August 28, 2004

DVD Review: Dellamorte, Dellamore

Dellamorte, Dellamore was released on VHS way back in 1996 under the title Cemetery Man. That was how I first knew it. I was introduced to it while working at a video store in 1998. While looking for a horror flick to watch, this caught my eye. The box looked promising, so I gave it a shot, and am I glad I did. It is without a doubt one of the best zombie films ever made. Since I started collecting DVD's I've been keeping my eye out for this, but, sadly, it does not appear to be in the cards. I have heard rumors that, I believe, 20th Century Fox are considering it for release. Nothing has been concrete, so I did some research and decided to pick up the R2 Italian release from, I just couldn't wait any longer. I guess that's enough for my history on the movie, let's get to it, shall we?

Zombie horror meets arthouse. That's a fitting way to describe this truly bizarre rumination on the nature of love and death. The film plays by it's own rules, it is quite clear that this film does not take place in the same world that we live in. Black comedy married with gore, with a dash of the surreal, sprinkled with the profound. I'm sure there is much more to this film which is on the surface, but I haven't peeled away all the layers yet as what is on the surface is so much fun.

On the surface we have a tale of a groundskeeper and his assistant who tend to the Buffalora cemetery. The biggest part of their job entails re-interring the dead after they have risen from the grave. Like all other aspects of their lives, this is taken in stride as just another task. That is until our hero, Francesco Dellamorte, meets an alluring young woman who visits the cemetary to bury her deceased husband. This leads to an affair between the two, on the deceased husbands grave! As was expected the dead husband arises at an inopportune moment rises and bites his wife, in the process scaring her to death, or does he? Dellamorte keeps vigil over her, as other zombified events take place. I dare not reveal the her fate, but it leads into the third act which preys on Dellamorte's sanity.

There are other colorful characters in the film, with the most important being Gnaghi. He is a mentally challenged man who works as Francesco's assistant. A kind soul who lacks the ability to express himself verbally, but is always there for his friend, and the disembodied head with which he is infatuated. He is a great character who portrays the goodness that is in Dellamorte's life, a sweet innocence. You want to feel sorry for him, but he is clearly satisfied with his life, that you can't help but smile.

Francesco Dellamorte (translated Francis of the Dead) is the centerpiece and is portrayed by Rupert Everett. Early on, he is a droll, matter of fact type person with a dry humor, which fits his dark persona. A reclusive man whose only friend, outside of Gnaghi, is Franco who works in one of the offices in town. As the movie progresses, he struggles with his love for th e nameless woman and his need to deliver final death to the returning residents of his cemetery. This struggle drives him to the point where he starts killing the living in order to alleviate his cemetary work. Until the breaking point where he chooses to leave this life behind.

It is a strange film, creates a surreal atmosphere which draws you in, even if you can't quite figure out all of the motivations. Equal parts Tim Burton, Dario Argento, George Romero, and Sam Raimi, influences range far and wide. Directed Michele Soavi, protege to Italian giallo maestro Dario Argento, he definitely brings some similar style elements as his teacher, but has a unique eye of his own. Interesting use of angles and pacing. Easily the best movie of his that I have seen.

Video. The video is excellent. Presented in it's OAR, 1.85:1 and anamorphically enhanced. From what I have read, this is the finest version of the disk available.

Audio. Presented in it's original language, English in Dolby Digital 2.0 surround, as well as dubbed in Italian. The track is good, but I found it to be a bit low and had to turn up my volume a little more than I usually have to. There are English and Italian subtitles.

Extras. Sadly, the extras that are here, are in Italian only, with no English subtitles.
-Making of featurette. The clip runs about 18 minutes and features interviews and behind the scenes footage. It is interesting to watch, but I couldn't understand any of it.
-Commentary with director Michele Soavi and screenwriter Gianni Romoli. In Italian with available Italian subtitles. I didn't bother, but I can imagine it being an interesting listen.

Bottomline. The movie may not be to everyone's tastes, but it rises above most others in the genre. It's attempt at deeper meaning on the natures of love and death is admirable, if a little murky at times. Definitely worth multiple viewings to peel away the layers of meaning surrounded by a beautiful looking movie. The VHS can be found, but if you are region free, the Medusa DVD is the way to go, especially if you understand Italian for the extras.

Highly Recommended.


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