Beyond the Slimy Wall: Cemetery Man
By Stephanie Star Smith
September 16, 2004
We here at BOP are an eclectic group, and our tastes in movies run from the serious cinephiles to the foreign-film aficionados to niche film lovers. Thus was born the idea for this weekly column, devoted to horror films of all shapes and sizes, but concentrating on those B- and C-grade films that mainstream reviewers disdain, but are the bread-and-butter of every spook movie lover's viewing. So come with me as we venture beyond the slimy wall, uncovering the treasures - and burying the time-wasting bombs - that await those who dare to love the scare.
Bruce Springsteen sang about 57 channels with nothing on. Well, this is just a guess, but I'm thinking The Boss isn't a spook-movie fan, because if he was, then he'd likely have found at least one or two channels showing a decent horror flick, and might even have stumbled across a gem or two whilst surfing.
Like this quirky little Italian horror film starring Rupert Everett. I found it one night when I was flipping channels just before going to bed, a destination I didn't reach until the film was complete more than an hour later. As I later discovered, I had come across the film very near its start, and had stopped because I saw zombies, which will always catch my attention, and then was so entranced - and slightly confused - by the film that I stayed up for the rest of it, then sought out its next showing so I could see it in its entirety.
Cemetery Man is one of those films that is difficult to categorize. I refer to it as a zombie film, but that's really only part of its plot. It is also, believe it or not, a romance, and has elements of farce to boot. And "quirky" doesn't quite convey just how bizarre the film becomes at times, but unlike many a quirky film - and I'm looking at you, David Lynch - it is not quirky for its own sake, but employs the oddness of its characters and plot to propel the narrative. And there is a narrative, which doesn't really lead to any particular conclusion, but allows the viewer to draw his or her own conclusions regarding what he or she has just viewed.
Probably the most amazing thing about this film is that even though bits of the story, at times, don't seem to be connected to any other bits of the story, somehow it all makes a sort of sense, though if you are absolutely wedded to the need for a linear narrative that starts at point A and goes to point D by passing through points B and C, this may not be the film for you. For although the film actually all holds together to a great extent in the final analysis, it sometimes seems as if it has taken a side trip in the middle. And there are many questions left unanswered, not the least of which is why did the dead suddenly decide to start rising from their graves in the first place, and how it is that, unlike most zombie movies, they are kept under control by the efforts of just one man. Though one would deduce the answer to the latter is likely because Rupert Everett, unlike every human character in every other walking-dead movie ever made, recognizes his biggest advantage is the ability to walk far more quickly - not to mention run - than the zombies, and that they are not the most agile of creatures.
But honestly, it's difficult to do justice to Cemetery Man by talking about it, nor would describing the plot, such as it is, help. If you're in the market for something a little off the beaten path, something that will amuse and entertain you and even get you to ponder its meaning a bit at the end, then grab the DVD of Cemetery Man next time you visit your local video emporium and devote an hour-and-three-quarters to this unique film.
I see by the shadows falling from my bust of Pallas that our time is up. Until next time, then, when we will once again venture Beyond the Slimy Wall.