliked was really something worth seeing.
A cemetery watchman (as he describes himself, a sexton to anyone else) and his imbecile assistant are seeing more of the dead than they want to. It seems that some time within a week the cadavers are returning to life and seeking to eat human flesh. Some of them return as classic mindless zombies; some with considerably more intelligence and wit. When Francesco Dellamorte, the aforementioned sexton falls for a particularly attractive widow, it sets of a chain of events from which Francesco seems unlikely to recover.
What attracts me most to this movie is its visualization. The setting of the cemetery is spectacular and filmed to good effect. The characters are nearly perfectly cast against that background. And the entire thing is visionary and surreal and a wonder to behold.
It was only after this second viewing that I found out that the movie is based not only on a book, but also in a sort of indirect way on a comic book as well. The documentary explains a few of the odder bits that creep into the film, but it doesn't in any way answer some of the most fundamental questions about Dellamorte's experience.
And that is the thing that will drive viewers away. Unfortunately.
I've gone on record before about hating non-linear narratives. They are very hard to do and quite frequently end up just making a hash of what could have been a good movie. In the case of Dellamorte Dellamore the narrative is linear in the same way that certain maths seem to produce curves that look impossible when beheld with the naked eye, but make perfect sense when viewed through the numbers. To behold the curves themselves is to face madness, but to understand the geometry is to transcend.
But I digress.
If you enjoy looking at a beautiful movie and don't mind a surreal plot, this movie is a perfect movie. If you insist that the movie wrap up neatly with all constants defined, I'm afraid you'll be disappointed. In our after film discussion, I offered Rish two completely separate explanations for the ending and feel that both are completely valid readings of the film. What's more, I think there are more readings that are valid. The further I delve into it, the more the movie becomes like a philosophical expedition and the less it becomes a simple zombie flick.
And I like movies like that. Or at least some movies like that. Some of them are horribly done. At any rate, I recommend this one if you happen to have a penchant for mental buggery . . . er . . . I mean, thought-provoking film.
Posted: September 11, 2006

Rish Outfield's reviews
1999 Review: Strangely foreign and excessively bizarre, this was a fairly high-budget horror film about a gravedigger (what's the technical term, tyranist? You see, he was one for a while, which may explain his macabre nature and pleasure in seeing sick stuff like this) ["Sexton" is the correct term -- tyranist] in a graveyard where the dead don't stay that way for long.* Tyranist just adored this movie. I liked the first half a great deal, but started to lose interest as things became complicated and artsy. I liked the nudity. I liked the gore. I even liked (for the most part) Rupert Everett. I just didn't like not knowing what was going on. The ending left me completely dry. It was just a little too surreal. But the violence was cool, and the idea was great. You be the judge.
2006 Review: Tyranist and I got together at his place and rewatched Cemetery Man the other night. A lot has changed in the years since I wrote the above paragraph. We do reviews and links and Skulls differently now, I'm a lot more forgiving and write a lot more for each movie, I type up the HTML myself now instead of sending it to tyranist to do, I now worship the devil, I bother tyranist about getting in overdue reviews instead of the other way around, we're both now out of school, I now work more hours than I ever thought I would have, we rent only DVDs instead of combing the VHS racks for Horror, I rent movies online instead of on the video store, I visit tyranist in a house instead of an apartment, he visits me in a cardboard box instead of a prison cell, we often see and review movies separately instead of only doing it together, we now review television shows, animation, and TV movies (instead of just feature-length films or mini-series), and, of course, I now drive a flying car that runs on pints of undistilled monkey urine. So yeah, a lot has changed.
But not a lot about the movie changed.
It was still too surreal, too rambling and random and cobbled together from different sources (novel and comic book and screenwriter and director and inspiration and absinthe). Parts, like the romance with the severed head and the unmotivated killing spree were too wacky and mean-spirited for my taste. The second half of the film was still deliberately confusing and obtuse and dreamlike and unexplained, and it left me not only feeling lost, but angry for giving it a second chance.
But Rupert Everett was good and Anna Falchi was damn hot. The sex was nice and a lot of the telling was lyrical and lovely. The idea is still good, and I think a lot of the scenery, setpieces, and cinematography was top-notch. But what the hell was going on? I found it hard to enjoy since it seemed to take place in a world of its own, with its own rules and laws and utter lack of consequences, and the film seemed to end again and again, only to start up again with the rules of the world (and its characters) changed around.
And the ending was terrible. Worse than terrible. I still (even after tyranist explained it to me, going as far as bringing in charts, graphs, a PowerPoint presentation, and an abacus) have no idea what it means. If anything.
Seven years have passed and the movie still didn't work. I know a lot of people like it, but a lot of people like "The Simpsons" since it's gone to hell. Go figure.
*"Where the dead don't stay that way for long." That would make a great tagline.
Posted: September 19, 2006

Total Skulls: 22

Sequel setup
Rips off earlier film
Horror film showing on TV/in theater in movie skull
Future celebrity appears
Former celebrity appears
Bad title
Bad premise
Bad acting
Bad dialogue
Bad execution
MTV Editing
OTS skull
Girl unnecessarily gets naked
Wanton sex skullskull
Death associated with sex skull
Unfulfilled promise of nudity
Characters forget about threat skull
Secluded location
Power is cut skull
Phone lines are cut
Someone investigates a strange noise skull
Someone runs up stairs instead of going out front door
Camera is the killer
Victims cower in front of a window/door
Victim locks self in with killer
Victim running from killer inexplicably falls
Toilet stall scene
Shower/bath scene skull
Car stalls or won't start
Cat jumps out skull
Fake scare skull
Laughable scare
Stupid discovery of corpse
Dream sequence
Hallucination/Vision skull
No one believes only witness skull
Crazy, drunk, old man knows the truth
Warning goes unheeded
Music detracts from scene
Death in first five minutes skull
x years before/later
Flashback sequence
Dark and stormy night
Killer doesn't stay dead
Killer wears a mask
Killer is in closet
Killer is in car with victim
Villain is more sympathetic than heroes
Unscary villain/monster
Beheading skullskull
Blood fountain
Blood spatters - camera, wall, etc. skull
Poor death effect
Excessive gore skull
No one dies at all
Virgin survives
Geek/Nerd survives
Little kid lamely survives
Dog/Pet miraculously survives
Unresolved subplots skull
"It was all a dream" ending skull
Unbelievably happy ending
Unbelievably crappy ending
What the hell? skullskull