Dellamorte Dellamore (1994)

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Dellamorte Dellamore (AKA The Cemetery Man) would be Michele Soavi’s final cinematic horror movie (unfortunately, after Dellamorte Dellamore, Michele Soavi’s career would mainly consist of crime thrillers and made for TV movies). After looking back at Soavi’s work in the horror genre from the late 1980’s to the early 1990’s, I feel that he was very misguided when he decided to move away from what he called “pizza schlock”. He may have created serious horror films, namely The Church and The Sect, but both of these films very underwhelming horror movies that wasted Soavi’s talents. In my opinion, Soavi was very good at creating “pizza schlock” films with a focus on comedy and satire. His directorial debut, Stage Fright, was a “pizza schlock” film that mixed the American slasher genre with comedic elements and nonsensical storytelling, and in my opinion, Stage Fright was a very enjoyable movie. It was dumb, but very entertaining. Dellamorte Dellamore demonstrates the same idea: it takes a horror genre – zombie movies this time – and Michele Soavi adds a lot of comedic elements and nonsensical storytelling to create an incredibly memorable cinematic experience. Today, Dellamorte Dellamore has became a cult classic that was loved by both critics and horror fanatics, and it’s said to be Michele Soavi’s greatest film.

Dellamorte Dellamore has a deceptively simple premise: Francesco Dellamorte and his ‘Igor’ like assistant Gnaghi are caretakers for a local cemetery, a cemetery where the dead begin to rise within seven days of being deceased. Like I stated, it’s a simple premise, one that would most likely create a safe, simple, predictable zombie movie. However, the story of Dellamorte Dellamore is far from safe, simple or predictable. Throughout the first part of the movie, I thought Dellamorte Dellamore was going to have a paper thin plot as everything was set up for the film to be a simple zombie story with a romance sub-plot similar to Peter Jackson’s Braindead, but whilst I kept watching, I realized that the film didn’t really have a plot at all. The film just jumped from sub-plot to sub-plot all the while incorporating a lot of plot elements that made little to no sense. However, despite this, it felt like Dellamorte Dellamore was a film that didn’t intend to make any logical sense, it intended to be an entertainingly dumb and enjoyably silly flick with copious amounts of sex and violence. The ‘plot’ of the film simply consisted of morbid joke after morbid joke, with ludicrous amounts of slapstick comedy and strangely poetic monologues thrown in between for good measure. There was no subtlety, no bigger picture, no emotional impact, and, like riding a roller-coaster, I found myself sitting back and enjoying the ridiculously silly nature of it all.

It’s very evident that Michele Soavi learnt a lot from Terry Gilliam during the production of The Adventures Of Baron Munchausen, as Dellamorte Dellamore, like a Monty Python film, defies all real world logic, and instead, it decides to forge it’s own rules of cinema, before proceeding to coherently stick to those rules. Thus, even though the story of Dellamorte Dellamore is built out of illogical sub plots, it’s quite a coherent comedy film, one which is centered around enjoyably empathetic characters, hilarious sequences and a witty sensibility (indicative of British comedy) instead of being centered around a straight forward story with a focus on imagery over character (indicative of Italian horror). There’s no hiding the fact that, on the surface, Dellamorte Dellamore is a dumb, insane movie, one that revels in its own goofy silliness. However, underneath that goofy silliness is a clever, witty, and incredibly entertaining comedic sensibility.

What makes Dellamorte Dellamore so brilliant, however, is the film’s enjoyable characters, characters that are very well written and very enjoyable to watch. Despite the story being absolutely ludicrous, the focus of the film was clearly on character based storytelling, most notably the characters of Francesco Dellamorte and his assistant Gnaghi. These two main characters are very clever caricatures of classic horror archetypes: Francesco Dellamorte is witty cynic who’s tired of re-killing the dead , and Gnaghi is an innocent, child-like soul whose only wishes are to be in love and to be happy. Both of these characters have their own entertaining story arc that evolves throughout the film. As the film continues, they begin to change and develop after each crazy scene of love and carnage as Francesco begins to sink more and more into a violent insanity, eventually becoming a frenzied angel of death, and Gnaghi grows more and more confident with himself, learning to love and express himself. In the end, thanks to a cleverly meta climax, the characters come full circle, showing what they’ve eventually become over the events of the film, showing that they’ve grown as people, and that they’re no longer in the same equilibrium as they were at the start of the film. This is something that’s very rarely witnessed in horror movies, especially Italian horror movies.

To support the fantastic characters, Dellamorte Dellamore showcases fantastic performances from a cast of talented individuals. Each actor gives an enjoyably energetic and suitably absurd performance as one of the many strange individuals who inhabit the strange town of Buffalora: from Anna Falchi, who portrays Dellamorte’s permanent love interest, to Mickey Knox’s deluded detective, to Francois Hadji-Lazaro’s bizarrely entertaining performance as the lovable Gnaghi. However, there’s no denying that Rupert Everett is the film’s main star, and he is simply amazing to watch. He carries with him a thespian sensibility and a deadpan attitude that perfectly suits the character of Francesco Dellamorte, so much so that it’s impossible to imagine an actor who could have suited the character better than Rupert Everett. His undeniable charm and charisma makes Francesco Dellamorte an undeniably memorable character that is so identifiable, so relatable, yet so hilariously funny.

Production-wise, I was pleasantly surprised by Dellamorte Dellamore, as the film was more artistically daring than the average zombie. Dellamorte Dellamore is an incredibly visual experience as the film contains an abundance of blunt symbolism, grandiose sets and abstract Gothic imagery. The film’s cinematography is stunning, supported by a great understanding of cinematic framing and fantastically colourful lighting. For a film with such amazingly outlandish content, the film’s visual production is remarkably beautiful. It juxtaposes the film’s crazy sequences, creating a unique visual flair that bolsters the film’s unique style. All in all, Dellamorte Dellamore is a film more visually pleasing than it has any right to be.

If I were to describe Dellamorte Dellamore in a few words, I would say the film is goofy, gory fun. It’s a film that tears apart the conventions of cinema, and instead it showcases it’s own particular brand of nonsensical sensibility that’s simply a joy to watch. The film does a have a couple flaws, the film’s manic storytelling is a flaw in of itself and the main theme rips off Ozzy Osbourne’s ‘Hellraiser’, but its strengths more than make up for the film’s short-comings. In conclusion, Dellamorte Dellamore isn’t perfect, but it’s a film that definitely left an impact on me, and I can honestly say I thoroughly enjoyed my experience watching Dellamorte Dellamore. It’s a film for those who don’t take cinema seriously, an enjoyable flick to watch on a Friday night, and a film that I thoroughly recommend to those who love their horror with a lot of clever laughs.

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