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STUDIO: Anchor Bay
RUNNING TIME: 99 Minutes
"An existential Italian horror flick starring a Brit and lots and lots of undead ladies and gentlemen."
Rupert Everett. Italians.
Francesco Dellamorte (Everett) has a rough job; sending the dead on their second bone voyage (pronounced bone voyage, as in skeleton travel) as the caretaker of a cemetery whose patrons just don’t stay dead. When he discovers the close relationship between love and death, Dellamorte’s days become more complicated.
"I may need to rethink my life choice", quipped Everett in his mind’s eye.
This film is so almost great that it hurts to find it lacking something that pushes it over the top. I sought this flick out in the mid-90’s like a golden Fertility Goddesss, the missing link between Raimi, Jackson, and Argento. When I finally got a copy of it, it was a horrid transfer probably imported from Midian’s fifth most popular VHS shop but I loved it. I was awash in the afterglow of the arrival of the "Splatstick" mini-genre and part of that built-in erectile tissue led me to loving Dellamorte Dellamore (as many know it as). That love seems a little strong an emotion after viewing this movie as a jaded and hairier thirtysomething.
"I’m sorry Mrs. Ciccone, this truly is the next best thing."
Rupert Everett is extremely cool and charismatic here, bypassing Bruce Campbell turf and settling in a more Cary Grant by way of Steve McQueen territory. He’s aloof, confident, and considerably sexy as a guy whose only concerns in life appear to be dispatching the re-undeceased and hanging out with his annoying pig-like sidekick (played to Curly-esque perfection by Francois Hadji-Lazaro). His work makes some of the uneven aspects of the film seem lessened by the sheer stone-faced badassness of Dellamorte. Typically the leading character in a film like this starts off as a nebbish and then is thrown into the fire, resulting in a horror hero for the ages. Dellamorte starts the film as an expert and is only betrayed by his emotions as the film progresses, something that is akin more to a western than a horror flick. The fact that this film gets odder and more surreal as it goes also lends it a more art film vibe than one would expect of a zombie film.
It helps that well-known second unit director turned lead director Michele Soavi (he’s a guy) is calling the shots and cognizant on creating a somewhat timeless experience. This film feels like it could have been made in the 70’s, 80’s, 90’s, or this decade. It’s a weird and quirky little dish that to some extent aims to intellectualize the swell but one-note vibe of its contemporaries. He does this with bloodshed paired with existential pondering, he does this with oddly romantic moments atop gravesites (with gigantic, beautiful boobies!), and he does it with a third act that doesn’t step outside the box but rather kick the box over a cliff and pisses on it as it falls.
I might be exaggerating.
"Please point me towards the Evil Dead cabin, please."
What Cemetery Man (especially in this abridged 99 minute version) ends up being is a cool diversion from the norm, a film that’s a jack of more trades than one would expect but sadly a master of none of them. It’s consistently odd and charming but never does enough to establish its own identity that makes it a cornerstone in the genre. It doesn’t have the over-the-top gore of Braindead/Dead Alive or the hilarious audacity of the Evil Dead movies. It’s like their smarter cousin, the one who just can’t put it all together to stand up and be counted.
The effects range from fun and inventive to bad (holy shit, the little blue flames), but they all contribute to the charm. Soavi’s talented, paying respect where it’s due and forging boldly (and sometimes blindly) ahead on his own. It’s always interesting, sometimes a little too tangenital, and on a few occasions, quite affecting.
It’s just not a classic. It’s a lovely little flick, but it isn’t the film I waited for with bated breath since DVD became the format of choice. Don’t let that dissaude you from making the effort, though. It’s got a lot to offer in the way of violence and nudity and I’m not the guy who’s going to stand in the way of such beautiful things.
Oh, and next time someone
starts a debate on favorite comic book movies, throw them a curveball
with this flick. It’s not in my top three of comic book adaptations but
you can coast on the geeky credentials of name-dropping it as a comic
book movie for at least a week or two.
"Will you please sign my Pump LP?"
is going to be another of these released. It simply has to happen. The cover of the DVD is hideous and nowhere near as interesting or fun as the film deserves and there’s not a lot of effort put into the special features selection. There’s a featurette and a trailer and a very static menu.
Enjoy it, fucker! That’s right, enjoy the meager features and unspectcular transfer. You have the film on DVD only five years late. Enjoy it!
Anchor Bay, look at the sales of this and treat us right. I want a fancy DVD case in the shape of Anna Falchi’s incredible knockers.
Sister Agnes made money on the side as the Staff of Ra.
7.9 out of 10