Cemetery Man

Usually, comedy and horror are mutually exclusive; it's hard to stay scared while giggling. The difficulty of that combination may explain the nearly worldwide flop of 1994's Cemetery Man, an uncharacteristically funny zombie movie from Dario Argento apprentice Michele Soavi. The film (originally titled Dellamorte Dellamore) found an audience in Soavi's native Italy, but floundered everywhere else, rejected as too funny, too bloody, or both. But it's enjoyed a lively underground following in America, with good reason; few films have tried so enthusiastically to fuse horror and humor, while still saying something about life.

Rupert Everett stars as a jaded cemetery caretaker whose charges are clumsily rising from their graves. Rather than alerting the locals and risking the loss of his job and his graveyard home, Everett wearily dispatches the zombies with a bullet (or a shovel, or any handy, heavy implement) to the head. But the isolation forced on him by his grisly duties (zombie-related and otherwise) has made him a morbid specter, prone to snarled comments like "I'd give my life to be dead." Everett briefly hopes for salvation (or at least carnal distraction) via gorgeous widow Anna Falchi, whose morbidity rivals his own, but she falls victim to the decay claiming everything around him. Then she returns­—many times, in many forms, lending credence to the idea that it's all in his increasingly feverish, death-obsessed mind.

In a half-hour featurette on Anchor Bay's DVD, Soavi cites Terry Gilliam as one of his influences, but in this case, Sam Raimi seems more of a touchstone. Soavi sticks to the sex-and-gore-soaked extremism of the giallos he cut his teeth on, but his herky-jerky editing and lunging, spinning camera are most reminiscent of the Evil Dead movies, and the humor comes from the same dark, caustic place, albeit with a romantically sophisticated European twist. As bloody, silly, and grotesque as Cemetery Man is, at heart it's a touching story about a man going crazy over the fear that human relationships are meaningless in a world where everyone eventually dies.

Key features: Horror trailers and the Soavi featurette.

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