Thursday, 8 January 2015

Colour from the Dark (2008)

Yesterday night the all-too-real horrific events in Paris made me long for a bit of mindless escapism, and I suppose I found it in this very odd Italian adaptation of Lovecraft's 'The Colo(u)r Out of Space'.



I'm not an expert on Italian horror, so I can't say where this film sits among recent productions of that country's film industry. I can only say that it is a very good-looking film. The plot, however, is a bit of a strange hybrid...

Set in rural Italy in 1943 (the locations are given by imdb as Ferrara and Emilia-Romagna) the film begins with a nightmare for Alice, the younger sister of farmer's wife Lucia. Alice can't talk and has the mind of a child, and this is conveyed rather well by Marysia Kay with the aid of a ragdoll. Our attention is quickly drawn to the farm's well, from which Alice (pronounced al-EE-chay, if you were wondering) routinely draws water. She becomes jumpy about the well, associating with a strange glowing Something from her nightmare. Sure enough, when a bucket is lost Lucia's husband Pietro's attempts to recover it with a gaff lead to the piercing of the well bottom and the release of a strange miasma. But the well's water seems pure enough...

And thus best plot Lovecraft ever devised kicks in, without a bolide or a boffin in sight, or indeed any of paraphernalia of sci-fi horror that old Howie went to such trouble to bequeath us. Instead we get old-school good v. evil horror that totally undercuts the intention of the original work, and Lovecraft's entire project of reinventing the genre for a secular, scientific culture. Weird, but there it is. We get the crucifixes, the unwary priest, the attempted exorcism, the demonic entity turning the victim's eyes black and giving them super-strength (and the customary hyper-randiness), and so on and so forth.

As well as betraying the author's intent re: the nature of the horror, the film is also heavily padded. The setting allows the introduction of two fairly pointless sub-plots. One involves neighbours Anna and Giovanni, who are harbouring an escaped Jewish refugee. The other concerns Pietro's brother, who is away at the war. (The German film Die Farbe does much better in this respect, and it never drops the Lovecraftian ball, so to speak.)

As I said above, the film is visually fine. It also has a good soundtrack, and the gradual transformation of the family and the farm's crops by the 'colour' is well-handled. The cast is a little odd - mostly Italian, but with Irish and British participants - but the actors turn in decent performances. Events are telescoped into a few days instead of the months of the original story, and this works well enough. But the impact is undercut by familiar gimmicks (not least a bungled attempt at exorcism) and the sense that nobody involved has really got a grip on what Lovecraft is about. Cosmic horror is absent, conventional horror is all too present.

'Don't look!'

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