The Plot: Francesco Dellamorte (Rupert Everett) is the local caretaker at a cemetery that operates under very different rules than what you might be accustomed to. You see, the dead do not simply rest here at this cemetery. Instead, they all seem to rise up from the grave shortly after they are buried. Francesco’s life has become an endless series of death which has turned him into a being of apathy towards life and all of humanity. His life begins to change whenever She (Anna Falchi) walks into his life. A woman who has recently lost her husband and has him buried in Dellamorte’s cemetery, Francesco is immediately smitten with her. He ultimately finds her weakness in their shared infatuation with death and soon enough the two are making love in the graveyard. When her husband comes back from the grave and bites her, their love affair is brought to an instant close as she dies shortly from her wounds. Francesco is known for his impotency and this drives the police to look for the young woman’s killer elsewhere. Now Francesco must deal with his loneliness, grief, hatred of the living and the loneliness that his helper Gnaghi unfortunately lives with.

The Review
With our Halloween Horrors continuing here at Varied Celluloid, I decided to go back to another movie that has a history with Varied Celluloid to a degree. Cemetery Man was one of the horror titles that really sold me on Italian cinema back in the early 2000’s. In fact, in the months leading up to Varied Celluloid I started trying my hand at writing out film reviews and Cemetery Man was one of the first titles I chose for the website. So, you may ask yourself “where is that review at?”. Well, the short answer is that it is safely nestled on my hard drive in a text file. The longer answer is that it was such a god awful and minuscule review (clocking in at a whopping 200 words, with the plot summary added) that even back then I was too ashamed to actually post it up. Reading through that review again is rather embarrassing. I may not be the greatest writer in all of the world, but I know I have progressed quite a bit since those days. Well, it’s either that or I’ve just become increasingly long winded.

Cemetery Man was quite simply too complex for the teenage version of myself to handle. It is a horror comedy that traverses over genres, themes, ideas and various sub-textual concepts. To be honest, I am still not as well versed in film theory as I should be and there are writers out there who could break this film down far better than I could but I will go ahead and give my best at explaining what draws me to Cemetery Man. The first thing that really strikes you about the movie is going to be the aesthetic beauty of it, there is no question about that. From the very opening shot where Soavi somehow manages this beautiful tracking/zoom shot that comes directly out of the eye socket of a skull sitting on Francesco’s desk, you know almost everything you could possibly need to know about this film: There is a fascination with death, man coming to grips with his own mortality, this will be a clever story and it will be a visually enlightening film. You can literally gather all of that from the first shot of the movie and then we follow this deathly beauty up with a very abrupt and comedic turn as Francesco, in a very nonchalant sort of way, interrupts a phone conversation he is having by shooting a zombie that had been knocking at the door. This is a horror comedy, but there is a certain amount of serious soul searching going on here as we identify with this character of Francesco who has ultimately come to rationalize no difference between life and death.

Cemetery Man teeters between the world of life and death and it at first dances between the world of reality and fantasy, before fully letting go and being engulfed in a world of impossibilities and strange interactions. Gothic architecture abounds, as we take in this exciting and strange world that Soavi manages to create around us. I simply love the set design and amazing cinematography that comes up throughout. The cemetery itself is lit at night with orange glowing candles that really don’t make much sense in a logical frame of mind, but it radiates a sort of brooding beauty. The crypt that Francesco and Gnaghi share for living quarters makes for something rather disgusting in a visual sense, but it helps bring about that feeling of isolation that these characters have endured upon themselves. Francesco himself isolates his entire world to this graveyard as he never questions what is happening around him and simply accepts. However, when he discovers love, and life along with it, he starts to let the questions flow through him as he begins to question his reality and what is taking place around him.

We identify with Francesco, we understand his plight and we enjoy his company because of how entertaining he is but his character is a haunted man. I do not think that Soavi hopes for audiences to identify with Francesco’s ideals, but instead that we realize the differences between life over death and instead choose not to close ourselves off from the world. Soavi does a fine job in handling all of these questions and ideas and never once boldly proclaims any answers, so that the film remains ambiguous enough that audiences can interpret it via their own feelings. Speaking of Michele Soavi, when you look over the films he is best known for you have to admit that Cemetery Man sticks out like a sore thumb. Without question it is his best film and certainly the best Italian film of the nineties that I have seen, but the drastic change and maturity he showed with this feature in retrospect of his other work (such as Stage Fright or The Church) is pretty amazing.

The Conclusion
Michele Soavi does a fine job in crafting a new and entirely different world for his characters. A world where Italians, Englishmen and Americans all inhabit the same town, speak English and use Lira as their common currency. It all has to do with creating a universe and making a very different reality from our own. Cemetery Man is a favorite of mine and going back to revisit it for this review was truly something special. Like visiting a old friend and finding him as interesting and warm as you had last recalled. If you haven’t seen this title, make sure to scoop it up as soon as possible because it is without question one of best Italian made genre films out there.

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