Uncovering Curiosities: Michele Soavi’s DELLAMORTE DELLAMORE (CEMETARY MAN)
Long before he was invited to My Best Friend’s Wedding, Rupert Everett was killing the walking dead in Dellamorte Dellamore or The Cemetery Man. This 1994 film is an interesting curio, and there’s much to recommend in director Michele Soavi’s comedy-horror.
Everett plays Francesco Dellamorte, an apparently impotent cemetery caretaker charged with killing the dead when they come alive. Dellamorte has only one companion, Gnaghi (François Hadji-Lazaro) an assistant who causes Dellamorte more trouble than he is worth.
Dellamorte falls in love with a young widow (Anna Falchi), his first and only true love, but her husband returns from the dead and attacks her, biting her on the neck. She dies, and like the other inhabitants of the cemetery, she rises only to be shot by Dellamorte. When she rises for a second time, the Cemetery Man believes that he was actually the one who killed her. This slowly begins to drive him mad, sending him into a tailspin which has catastrophic consequences for those in the village.
Dellamorte Dellamore is a visually stunning film, which manages to employ some inventive camera work and an interesting score, which makes it a cut above its schlocky counterparts. Everett delivers a performance that manages to balance comedy with the totally absurd, coming across as likeable and as a viable romantic lead (I know, who knew?) The practical special effects within the film are also of a high standard, the highlight being a representation of “Death” which could put the effects of films with ten times the budget to shame. It’s not all perfect, the tone of the film takes quite a radical turn in its latter stages, becoming more sinister as Dellamorte descends into madness. This shift is quite jarring and it’s as if Soavi lost a grip on the type of film that he wanted to make.
Soavi’s film is a cinematic soul mate to Peter Jackson’s The Frighteners, another film which manages to mix horror and comedy, featuring a protagonist who has been shunned by the local community. Like Jackson’s film, Dellamorte Dellamore was ignored on its initial release, only to be discovered on video and DVD. This film is probably less palatable to a mainstream audience, but it’s no less enjoyable.