Girl Meets Context: We’ve declared December Zombie Month in reaction to the Christmas season and its concomitant resurrecting god-figure. We start things off with Michele Soavi’s existential zombie-comedy. Francesco Dellamorte (Rupert Everett) is the watchmen at a country cemetery in which the corpses revive after about seven days, hungry for human flesh. Dellamorte has resigned himself to an endless cycle of moping and killing zombies alongside his mentally-challenged sidekick Gnaghi (François Hadji-Lazaro) until a mysterious grieving widow (Anna Falchi) captures his amorous attention. When the woman dies tragically, Dellamorte begins to experience strange visions that include manifestations of the Grim Reaper and a series of his dead paramour’s doppelgängers. Kristine and I sat down to discuss the film. If you haven’t seen Cemetery Man, our discussion will include massive SPOILERS.
Kristine: Anna Falchi’s nipples????
Sean: Dinner plates.
Kristine: I played the fucking-on-her-dead-husband’s-grave scene for my boyfriend and tried to get him to say her nipples were freaky and scary but he refused. Also, there is a thing called “Boobpedia.”
Sean: I mean, are they aberrations? Or is that par for the course?
Kristine: Umm… Her nips are bigger than the entire surface of my dining table.
Sean: Well, her and all the other women in this movie were gross and I hated them.
Kristine: I liked Valentina.
Sean: This movie is anti-woman, I’ve decided.
Kristine: Oh, for sure!!!
Sean: All the rape talk? Everyone’s solution to everything was rape. Every instance of small talk also revolved around rape.
Kristine: Claudio’s girlfriend was the worst, as far as the female characters.
Sean: Hahah! She made me laugh, though. “He’s only eating me. Mind your business. I shall be eaten by whomever I please.”
Kristine: That’s how I feel about Valentina. She was funny.
Sean: No, I laughed at her too. Her head skittering along the ground with that bridal veil trailing behind made me laugh. But her being like, “Go ahead and take advantage of me”?
Kristine: Oh, I know.
Sean: There is one element of this movie that, the minute it was introduced, made it impossible for me to like or even really enjoy the movie. It was an immediate dealbreaker. Can you guess what it was?
Kristine: No, tell me!
Sean: What element just made me be like, ‘Never. I can never like this”?
Kristine: Tell me immediately.
Sean: Um, Gnaghi the obese, mentally challenged person? The presence and inclusion of that character means I cannot like this movie. Like, eating with beef stew dribbling down his chin? Vomiting? Thrusting his fat jellied tits into the air? Crawling around like a dog?
Kristine: You are going to be so mad, and I really can’t defend myself, but… I kind of loved him. Like, all his scenes were my favorites.
Sean: Hahaaha! I am dying! Turnabout is fair play, Kristine.
Kristine: That being said, of course that character is totally wrong and offensive in all ways. But aren’t horror movies supposed to shock and offend?
Sean: During his disgusting eating scene, he was watching something called Warblob on tv. Just in case you didn’t notice.
Kristine: Seriously, I loved his gross eating and his creepy cave and just his weird existence. He dares us to deal with the fact that he exists. It is audacious. I loved his spaghetti-eating boob tube-watching scenes. He is like a (slight) exaggeration of all the tubby, socially-inept shut-ins there are in the world.
Sean: Omg, but why is depicting it “audacious”?
Kristine: It’s audacious because we are disgusted by it and don’t want to see it. It’s not secretly titillating, like sexy Nazi torture porn or something.
Sean: Do you have a grand theory as to why that Gnaghi character is even in the movie?
Kristine: I don’t have a grand theory, but I think he is the physical embodiment of the alienation and isolation that Dellamorte feels, right? I mean, Dellamorte is handsome and suave, but inside he feels like Gnaghi. They are two halves of a whole, which is why they change places at the end. That’s my theory, anyway.
Kristine: I loved how he put Valentina’s head in the TV, because that’s the vehicle through which he relates to the world, right?
Sean: I love that tv bit, also. Like Jambi from Pee-Wee’s Playhouse. And I love her head floating in the air eating her father’s neck.
Kristine: She was great once she was only a head.
Sean: I also liked her Snow White-esque glass coffin fairytale burial. I loved how she immediately jumped on Claudio’s motorcycle and was like “GO! GO! GO!”
Kristine: I loved the vomit scene, too, truthfully.
Sean: Well, just to put it out there: the only reason we watched Cemetery Man is because we’re ending zombie month with Shaun of the Dead, which references this movie quite a bit. It was, for me, purely educational. If not for the Shaun of the Dead connection, I probably wouldn’t have chosen for us to watch it.
Kristine: Oh, okay. Can I make a few comments?
Sean: Please! I am super-curious about what your thoughts are.
Kristine: Cemetery Man is a solid “okay” for me. It has some good parts, but overall it is not terribly compelling. The character design on the undead Claudio – how he is kind of merged with his motorcycle and has roots and bits of metal piping integrated into his body – reminded me a lot of the imagery in Demons.
Sean: The director of this movie, Michele Soavi, was in Demons as the man with the metal mask on his face (Trivia!).
Kristine: OMG! I did zero research (except on Falchi’s nipples) so that Demons observation was 100% instinct. How many horror movie points do I get? Are you bloated with pride?
Sean: You get…. 127 points. Sure, I’m proud.
Kristine: You better be.
Sean: Well, I did do some light research on the movie and I had no idea that Soavi was referencing this Magritte painting.
Kristine: Oh, great art history nod. Good work.
Sean: I had no idea. Did you catch the Magritte reference when you watched? Just wondering because I did not.
Kristine: I didn’t. It seems so obvious now that you pointed it out. Can I just say that Rupert Everett is shockingly beautiful in this, especially in his first scenes. I love how the movie takes every opportunity to show him shirtless: in the shower, making love, etc.
Sean: OMG the beefcake in this movie outweighed the cheesecake by a good margin.
Kristine: Also, Everett’s dry delivery (which has turned into wheezy bitchy queenliness as he has aged) is perfect for the movie. My fave Dellamorte line was “Distinctive physical features? All of them” about Gnaghi.
Sean: I was so over Dellamorte’s moony, goth-preppie voiceovers. This movie is Edward Scissorhands meets My So-Called Life meets Dead Alive.
Kristine: Ha! Good call.
Sean: Thank you.
Kristine: I thought it was weird they used a British actor but I guess this was a multi-national production? To increase global appeal? We have noticed this is other Italian flicks, no?
Kristine: I liked his voiceovers for most of the movie, but they grew wearisome by the end.
Kristine: Even though this is a zombie movie, the tone is way more The Evil Dead than Night of the Living Dead. Comic, gross-out, mischievious deadies. Do you agree? In fact, I think that Rupert Everett and Bruce Campbell share a lot of qualities. But you’re right, Everett is way moodier and glummer.
Sean: Agree 100%.
Kristine: Horror movie points? For making these astute observations?
Sean: 831 points. For that reason (the similarities to the Evil Dead franchise) I thought you might loathe Cemetery Man.
Kristine: What? I liked The Evil Dead!
Sean: Sure, but you loathed Evil Dead II, which was much more comic and, thus, more similar in tone to Cemetery Man. And you also didn’t like Dead Alive that much either, which also matches that specific splatter/comedy vibe.
Kristine: Did I really hate Evil Dead II? I don’t remember.
Sean: Um! Yes.
Kristine: I am checking the blog. Oh shit. You’re right. I was bored.
Sean: Yeah, you cold dissed it.
Kristine: Also, we have watched a lot of movies.
Sean: Yep. You are like, a sophomore at Horror High.
Kristine: What does that mean?
Sean: That means you’re no longer a frosh. But you’re also not yet a junior.
Sean: I was marvelling at your progress and you are icing me out.
Kristine: I think I am at least in AP classes.
Sean: Sure, AP sophomore. Except you’re in the Remedial Splatter class.
Kristine: Wrong. Not liking something is not the same as being ignorant about it.
Sean: Hmmm. I just mean, you aren’t an expert because I have only showed you the bare minimum due to your red-hot prejudice.
Kristine: Whatever you say.
Kristine: Anyway, I think Cemetery Man has some obvious social/political commentary about bureaucracy and government and insiders/outsiders and alienation from society but… I couldn’t be bothered to care. Really the good parts are Gnaghi’s in-your-face grossness, some of the funny parts with the zombies and Rupert Everett’s beauty and dryness (at the beginning. Like I said, it wears thin by the end). I didn’t get the part with his friend Franco, the bureaucrat. I was like, ‘Why is this in the movie?’ My best guess is that Franco was yet another side of Dellamorte? Another alter ego? Or maybe there was homo-love between the two? I wasn’t sure, and, again, the movie didn’t do enough to make me care.
Sean: Right. I definitely agree that the movie is articulating some kind of critique of bureaucracy with the Franco character (Is it a coincidence that he shares a name with Spain’s long-ruling fascist dictator?) and his office of chaotic paperwork and inane forms and stuff.
Sean: But I did not get why he decided to take credit for Dellamorte’s killings and then attempts suicide and all of that. I also did not get all the impotence stuff and didn’t understand why it was in the movie.
Kristine: Me, neither.
Sean: I think the movie itself handles the impotence subplot very poorly, because we’ve seen Dellamorte have this ridic sex scene early in the movie, but then a few scenes later, he’s like, “Yeah, you can say it: I’m impotent” and you can’t help but just be like, “Whaaaaa?” It’s like that famous “Is this because I’m a lesbian?” out-of-left-field bullshit with Serena Southerlyn on Law & Order. It was so weird.
Kristine: It was confusing, but not interesting.
Sean: I literally think Soavi just wanted to shoot a scene where Dellamorte got a huge syringe stabbed into his dick.
Kristine: I did like that scene. That felt very Dead Alive to me.
Sean: Totally. So, despite overall not liking this movie very much, there is some stuff that I admire. Can I say what I liked?
Sean: I really, really liked the comic booky vegetative design of the zombies, how they were melding in with the roots of the trees that grew all over the cemetery. I thought that was awesome.
Kristine: I agree.
Sean: I loved Miss Chiaromundo, the old lady who visited the cemetery. And the only moment in the movie where I felt any emotion at all was when she shows Dellamorte the two pictures (one of herself as a beautiful, young woman and the other of herself now, as an old lady) and asks which she should put on her grave. That was the only moment where I feel like the movie has any actual emotional content.
Kristine: I like that, too. Can I ask a quick question about Chiaromundo?
Kristine: I didn’t think of this while watching the movie, but tonight I was wondering if she was supposed to be yet another incarnation of Falchi’s “She”? Which would be dumb. I was trying to remember what she looked like in the “young” pic.
Sean: It was not Falchi in the “young” photo. Thank god. I hate Falchi.
Sean: I think she’s the boringest Italian boring. Hate her so much.
Kristine: And she has fake tits. I know, thanks to Boobpedia.
Sean: Stupid lame and terrible.
Kristine: I hated how she was like, “I don’t want to…this place is MAKING me.” And then all the hands of the skeletons in the ossuary rip her clothes off of her. Actually, that moment reminded me of the tree rape in The Evil Dead.
Sean: I thought the ossuary bones ripping her clothes off of her was hilarious. But it was such a silly moment, not dire and invasive like the tree rape. I also love the scene where Dellamorte’s burning trash and ashes start spinning up and form into the Grim Reaper. I thought that was one of the only truly inventive and stylistically bold moments.
Kristine: I like the Grim Reaper, too. I liked the earlier scene when he tells Dellamorte to “kill the living.” I thought that was a good sequence, and one where you start to think, oh, Dellamorte is actually just mentally ill. Right?
Sean: Yes. Totally. I also love the gore setpiece of the bus crash, where Claudio and Valentina die, and the visual of all those lines of coffins being carried into the cemetery.
Kristine: That cemetery was gorgeous.
Sean: It was. But that’s all I liked. My list is concluded. This movie was a bit too Tim Burton for me.
Kristine: Ha!! Good call on the Burton. But Burton has more humanity.
Sean: I don’t see that, but okay.
Kristine: Maybe I am dumb, but I had never heard of an ossuary and it is disgusting.
Sean: “Now am I infected too?” = AIDS.
Kristine: Oh, total AIDS. And Claudio’s girlfriend was a bug chaser or whatever-you-call-it.
Sean: Also, all the dead Boy Scouts literally storming naked Dellamorte in the shower, after his body, was ridiculous gay buttsex.
Kristine: Ha! I know! That was a pretty fun scene though.
Sean: It was. The zombie mayhem moments in this movie are cool. Kristine, I have an important question to ask you: “What’s better than watching two lovers making love?”
Kristine: Gross. I get that one of the tropes of zombie movies is showing the zombies wearing the clothing that shows their former role in society (Boy Scout, nun, etc.) and this is supposed to add to the horror or comedy, depending. But, umm, the plotline of this movie says that these zombies are dead people who were buried and then rose from their graves. So they wouldn’t be wearing their everyday clothes. They would all be in suits or whatever. It’s not important and I am being a nitpicker, but I had to say it.
Sean: Hahahaah! That’s right, of course.
Kristine: Thank you!
Sean: A lot of the imagery in this movie feels like a ridiculous European perfume ad or something – Falchi dropping flowers at her own feet, a tear running down her face, Falchi and Dellamorte kissing in silhouette against the full moon, the raven landing on an angel statue’s wing, etc. Eyeroll.
Kristine: Yeah, for sure. At first I was willing to go with it because I thought it was high camp and it would pay off. But it didn’t. This movie is confused. Confused in tone. Confused in theme. Confused in plot. It’s just, overall, a bit of a mess.
Sean: The only other thing I have to say is to bring up all the rape stuff again.
Kristine: It is worth bringing up again. It is beyond the pale.
Sean: When Falchi’s second incarnation is like “The Mayor raped me. I liked it. Not the violence, no. But after that, we did it again. Nicely. So that I’d forgive him and it was wonderful. This means I’m cured. I don’t have a phobia anymore. I can’t marry you now. I’m going to marry him.”
Sean: I mean, it feels a bit too easy to get mad at a sleazy Italian zombie movie for being misogynistic… But still, dear God. I mean, “Death, Death, Death, the whore”?
Kristine: And according to the movie, this gives Dellamorte permission to kill her when he meets her again as the college student, right?
Sean: Yes! And I think we’re supposed to be cheering him on when he burns her alive, no?
Sean: Like, ‘Yeah, she deserves it, that prostitute.’
Kristine: I don’t know about that…
Sean: Oh, I think so. How Dellamorte declares his love to her friend and her friend is like, “Um, that’ll be extra.” I think the movie expects its viewer to be like, ‘These bitches…’
Kristine: It was something. Something not cute. Though I was pretty emotionally disengaged by that point.
Sean: Despite my distaste for most of this movie I will say that I like the weirdo ending.
Kristine: Yes, agreed.
Sean: The road coming to an end at a cliff above the void. Also, that was an Evil Dead reference. Did you catch that?
Kristine: No, I did not… :(
Sean: When Ash tries to leave the cabin in Evil Dead II, the bridge over the chasm has been torn away and he screams into the void, literally. I am subtracting 700 horror movie points from you.
Kristine: Do you think Gnaghi and Dellamorte are one?
Sean: I am not sure about the Gnaghi/Dellamorte dichotomoy. Part of me wondered if the idea was, now Gnaghi is a zombie in that last scene? And so, he’s articulate?
Kristine: Oh, huh. Maybe so…
Sean: I mean, I honestly don’t know and find it hard to care. But I like that we are back “in the snow globe” there. I like that the movie gets all weird and existential in those final moments.
Kristine: I like that, as well.
Sean: I guess if I had to venture a guess, I’d say the reversal between the two of them in that last scene is about language vs. guttural noise. Dellamorte’s been this articulate narrator the whole movie, and then the massiveness of the void reduces him to a state beyond language, to the guttural. It has the opposite affect on Gnaghi. In a place of nonsense and immense nothingness, the idiot is the philosopher king. Or something…
Kristine: What did you think of the relationship between Gnaghi and Valentina?
Sean: It was disgustingly rapacious. Though Valentina treating him/talking about him like he is an object complicated it. But she’s still a bridal head in a box that kisses him because ‘she dare not resist.’ I loved her spitting green slime from her mouth and him dabbing it up. I mean, if it’s supposed to be a lampooning of heterodesire, then I’m all for it, but…
Kristine: Yes! That was cute. But it is disgusting that the movie thinks of her as a likeable character only when she is beheaded and accepting of Gnaghi since now, as she says to Mayor Daddy, “I’m not a prize, either.” Like she was taken down a few million pegs, so now she can be likeable and not a snotty bitch.
Sean: I know…. Before when she wanted to go speeding around on Claudio’s motorcycle, she was a cunt. But now, she’s content to be a Barbie Fashion Head- how cute!
Kristine: You know, I really just kind of dismissed this movie as inconsequential and silly with some offensive parts and a couple of good moments, but discussing it with you is making me really start to dislike it. You mentioned it is heavily alluded to in Shaun of the Dead, so I am wondering… Is this movie iconic to the genre in some circles?
Sean: It’s considered a minor classic. I mean, I want to discuss this at greater length when we get to Shaun of the Dead, a movie I genuinely love and think is a bit subversive.
Kristine: Why is Cemetery Man beloved?
Sean: I mean, go onto Letterboxd and read all the fanboy reviews of this movie. They’re like “tits and gore and surreal and funny and SUCH A DEEP MEDITATION ON DEATH.” That’s what they say.
Kristine: Do any of them mention Falchi’s monster nipples?
Sean: A lot of them mention tits, but I don’t think nips specifically.
Kristine: So, the reviews are all: “Such a deep meditation of death…plus killer tits” ???
Sean: Yes. That’s what a lot of them are.
Sean: I’m wondering how highly or lowly you rank “zombie movies” on your list of preferences…
Kristine: I don’t know. Let’s see, what zombie movies do I know?
Kristine: Loved them all.
Sean: Dawn of the Dead.
Kristine: Oh, right. Yes. I also watched the first season of The Walking Dead.
Kristine: Yes, yes, yes. A lot, geez.
Sean: That’s it, I think.
Kristine: More than I thought.
Sean: So, where do zombie movies fall for you?
Kristine: I mean, a lot of those movies I like. But I still have reservations about zombies because one of their main traits is that they have no motivation except to feed and they have no personalities. Which is a little boring. In fact, I’m amazed that a lot of those movies managed to make the zombie thing fresh, since it all pretty much boils down to the same plot – they want to feed and they are growing in number. So the zombie movie is usually really “about” the humans trying to survive and their interpersonal relationships with one another and how they cope with the stress of the new reality. Which is fine, but how many times can you do it? So, despite the evidence (I have liked almost all the zombie stuff we have watched), I am still going to rank zombies as mid-to-midlow on my list of horror movie subgenre preferences. Fair enough? Thoughts? Where do you rank zombies?
Sean: I mean, my favorite horror movie and the movie that Changed and Shaped My Brain for All Time is a zombie movie: The Return of the Living Dead.
Sean: So, they rank pretty high for me. Also, I love almost all the ones we’ve watched a lot. Re-Animator and Night of the Living Dead especially. But the zombie has become such a mainstream fad that its easy for me to feel wearied by them.
Kristine: Well, one of the issues is that while a few of those zombie films have had scenes or images that scarred me, none of them really impacted me and terrified me. They don’t haunt me. It seems like the movies that really stick with me in a horrifying way deal with the evil of man, like Wolf Creek and Wake in Fright.
Sean: Right… See from about age 11 to, say, 19 I would have zombie dreams all the time where they were chasing me down and tearing my body apart.
Kristine: I don’t actually fear zombies, although maybe I should… Remember a year or two years ago when they were those horrific incidences when people high on like, bath salts or whatever were eating people’s faces off???
Sean: Yes! The horde of zombies closing in on me is a big primal fear of mine. I’d rather battle Mick from Wolf Creek in a dark alley than face a horde of zombies any day of the week.
Kristine: Oh, I’d take the zombies over Mick. Are you kidding??? See, since I didn’t watch horror movies as a child, I didn’t have those experiences. But I am sure they would have totally had me paralyzed. I mean, the feeding scene in The Dark Crystal kept me up many a night when I was a tot. And don’t even get me started on the fight scene in Watership Down. Nightmare city. I still give bunnies the side eye.
Sean: Hahahaha! Nightmare City is the name of a famous Italian zombie movie. Just fyi.
Kristine: Is it really? Funny. How many horror movie points do I get?
Sean: You get 61 points for the coincidence. Also, Watership Down scarred me as a child as well. That bleak, apocalyptic ending?
Kristine: Oh God. Horrible.
Sean: It sort of blew my mind open.
Kristine: Yeah. Agreed.
The Girl’s Rating: This is a horror classic because…why, exactly? AND This movie either has too many ideas or not enough – I don’t know which and I am too depressed to figure it out AND Total trash! I’m not sure I loved it
The Freak’s Rating: This is a horror classic because…why, exactly? AND This movie either has too many ideas or not enough – I don’t know which and I am too depressed to figure it out AND Total trash! I’m not sure I loved it