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CEMETERY MAN (Dellamorte Dellamore) (director: Michele Soavi; screenwriters: Gianni Romoli/based on the “Dylan Dog” novel, “Dellamorte Dellamore,” by Tiziano Sclavi; cinematographer: Mauro Marchetti; editor: Franco Fraticelli; music: Manuel De Sica; cast: (Francesco Dellamorte), Francois Hadji-Lazaro (Gnaghi), Anna Falchi (the three “She’s”), Fabiana Formica (Valentina Scanarotti, mayor’s daughter), Clive Riche (Doctor Verseci), Stefano Masciarelli (Mayor Scanarotti), Anton Alexander (Franco), Pietro Genuardi (New Mayor Civardi); Runtime: 99; MPAA Rating: R; producers: Tilde Corsi/Gianni Romoli/Michele; Anchor Bay Films; 1994-Italy-in English)
“Its appeal is mostly to an audience that can appreciate its gross-out camp humor and can overlook that it’s a pointless exercise.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

A stylish offbeat horror tale that veers between comedy and gore, as it supplies a dark but puerile comic book philosophy to its hipster canvas. It might be as good as you can make one of these ‘ridiculous to sublime’ zombie flicks, but that’s just not good enough; its appeal is mostly to an audience that can appreciate its gross-out camp humor and can overlook that it’s a pointless exercise–totally falling apart when it tries in an existential way to explore the moral boundaries between the present and the beyond, but thankfully for only a brief period. Director Michele Soavi (“The Church”/”The Goodbye Kiss”), the protege of Dario Argento, keeps it gruesome and ghoulish and unreal. It started with comic book writer Tiziano Sclavi’s popular 1989 special issue comic book of Dylan Dog entitled “Black Horror,” which inspired the author to write the novel “Dellamorte Dellamore” the film is based on.

Francesco Dellamorte (Ruppert Everett) is the ‘resigned to his lot in life’ hangdog appearing impotent watchman at the Buffalora Cemetery. Within seven days of burial Dellamorte must kill again the dead rising from their graves. He either shoots the zombies with a pistol which means they can return again or splits their head open with a shovel which means they will never return. Why this is so only the filmmaker and writer know, as it’s never made clear to the viewer (Hey, I would have probably not bought into any explanation…but at least make some reason up for this gibberish). The watchman with the biology degree doesn’t report it because he fears he will lose his job. His loyal mute assistant is the dim-witted and odd looking roly-poly groundskeeper Gnaghi (Francois Hadji-Lazaro, French musician), who keeps busy reburying the rising dead and finding love with the severed head of the mayor’s daughter (Fabiana Formica). Things take a turn for the erotic when the seductive sexpot young widow, played with relish by Anna Falchi (a Finnish-born Italian model-turned-actress who plays three roles), enters the cemetery in mourning and gets the watchman all excited. The widow makes love to an aroused for the first time Dellamorte on her hubby’s grave and that brings about hubby’s instant return in a fit of jealousy.

The film moves along in a casual but uneasy fashion with continual shootings of the dead and soon of the living, a tragic traffic accident killing a bus load of boy scout church goers and a motorcycle gang, with the beleaguered watchman taking time out to ponder the meaning of life (which was a bore) and then resorts to bizarre supernatural events. It tries to ask if death is the ultimate act of love and whether a psychotic killing spree can free our lifeless but dutiful hero to find enlightenment. But there’s no serious intention to answer those questions: this splatter film, with weak satirical political and metaphysical ideas, is really all about entertaining the viewer with its demented undertakings such as its necrophilia and hallucinogenic visions, and that it does to a certain degree is about all it has going for it other than letting us leer at those wonderful knockers of Falchi in whichever of the three roles she played.


Dennis Schwartz: “Ozus’ World Movie Reviews”