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Film / Cemetery Man

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"The living dead and the dying living are all the same. Cut from the same cloth. But disposing of dead people is a public service, whereas you're in all sorts of trouble if you kill someone while they're still alive."

"This is my business. They pay me for it."

Francesco Dellamorte (Rupert Everett) works as the caretaker of the local cemetery in the small Italian town of Buffalora. He's aided in his work by Gnaghi (François Hadji-Lazaro), a mentally disabled man only capable of saying "gna". (Like "nya" but not Brooklynish.) He spends most of his days reading old phone books ("Just because we've got the new ones doesn't mean to say we have to throw the old ones away. These books are classics!"), constructing a model of a skull, talking with his friend Franco over the phone, and seeking love.

Oh, he also kills the zombies that awaken every night with his revolver.

He calls them "Returners", and he has no clue why they are rising. He just knows through observation that it takes about seven days for a buried corpse to revive, climb out, and attack living humans. The worst part of the situation? He's not getting paid extra for this, and the mayor and the other citizens don't believe him. Even Franco just kind of humors him.

Things become a little more personal for Francesco when he gets tangled in an affair with a widow (Anna Falchi) who's recently buried her husband. He manages to seduce her in the graveyard one night. After this point in the film, events become increasingly weirder and surreal.

A 1994 movie, directed by Michele Soavi and also known as Dellamorte Dellamore in Italy (and released under that same title in France), and as Mi novia es un Zombie in Spain. One of the few movies that mixes comedy, romance, zombie hunting, and existentialism, and mixes them well.

Cemetery Man provides examples of:

  • Alliterative Name: Played with. Francesco's surname is officially not Dellamorte Dellamore as he does not include the surname of his mother in his name. However he is still the son of the father called Dellamorte and the mother called Dellamore.
  • Alliterative Title: Dellamorte Dellamore of course. It is all lost in the English title Cemetary Man.
  • Anti-Hero: Francesco when he kills people, including some of them in his dream for whom he may or may not bear responsibility. Though they die for real thus providing him with the new clients. He does not cross into the straight villain territory due to the Protagonist-Centered Morality.
  • Anti-Villain: At first Francesco, who is very casual about offing zombies but has to kill them of course. Then at some point he starts killing living people, turning into the Anti-Hero. This does not make him a straight villain in this movie because its morals are too centered on him.
  • Anyone Can Die: Zigzagged. People die very quickly, some of them out of nowhere, but it is a film about the cemetery and the death and all the characters apart from Francesco and Gnaghi are of no great importance. While Francesco and Gnaghi always survive. However in the end Gnaghi in fact dies. Still then in the very end Gnaghi is revived.
  • Attractive Zombie:
    • She the first time she comes after Francesco kills her is the one. She just has some strange branch-like structures on her head. Later Lei/She never returns as a zombie but rather appears as a human being who pretends not to know Francesco.
    • The mayor's daughter (and her head) is this trope. To an extent.
  • Beta Couple: Gnaghi and mayor's daughter's head. The latter in her current state cannot be picky, of course.
  • Black Comedy: This movie mixes it with the zombie horror, but Black Comedy is prevalent.
  • Boy Meets Girl: When Francesco meets the widow.
  • Brick Joke: "Mmm. Who knows if the rest of the world even exists?"
  • Bus Full of Innocents: A bus full of Boy Scouts crashing. They all come back as zombie Boy Scouts.
  • Cat Scare: For Francesco once when he is walking by the cemetery. It is a red cat. He lampshades the trope, saying to Gnaghi that it was only a cat.
  • Can't Get in Trouble for Nuthin': As Francesco begins to kill innocent people, the investigator keeps ruling him out as a suspect, even when it's clear as day that he's the murderer.
  • City in a Bottle: The town of Buffalora appears to be the one.
  • Deadpan Snarker: Hoo boy, Francesco.
    Francesco: My name is Francesco Dellamorte. Weird name, isn't it? Francis of Death. Saint Francis of Death. I often thought of having it changed. André Dellamorte would be nicer, for example.
  • Department of Redundancy Department: "I would give my life to be dead."
  • Dissonant Serenity: No-one is concerned at all when Gnaghi vomits on the mayor's daughter. That includes the mayor himself as well as her boyfriend. The latter asks her for a ride on the bike on which she presses herself to him. She is vomited on from the front so she should have smear his back with Gnaghi's vomit big time. No-one seems to care.
  • Driven to Suicide: Implied to be the case at the very end, when Francesco places only two bullets in his revolver's chamber, suggesting he was about to kill himself and then Gnaghi. It's averted when Gnaghi returns to life and throws the gun off the ledge, though.
  • Expy: Francesco is an Italian expy of Dylan Dog, and actually appears, with Gnaghi, in several issues of the comic. Dylan Dog is a visual expy of Rupert Everett, who plays Francesco in Cemetery Man. Like Dylan, Francesco drives around on a white Volkswagen Beetle, uses his same type of gun and the skull he's piecing together is a nod to the model galleon Dylan is usually seen working on.
  • Fleeting Passionate Hobbies: Gnaghi is initially very fond of the fallen leaves and is very upset when the wind starts to blow, carrying some of them away so that he cannot collect them. Later it is dropped and does not lead anywhere.
  • Foreshadowing: Francesco says casually that sometimes he believes that Buffalora must be the only city in the universe and the rest of the world might not exist. In the end it appears to be the case.
  • "Freaky Friday" Flip: It appears to happen to Francesco and Gnaghi in the ending when Gnaghi addresses Francesco coherently and the latter only answers "Gna".
  • Gainax Ending: The world outside Buffalora appears not to exist at all. Also Francesco and Gnaghi appear to exchange their respective manners of speech.
  • Gonk: Gnaghi, of course. Francesco says that his physical description should read: "Distinguishing marks: all."
  • Happily Married: Lei in her first reincarnation says her life with her now-deceased husband was that trope. Even though he was much older than she.
  • Hidden Depths: Gnaghi might not be as dim-witted as he appears. For instance, he manages to reconstruct the skull despite Francesco claiming it's impossible to do so. He's also apparently a decent violinist.
  • Identical Stranger: Not a stranger but Franco's appearance is quite similar to that of Francesco.
  • Incredibly Lame Fun: Dellamorte enjoys reading phonebooks.
  • Insane Troll Logic: Straight from the mouth of The Grim Reaper to Francesco: "If you don't want the dead coming back to life, why don't you just kill the living? Shoot them in the head."
  • Insistent Terminology: Francesco is called "ragioniere" (meaning "accountant", translated into English as the more similarly-sounding "engineer") by his oldest visitor and the mayor. It is something of an honorable euphemism, but Francesco tends to dislike it as he is not an accountant but a gravedigger.
  • Jabba Table Manners: Gnaghi is a terribly sloppy eater. He's once seen just stuffing his face with spaghetti. With his bare hands.
  • Job Title: The English title Cemetery Man.
  • Love at First Sight: The widow. And the widow's clones. The actress (Anna Falchi) who plays them all is credited as "She".
  • A Love to Dismember: Gnaghi tears off the head of the dead daughter of the mayor. A romance ensues.
  • Manchild: Gnaghi seems to be pretty slow, and has a really childlike personality.
  • Mayor Pain: Mayor of the town Buffalora. He is definitely The Incompetent Mayor Pain/The Quimby. To boost his support in the electoral campaign he is eager to dig out the grave of his daughter and take a photo of himself with her body in the coffin. Just to demonstrate to the electorate that he also has lost the loved one and is worthy to be reelected.
  • May–December Romance: For Lei (the first one) and her deceased husband.
  • Meaningful Name:
    • Up to eleven with Francesco Dellamorte Dellamore (the latter is the surname of his mother and is not usually mentioned as a part of his name but is put into the title). It means something like "Francesco Of Death Of Love".
    • Also the city of Buffalora might be derived fron the word Buffo meaning funny or odd. Actually a town of this name really exists near Brescia in the Northern Italy.
  • Mind Screw: Big spoiler here. By the end of the film, it's uncertain whether Francesco actually exists, or is just a fantasy of Franco. When Francesco goes on a killing spree to stop the Returners from rising, he Can't Get In Trouble For Nuthin' and the police arrest Franco for all his murders. The possibility is further muddied as Franco is bedridden and unable to move when Francesco brings a gun to the hospital and kills a doctor and a nun.
  • Moe Greene Special: In the hospital, Francesco shots a nun in the eye through her glasses.
  • Mr. Fanservice: Francesco Dellamorte played by Rupert Everett.
  • Ms. Fanservice: Lei played by Anna Falchi.
  • Mundanger: Francesco seems to regard zombies as such.
  • "Not So Different" Remark: Francesco considers himself not too terribly different from Death.
  • One-Steve Limit: Played with. Francesco and Franco are related names but not the same. As one version is that Francesco is a figment of Franco's imagination this trope is played with to even a greater extent.
  • Only Sane Employee: Francesco wants to report the zombies as business expenses so he can use the town's money to pay for his bullets, but the bureaucracy is too dense for it.
  • Our Zombies Are Different: Type F, for the most part. Some Returners, like the mayor's daughter, have unusual abilities.
  • Patricide: Of the first mayor by his daughter.
  • Pokémon Speak: Gnaghi always says only "gna". That's why he is called Gnaghi.
  • Pretty Little Headshots: Averted for the medical staff killed by Francesco in the hospital. Their faces are noticeably damaged.
  • Protagonist-Centered Morality: Francesco can be considered not a straight villain in the third act because of that.
  • Punch-Clock Villain: Subverted with the Anti-Villain Francesco who is not a punchclock anti-villain even though he always only does his job (until later in the movie). As he works around the clock both in day and at night.
  • Revenant Zombie: Lei or She when she once comes back as a zombie appears to do it for love. Played with as later she still bites Francesco.
  • Riddle for the Ages: Why are the dead returning?
  • Servile Snarker: Francesco to the oldest regular visitor of his cemetery who entertains herself frequenting it. She asks him whether the cemetery is open. He answers that for her it is always open. As she is 89 one realises this remark is quite snarky. Later the character dies.
  • Shirtless Scene: The film starts with the one for no special reason. Just to show that Rupert Everett is fit.
  • Shout-Out:
    • The kiss by Dellamorte and Lei as the Revenant Zombie is the one to Magritte's picture "The Lovers".
    • A possible shout-out to Dario Argento's Deep Red as Francesco is annoyed when an old woman keeps calling him an accountant.
  • Shovel Strike: Zombies can only be destroyed by splitting their skulls. Over the course of the film, several zombies have their skulls cleaved by the gravedigger's shovel.
  • Stress Vomit: For Gnaghi when he is close to a girl he likes.
  • Suddenly Speaking: Gnaghi in the end pronounces a coherent sentence, asking Francesco to take him away from the abyss. Francesco replies with "gna".
  • Temporary Love Interest:
    • Zigzagged wildly. Francesco begins to love passionately Lei several times as she always returns to him. However every time she is offed he takes it relatively easy for such a huge love.
    • Also the mayor's daughter for Gnaghi.
  • Vomit Discretion Shot: Played with as Gnaghi is not shown in the act of vomiting on the mayor's daughter. However the results are shown, the vomit is very much seen on her dress but not the act itself.
  • Wham Line: When Francesco visits Franco in the hospital, Francesco's entire existence is called into question.
    Franco: Who are you? I don't know you. Go away!
  • Workplace Horror: An ordinary job as a cemetery caretaker that turns extraordinary with the required public service of keeping the zombies dead again each night.
  • Wrong Genre Savvy: Gnaghi, who is about to kill Francesco when he is bitten by a zombie. Our Zombies Are Different so you do not die of their bite as long as it is not a lethal wound. Though Gnaghi should already know so it is odd that he does not.
  • Zombie Infectee:
    • Zigzagged. Decisively subverted for Francesco himself. He is bitten by Lei but talks sense into Gnaghi ready to off him as the latter is afraid of Francesco when he is bitten. Francesco says that he of course is not going to die as the bite is not mortal, merely a flesh wound. It only means that when he dies he will definitely return. However other people who return as zombies are not bitten when alive so it is not immediately clear whether this bite changes anything in his position.
    • The multiple bites of the mayor by his daughter are not in contradiction with the previous fact as it is implied that they are mortal by themselves as she tore his neck.
    • However, the death of the first Lei is a contradiction as her wound from the bite of her husband is no more lethal than the later wound of Francesco who is bitten by her. Further zigzagged as Francesco himself implies that she might in fact have not died, just passed out after the bite from her husband. Then as she came to herself still alive he killed her.
    • Also Francesco early in the film still tries to avoid being bitten by numerous zombies who attack him. It is implied that their bites might have irreversable damage for the condition of a living human.
    • In the end Gnaghi should have known if the bite of a zombie was not lethal as he is working together with Francesco and should be aware of such a basic detail. Which Francesco has to tell him to avoid being killed.