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Ode to Cemetery Man (Dellamorte Dellamore)

Oh man, this was one of my favorite horror films for many a year. But I guess I should introduce it properly first. Cemetery Man (or Dellamorte Dellamore as it is known in its home of Italy) is a zombie film… but also an art film and a pretty existential examination of the human condition. Also a comedy. About a cemetery caretaker who decides it’s easier to just shoot the dead when they come back to life than fill out the paperwork. Because no one believes him anyways.

Yes, that may be my favorite pitch of all times.

And yeah, this was one of my favorite horror films for many a year, starting as a freshman in college. Those were the days when we’d regularly stay up til far too late watching bad movies we’d rent for $.99 apiece, and we decided to do the ABCs of horror one night. I want to say A was Amityville Horror, and B was definitely Bordello of Blood. The cover for Cemetery Man was pretty awesome, so we grabbed it on a whim to be our C. And even though we were exhausted when the movie was over at 4 am, we sat around discussing its implications until dawn found us.

Because it was deep, yo.

Or maybe just weird.

Either way, it applied the European filmmaking aesthetic to the zombie genre, which, and let’s be honest here, was already stale back in the mid-90s. Everything was so pretentious and beautifully designed and shot, and it really delved into the absurdity of existence. Or at least what I thought absurdity and existence meant from having done my requisite dabbling in existentialism for freshmen year. Not only were there awesome zombie kills aplenty (and let’s not forget Anna Falchi’s amazing rack), and comedy galore, but it was deep. And I know it was deep because even I, who had read Camus, could not fully understand it.

WARNING: There are uncovered boobies in this here preview. So you know it's not from the US.

It was unabashedly weird and did not bother to explain itself, and that was everything I wanted to be as a person back then. Hell, if I could have found a black sport coat that fit me well back then, I would have dressed as Dellamorte every day.

Well, hindsight is a bitch, and although I KNEW I wouldn’t love it nearly as much twenty years later, I popped it in the DVD player. And yeah, it didn’t age well. Apparently I was a lot more forgiving back then and willing to let a lot slide so long as I saw something different for a change; all things I won’t forgive after having worked in the film industry for so long. Don’t get me wrong, Rupert Everett does a damn fine job (and Anna Falchi’s rack is just damn fine), but all those strange occurrences I thought were so deep back then just seemed silly and incomprehensible to me as a middle-aged adult.

While researching this movie a few minutes ago, I read that it’s a metaphor for the battle against fascism, which is still WAY above my head if that’s the case. In retrospect, I identified with Dellamorte because he was out of step with the rest of the world and didn’t care. The unfairness of the universe was what cruelly kept him from being happy by killing his love interest not once, but three times (who was given no name other than “She” in the movie, FYI).

I guess I mentally edited out that he was the one who killed her the third time. Right before he went on a random shooting spree in town because… well, I don’t know why exactly. Maybe because the embodiment of Death appeared to him and said “Stop killing the dead. They’re mine. If you don’t want the dead coming back to life, why don’t you just kill the living?” Which, admittedly, was a cool scene. The problem is, stuff like that and the town square/ hospital massacre, which were so awesome and made sense to 19-year-old me don’t really feel right in the age of mass shootings. Same with a love interest so interchangeable she appears three times as three different characters but is only known as “She.”

So, unlike other of the odes I’ve done here, I wish I had let Cemetery Man remain a memory instead of revisiting it. Best keep on those rose-colored glasses, it seems. Otherwise you might not like what you see.

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MD Presley is a screenwriter, blogger and occasional novelist… which basically means he’s a layabout.  He has written two books on fantasy worldbuilding, and teaches worldbuilding techniques, tricks, and tips at Forging Fantasy Realms once a week on YouTube. 

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