Directed by: Michele Soavi (The Sect)
Starring: Rupert Everett, François Hadji-Lazaro, Anna Falchi, Mickey Knox, Clive Riche
Michele Soavi’s Cemetery Man (1994) is neither your standard zombie movie, nor is it your typical Italian horror movie. Though a protégé of Dario Argento, Soavi departs from his mentor by being capable of crafting a film that actually makes narrative sense. More, it’s a film that builds to an actual climax—and a climax that’s consistent with the rest of the film. In fact, it’s a climax that’s established at the very start of the movie. On its simplest level, Cemetery Man is a surprisingly intelligent, beautifully crafted horror-comedy, and it’s quite possible to just leave it there and be satisfied. However, it’s equally possible—and more rewarding—to peel away at the layers of the film to get to the questions of identity, bonding and the nature of fate underneath.
Rupert Everett (who never seems to list the film in his credits) stars as Francesco Dellamorte, the keeper of a cemetery in a small Italian town. He has only one friend, Gnaghi (French actor François Hadji-Lazaro—something of a cross between Tor Johnson and “Krimi” star Adi Berber), who functions as his assistant. The job itself is complicated by a peculiarity of the cemetery—namely that the dead (well, some of them) come back to life as your average flesh-eating zombies. This has become so old hat that Francesco is awfully laid-back about it all—barely pausing in a phone conversation to shoot one. Life—and death—goes on till Francesco meets the woman of his dreams (in three embodiments, no less). There’s more, including a busload of Cub Scout-esque zombies, Gnaghi and the mayor’s dead daughter, and a small version of Tod Browning’s The Unknown (1927) with a twist worked into the plot. Some of it is very funny. All of it is compelling and weirdly beautiful.
Cemetery Man, part of a series of Classic Cinema From Around the World, will be presented at 8 p.m. Friday, July 25, at Courtyard Gallery, 9 Walnut St. in downtown Asheville. Info: 273-3332.