Directed by Michele Soavi, 1994
In our pursuit of zombie scholarship, we see a great many awful films. We watch not only the offensively bad but also the hopelessly redundant. Our reviews of such movies focus on their contribution (if any) to the genre; we do not attempt to consider it as a movie, only as a zombie movie. So forgive my awkwardness as I try to review a film that not only adds to the zombie canon, but is a legitimately good movie on its own merits.
The cemetery man in question is Francesco Dellamorte, the nihilistic attendant of a picturesque Italian graveyard where, three days after burial, certain corpses reanimate. In a refreshing change of pace the movie opens more or less in media res. We don't need to know how or why the zombies originated. Dellamorte is jaded and weary of burying, shooting, and reburying the dead. The living-- in particular, a beautiful widow-- frighten him far more than zombies.
The movie was based on a novel (some say a comic book) and Dellamorte's adventures do follow a comic-like structure. The story veers away from the cemetery too often to classify as a straight zombie tale, ending with absurdist philosophy that shares as much in common with Fellini as with Fulci. It's a beautiful movie in appearance and execution. I have been recommending this movie far longer than I've been a zombie scholar.
Zombie explanation: Unrevealed in the film; the director says that the roots of the cemetery brought the dead back to life. I appreciate a movie that doesn't focus on its monsters' origins.
Contribution to the zombie canon: Love between the dead and the living. There are three distinct love stories that demonstrate love so strong that neither burial nor infernal appetite can destroy it. (Decomposition, though, seems a pretty effective end.)
Favorite moment: Little touches like the dead husband's face on his gravestone, the veiled kiss in the ossuary, the spinning camera as his lover leaves him.