I remember when this movie came out, and critics were like “What-EVER,” and I ignored it, too. Then I started to hear good stuff about it, and it was finally released on DVD, and soon it appeared in my mailbox.
This Italian production was apparently based on a series of comic books. It concerns a guy named Francisco Dellamorte [Saint Francis of Death], who is the watchman at this cemetery. He and his semi-retarded goon-like assistant live at the graveyard and take care of it, killing zombies as they arise from the ground. It is mostly this quality that gives the movie its [subtle, but present] comic-book feel. The fact that they are in Italy but speaking perfect English also gives the film an off-kilter, ‘WHERE is this taking place?’ kind of vibe, which works; it seems like it’s taking place in its own world, outside of time, which we will come back to at the end.
Anyway, we soon notice a repeated shot that emphasizes the upward spikes of a grove of cypress trees. I don’t know what it means. Then Rupert sees “the most beautiful woman I have ever seen,” at the funeral of her husband. She is a young woman married to this guy in his 60s, and she talks about the wonderful, passionate sex they had. Rupert pursues her, but she doesn’t respond until she hears that he’s got the keys to the big crypt downstairs. They go down, and soon the skeletons in the wall are coming to life, grabbing her ass and ripping her dress. She and Rupert go back up and make love on her dead husband’s grave. Then the husband comes back as a zombie, and he bites the wife, and she dies. All of this is not to mention the little blue floating spirit lights that sometimes hang around [seriously, burning marshmallows on sticks], and at one point all swim like sperm into the hole made in the woman’s hair bun.
Then we find out that Rupert is rumored in the town to be impotent, and then the goon is obsessed with this young rich girl, who likes him as well: “Can we buy him, Daddy?” The goon then vomits on her, and she takes off on a motorcycle with the young hotties that stop by. They die in a bus accident, and she is buried in a glass coffin. Her father says “Just yesterday you threw up on her. And she took it so well. And now she’s dead.”
There is a REALLY macabre scene in which a live girl who was in love with the biker comes and digs him up, and allows him to munch on her leg: “He’s only eating me.” Rupert kills her by accident, and has a moral crisis about killing a live woman.
SPOILERS > > >
Then the goon goes and digs up the glass coffin of the young girl, rips off her head, and takes it home with him. They have some hot goon / severed head action, the likes of which I have never seen since Re-Animator. But he’s not the only one getting in on the sizzling corpse sex scene, as Rupert and his dead girlfriend are also getting jiggy with it, while she bites him. Then the angel of death appears to Rupert and tells him that the easiest way to prevent the dead coming back is to kill living people. So Rupert goes on a killing spree.
Soon the severed head is asking her father for his permission to marry the goon. He says, in so many words, ‘but he’s just a goon,’ and she responds: “I’m not such a great catch either, daddy.”
< < < SPOILERS END
At around that point I became wholly unable to follow the movie. There are so many characters and it was so complicated, I was sitting there going; “Okay, but wasn’t she already dead?” and suchlike. This is not necessarily a problem, as there’s not so much a story one needs to follow, but more a mood and a world that has been created. Throughout the movie, there are a great many excursions into fantasy, and it begins to become hard to tell when we come back to reality—if we do at all. But again, one doesn’t have the overwhelming sense that it matters. The final image is of all of this taking place inside a snowglobe, almost as though the entire thing has been a daydream of someone outside the movie.
I don’t have much more to say. Rupert was good and appealing, mostly just because he seems so game to jump into all this and he plays it absolutely straight. I can see now why the original critics were baffled, but of course wouldn’t admit that they were baffled, so they dismiss it as tripe. It doesn’t make a lot of sense, but I think that’s somewhat beside the point. This is one of those “journey is the point, not the destination,” movies, and on that count it succeeds very well.
If you’re into horror movies and like the sensibility of the Italians. Or you want to ogle the frequently-shirtless Rupert Everett.