I think no film has done a better job investigating that grey area, if you will, than Ivan Zuccon’s THE COLOUR FROM THE DARK (2008). After VJ co-conspirator Mr. Wilson stumbled across Zuccon’s early works, I’ve been hooked on his movies and was highly anticipating the release of this one. Not only does it not disappoint, but if it had been shot on film, I think it would have been a real sleeper hit. And there lies the cruxt of the problem.
Zuccon made two other films following THE SHUNNED HOUSE and before COLOR FROM THE DARK, but COLOR FROM THE DARK is his return to Lovecraft and his most accomplished outing yet. Here Zuccon, due to budgetary reasons, or simply to streamline the story, dispenses with the meteor entirely. This is a wise move in my opinion as the concept of evil being brought to earth from scary outer-space has been done so much that it is now hokey. It was pretty much lampooned in CREEPSHOW (1982) and these days it's not even remotely as scary as it must have seemed in the ’20s when space exploration was the realm of total fantasy. Instead Zuccon focuses on what was in fact the ultimate source of the evil in Lovecraft’s story, the well. And, yes, he has added his own elements and subplots. Seriously, get over it. If the additions were bad, I’d be the first to put the boots to him, but here most of it is cracked out of the park. The only areas that are lacking can be chalked up to budget.
To be fair, some of the acting could have been a little more impressive. Michael Segal has not only buffed out his biceps, but has beefed up his acting chops as well. Even so, he is effective, but not exactly a master of his craft. Elenor James (another actress that is cast more for looks than anything else) isn't very impressive either, but at least is not annoying or irritating. The biggest surprise here is that ex-softcore star and frequent supplier of gratuitous nude scenes, Debbie Rochon, actually does a shockingly good job as the wife who has flashes of possessed insanity. You could argue acts like a completely normal woman when flipping between her normal meek self and her “possessed” alter ego. Did I just go there? Sorry about that. Anyway, Rochon may not be up for an Oscar any time soon, but here she shows a range and skill that was previously unknown. She also has grown a bit long in the tooth and unlike most actresses (particularly ones who have made their money off of their looks) does not try to hide it here, which gives authenticity and maturity to her character. In many ways the maturity of a filmmaker can be quantified by their use of restraint, here that means the glamor make-up is saved for another day. Also notable on the acting front is Marysia Kay, who is totally believable in her role as Alice, and it is through her acting and Zuccon’s directing that Rosina actually becomes more than a prop but a full character. It's also neat touch that Rosina, as the week progresses, becomes more and more faded with her red yarn “hair” turning gray as if even a rag-doll is being consumed by the evil from the well. The only glaring errors on the acting front would be Gerry Shanahan as Giovanni. I have no problem that there is an Irishman and his English granddaughter living on a farm in rural Italy, but at least have the decency to cover this by giving them Anglo names. Honestly if that's all I can bitch about, Zuccon should be happy.
The crazy thing with this movie is that I am a certified SOV hater. Video magnifies every flaw, has no visual texture, makes make-up look like make-up and makes a lack of make-up look awful. It simply lacks subtlety and makes it so easy for talentless jackasses to release something that isn’t worth a rental fee. Zuccon is actually aware of these issues and works really hard at overcoming those huge drawbacks. It kills me that people watch HOUSE OF THE DEAD 2 (2005) and call it “fun”, “entertaining” and “not as bad as the first one” and then watch this and say it’s shit and has nothing to do with Lovecraft! In the end, if you are one of the black and white people, this isn’t like RE-ANIMATOR (1985) and it’s not THE RESURRECTED (1992, probably the most authentic Lovecraft adaptation to date), it’s in the gray area in between and if you are like me, that “colour” will suit you just fine.
(I can't seem to find a trailer that really does justice to the movie's pacing and feel, the two that I found try to make it look like a fast-paced slasher film, so this teaser will have to do)
For those who are looking for some more meat, the Italian website Splatter Container (maybe that lost something in the translation) has a short interview up with Michael Segal (scroll down for the English language version).
Coming in the next few months, the Germans will have their turn at an adaptation with the black and white short film DIE FARBE (2010). Some information on the making of it is available on their website. While it's disappointing that this is just a short film (again), this teaser simply oozes atmosphere and is much anticipated around here.