Dellemorte Dellemore (aka Cemetery Man) Review
Written by: azathoth
A very odd and entertaining Italian zombie film. However, this is not your standard zombie film, even by Italian standards. No, this one strives for further strangeness and metaphysical meanings. There have been numerous writings about how 'dellamore' means love and 'dellamorte' means death in Italian, as well as the complete flip of an ending (see SPOILERS for that bit). This is a bit too philosophical for me to usefully analyze, but you will want to watch for deeper meanings in the film.
This film was directed by Michele Soavi ("The Church" and "Stage Fright"). Rupert Everett (the voice of 'Prince Charming' in the "Shrek" series) is Francesco Dellamorte, the 'cemetery man' of the small town of Buffalora, which is a bit north of Italy. His grunting assistant Gnaghi is played by Francois Hadji-Lazaro ("The City of Lost Children"). Anna Falchi eventually shows up as a mysterious Woman with no name. Mickey Knox ("Godfather part 3) plays the Marshal of the town. Rounding out the characters are various townsfolk, the most important being the Mayor and his Daughter.
The overall plot is Dellemorte is the caretaker (the Mayor calls him 'Engineer' for some reason) of the town's graveyard. Easy enough, except the buried bodies come back to life in one to seven nights. Only Fran and assistant Gnaghi know this little fact. The usual zombie rule of taking out the brain to stop the zombie apply. This would be an average zombie film if increasingly odd things did not keep happening. But hoo boy, do they ever.
We learn about the zombie right from the beginning as Dellemorte's phone call with his friend Franco is interrupted by a knock on his door. He open the door and shoots a zombie in the head. Back to the phone call, where he tells Franco is was just another 'Returner'.
The next day an apparently wealthy older gentleman is buried with his crying trophy wife (the Woman, who shows up in different roles two more times) in attendance. Dellemorte is smitten with her and tries to hit on her. No go. When she comes back the next day, we find out she is aroused by ossuaries, and she and Dellemorte get busy. On top of her former husband's grave. You do remember about that little detail of the dead coming back to life? And thus begins a series of investigations into strange events and deaths around town which seem to point to Dellemorte, but are shrugged off by the Marshall because of the town rumor that Dellemorte is impotent. He's not (we just saw the proof five minutes ago), but this is a big plot point. (My question is how this rumor got started in the first place, and why does the whole town know?)
Things now take a turn for the surreal. The Grim Reaper makes an appearance and complains about Dellemorte interfering with his charges. A whole busload of Boy Scouts are wiped out by bikers, and both groups, and both groups are buried. There is a flying zombie head. Gnaghi falls in love. TVs are blown up. A motorcycle is buried. Check the SPOILERS for details.
As you can imagine, everything spirals out of control, leading up to one twisted ending. As I mentioned in the beginning of the movie, there are themes to see in this film. Is love the instant physical attraction of Dellemorte to the gorgeous trophy wife, or is Gnaghi's love true? After a certain point, are we just viewing Dellemorte's insane visions, or is everyone else also going mad?
Great cinematography and sound. It should be noted that Soavi did some work with Terry Gilliam which largely explains the bizarre townsfolk. The actors are all spot on. Occasionally the dialogue feels a bit padded, as does the pacing of the middle of the film. Most of the time, though, you will be sliding gears in your head trying to figure out how we got from there to here.
The soundtrack had little impact. There is nudity, violence, and gore. The gore FX were actually subpar compared to the rest of the film, sadly. Scenes that should have had more impact were diminished by bad FX.
The acting is great. For such a small range to explore, I loved Gnaghi. The Marshall was great in dealing with Dellemorte and all his associated weirdness: "Oh, you have a gun? Good, you can protect yourself against the madman!" Both Mayors (oops) were as astute as a pair of turkeys.
I really like this film. It had some serious dark humor. After about 20 minutes the film took a left turn to Saturn and never returned. The oddness actually draws you into the story, and even though you are thinking, "this is absurd", you understand the rational behind the characters. Though there is violence aplenty, there are psychological bits that can strike a chord. What is the nature of love when comparing Dellemorte and Gnaghi? Do people reach a certain point where they can no longer accept anything outside of their views?
This is a love or hate film, especially with the ending. So rent this first, but if you like it you will buy it. In no way will this work at a party.
*** SPOILERS ***
Some of the fun stuff- Gnaghi is entranced by the 1st mayor's daughter and then quickly barfs on her, much like in 'South Park'. However, after she dies and gets decapitated (yup, she's the flying head) in the biker/bus accident, Gnaghi digs her up. And she know wants to marry him! Really, she asks her Mayor dad for permission to marry Gnaghi before eating her dad's neck. Thne Dellemorte shoots her and consoles Gnaghi that there are more girls in the world, ones that even have bodies.
When the Woman is bit by her dead husband, everyone thinks she is dead, so they lay her in wake. She stirs and Dellemorte shoots her in the head, then buries her. But she comes back. She was never dead in the first place! Yes, he does freak out.
Anna Fulci plays three characters: the Woman, the Assistant, and the Prostitute. Dellemorte falls for all of them and then kills all of them. Probably a strong reason for the "love" and "death" discussion at the very beginning of this novel of a review.
For some one of the punks involved in the biker/bus accident is buried with his motorcycle and provides for a nice scene later.
There are a whole bunch of scenes involving the Marshall and Mayor(s) that decry explanation. "Did you kill it/him/her/them?" "Nope" "OK, then, cheeriio!" Dellemorte turns into a mass murderer and actually gets angry at his friend Franco for taking credit of his murders! After the "Good, you got a gun line" Dellemorte screams at the Marshall "I DID IT!", who goes on his merry way.
The whole impotence thing is odd, and also may be a mis-translation. At first everyone says 'impotence', but later it is obviously believed he is a eunuch. At one point eh goes to the town doctor to get a snip, and the doc laughs until Dellemorte drops his pants. "Oh, you do have, er, um.." The whole idea to realize the rumor is to satisfy a woman (Fulci again) who has a fear of sex. The day after Dellemorte goes to the doctor, she shows up and says she is cured of her fear because she got raped and liked it. I died a little inside at this point in the movie.
There is a whole lot more crazy stuff that happens, and it is worth spending an hour and a half to watch at least once. And no, I still haven't figured out what the end of the movie is supposed to mean.