Saturday, September 20, 2008


Better known stateside under the less poetic title CEMETERY MAN, Michele Soavi's 1994 release DELLAMORTE DELLAMORE not only stands as one of the best horror films of the 1990's (zombie or otherwise), but marks the end of the classic Italian zombie-film era. It's a fitting end note, a meditation of life and death, of unrequited love--the title itself translates to OF DEATH, OF LOVE--that works as both an entertaining zombie film and an expression of artistic beauty.

Rupert Everett, a few years before becoming known as Madonna's trophy gay buddy, stars as Francesco Dellamorte, a most unusual type of cemetery caretaker. Accompanied by his grunting, Curly Howard-lookalike sidekick Gnaghi, Dellamorte's duties include dispatching Returners, the flesh-hungry zombies that arise seven days after burial. Yet despite the frequent appearances of the living dead, Dellamorte's job is still a grind, a routine so all-consuming that, much like Dante and Randall in CLERKS, he finds his life passing him by. But things change when he meets a beautiful young widow (the stunning Anna Falchi).

Soavi mentored under Dario Argento, and as an actor worked with Lucio Fulci; their influence is unmistakable in DELLAMORTE DELLAMORE, as are those of Orson Welles and Alfred Hitchcock (there are glaring homages to CITIZEN KANE and VERTIGO, and the ending recalls the reality-bending denouement of THE BEYOND). Although it works well enough as a zombie movie, with plentiful helpings of gore and a healthy sense of gallows humor, Soavi's stylistic and thematic underpinnings elevate the film beyond a Peter Jackson-esque splat-stick.

Many of you have noticed I'm relatively quiet when it comes to good or classic films, and usually it's because those movies (say, THE EVIL DEAD or DAWN OF THE DEAD) are so well-known that a detailed analysis would most likely be redundant. I'm also hesitant to extol a movie to much, lest the movie get lost under a sea of hyperbole, and I'd rather just tell you, See this movie, it's really good and you'll like it. That probably makes me a poor film reviewer, but so be it.

I'm taking the same approach to DELLAMORTE DELLAMORE. Take a look if you haven't, and be sure to pay careful attention to that just below the surface. It's a beautiful, rewarding experience you won't regret.

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