Dellamorte Dellamore – aka Cemetery Man – is a 1994 comedy horror film directed by Michele Soavi. An Italian-French-German co-production, the screenplay by Gianni Romoli was based on the 1991 novel by Tiziano Sclavi. Sclavi is also the author of the comic Dylan Dog, which covers similar themes and whose protagonist is self-evidently a Rupert Everett lookalike.
The film stars Rupert Everett, François Hadji-Lazaro, and Anna Falchi. The story concerns the beleaguered caretaker of a small Italian cemetery, who searches for love while defending the town from zombies…
The film was released in Italy to little success. United States distributor October Films changed its title to Cemetery Man and saddled the film with a campy ad campaign, finally releasing it on April 26, 1996.
In the US, Cemetery Man received mostly negative critical reaction, small theatrical distribution (opening on six screens), and a frequently delayed Region 1 DVD release.
The film missed popular success, grossing only $253,969 but found a stateside cult following over time, via home video. Director Martin Scorsese called Dellamorte Dellamore one of the best Italian films of the 1990s.
Francesco Dellamorte (Rupert Everett) is the cemetery caretaker in the small Italian town of Buffalora. He lives in a ramshackle house on the premises, constantly surrounded by death, with only his mentally handicapped assistant Gnaghi (François Hadji-Lazaro) for company, who expresses his ideas and opinions only saying “Gna”.
Young punks in town spread gossip that Francesco is impotent. He can open up to his only friend, Franco, by telephone, but when they meet in person, have little to say. Francesco’s only hobbies are reading outdated telephone directories, in which he crosses out the names of the deceased, and trying to assemble a puzzle shaped like a human skull.
Some of the dead interred in the cemetery rise from their graves prior to the seventh day of their internment, reanimated and ready to assault the living. Francesco, as if trapped in a Sisyphean cycle, is duty-bound as cemetery caretaker, to destroy the “Returners” before they overrun the town. Buffalora’s mayor (Stefano Masciarelli) doesn’t just disbelieve the cemetery caretaker’s reports, but is so fixated on his campaigning that he seems unable even to hear Francesco’s pleas for an investigation. Nor can Francesco surmount the complicated bureaucracy or mountain of paperwork to get assistance (“It’s easier just to shoot them,” says an exasperated Francesco).
Accepting his fate, Francesco and Gnaghi spend their days tending the cemetery grounds, doing their best to counteract the decay of ages, and their nights planting bullets and shovels into the brains of the walking dead. “This is my business,” he says before wearily dispatching a zombie motorcyclist. “They pay me for it.”…
” … this is moviemaking as poetry, cinema as stunning visual feast. Approximating the feeling of something both otherworldly and wholly realistic, Soavi invites us into a single stylized setting and asks us to make ourselves comfortable … This is one of the most important fantasy films ever made, one that shows the true power in fanciful thoughts and imagery.” Bill Gibron, DVD Verdict
“Despite its boldness, Cemetery Man falls considerably short of being a masterpiece. The film runs out of comic momentum about two-thirds of the way through, and has to lurch and stumble towards the finish line. Soavi can only sustain the humor for so long before it becomes repetitive.” James Berardinelli, Reelviews
“Overall this is one of the most imaginative and immaculately contructed films I’ve seen in a long time. All the elements manage to pull together resulting in a film that, while not for everyone, should definitely be seen by fans of the various genres to which it belongs, be it horror, romance, comedy or fantasy” Michael MacKenzie, The Digital Fix
“Dellamorte Dellamore is stunning to look at – filled with the kind of light and colour that’s reminiscent of Mario Bava’s Italian horrors of the 1960s, while the use of an actual cemetery (in Guardea, Umbria) makes it even more fantastical. Everett is a bit wet as the titular hero (he’s certainly no Bruce Campbell), but Hadji-Lazaro is a revelation (his side story is a real treat). The humour might be a bit hit and miss, but it’s the visuals that will stay with you…” Peter Fuller, Kultguy’s Keep
“A peculiar hybrid of a horror and a comedy, which never seems to quite know what it is (in a European sort of way), Cemetery Man nonetheless has an odd sort of charm, and originality that comes with never knowing what might come next, or how this bizarre world and its characters will end up in the end.” Adam Lukeman, Fangoria’s 101 Best Horror Movies You’ve Never Seen
Posted by Will Holland