Hello, my sweet gargoyles and ghouls. It’s your dearly demented friend, Manic Exorcism, asking you to join me on a lovely cemetery stroll where the departed, well, they just aren’t content to rest peacefully. So grab a shovel – or a boomstick, should you prefer – as we unearth the unconsecrated bowels of these crypts and look at this underrated gem – Cemetery Man. Or also known as Della Morte Dell Amore.
The Zombie Genre
Once upon a time zombie films were few to be found. Cemetery Man, much like its festering brothers and sisters of the genre, was a definite rarity. That might seem shocking to our modern audiences today – who have been nursed on The Walking Dead, Resident Evil games, and countless tons of independent flesh eating atrocities – but zombie movies used to be hard to find.
Crazy, I know, right? Today we have too many of them. It’s an over saturation really, as if we’re overrun by hordes of living-dead films. Each one shambling over one another and inseparable in their rotten likenesses. A drooling mess of celluloid brainless insatiable cravings, each of them clawing at us, demanding our numb attention and refusing to let us escape. A true epidemic and apocalypse. It is a wasteland of lost creativity.
Wow! Almost sounds like I hate zombie movies. I don’t, but admittedly I’m not a fan of the current state of them. They’re all too similar. Similar in tone, in style and even in their characters. Honestly I think that zombies were way scarier when they were rare.
The Cemetery Man
Cemetery Man came out during a golden age when film makers dared to take risks and tackled well-established tropes we were familiar with, but added some much-appreciated originality to a subject matter that otherwise would have been left rotting beneath the earth. There were some creative minds that brilliantly brushed away the layers of mold and breathed putrid life into those bones.
The problem I have with modern zombie incarnations is if you’ve seen one you’ve seen them all. Stop me if this sounds familiar: a band of miss-matched survivors must face the undead legions across a dystopian landscape. Throw in some romantic drama and BOOM you have your zombie flick. CG blood effects will complete the mendacity and your indie zombie movie will get lost in the stinking tide of an over-used gimmick. 28 Days Later was part of the zombie renaissance and it’s formula has been recycled to death with few contributions adding any freshness to the field. But hey, I guess we can praise Zombeavers for its uniqueness. At least it was different!
(That’s not to say I don’t have my modern favorites. Shaun of the Dead is to be praised. So is Planet Terror. However, both of those movies were clear throw backs to that golden age of risky film making I already mentioned.)
On the contrary, films like Creepshow, Braindead, Return of the Living Dead, Night of the Creeps (they’re zombies, right?) and of course today’s subject, Cemetery Man all offered audiences something new, fresh, and (believe it or not) entirely unseen before. Who can forget the mean old bastard who rises from his wormy grave still demanding his father’s day cake? Or who else got hot around the color as our pre-pubescent eyes watched Trash bare it all and dance in a grave yard? (We love you Linnea Quigley!) We also got to see (whether we wanted to or not) zombies have sex on a dining table and later give birth to a zombie baby who goes on to run amok across a playground. Holy shit! These movies were awesome!
They became instant cult classics and are still highly adored to this very day. There is no replacing them. Their fandom swells with every new generation and will never lose steam as more audiences are introduced to their ingenuity and creativity.
They weren’t about any catastrophic dystopian society. They were about everyday people having a really bad, bad day. And we genuinely felt a connection with the characters.
Aside from practical effects do you know what each of these beloved movies have in common? They don’t take themselves too seriously. They made horror fun. They’re fun but not stupid, I must stress that. They are serious movies with some hard-core punk flare. They made us squirm, squeal and scream for more! That’s something gravely lacking in the majority of today’s zomb-zomb endeavors. Their tones are too serious for their own good or they try to be funny and just mock it up. (I guess there was a time when talent was a thing.)
If you’re a fan of any of these aforementioned punk-rock flicks then I can assure you that Cemetery Man is one you’ll want to see. The plot centers around our hero who is tasked with killing the freshly buried who rise from their graves. That’s it. What makes this movie remarkable are the scenes and visuals. The filmmakers had a great eye and at moments it feels like grotesque art come to life.
Honestly this movie is more beautiful than any zombie movie has any right to be. It’s hypnotic and at times you won’t be able to look away. The project was purely a work of inspiration.
The movie is also subtly deceptive. Sure, on the surface you’ll think it’s about a guy who shoots the living dead in the head. But then the film begins to explore intense subjects such as love and all of its treachery and the mysteries of Death itself. It becomes a gradual existential odyssey between the living and the dead.
Our cemetery man is played by Rupert Everett, a surprising role for him but very well done! He is assisted by a mentally challenged fellah, Gnaghi (François Hadji-Lazaro), who is the perfect cross between Curly from the Three Stooges and Uncle Fester. Gnaghi is just too much fun. At one moment he crushes hard on the mayor’s daughter and throws up all over her as a sign of affection. There’s another great scene where he’s sitting down in front of the TV and happily eating some chocolate ice cream all the while his partner is busily fighting off a sudden invasion of the living dead. Gnaghi remains entirely oblivious the whole time.
Just like Return of the Living Dead this movie is damn cool. I mean what other movie will give you a zombie biker bursting out of his grave on his mother-fucking motorcycle? That and the Grim Reaper makes one Hell of an appearance that you won’t soon forget.
It’s been a while since I’ve seen this one and upon a re-watch, I now have a brand new favorite. I really hope that someday Arrow Video will give us a proper Blu-ray release of this sadly underrated cult classic.
This has been Manic Exorcism thanking you for joining me on another macabre journey into the heart of darkness. Be sure to keep checking in here at Nightmare Nostalgia for all those lovely chills and thrills. I’ll catch you all later, my lovelies. And next time you won’t get away so easily. Heheheh