Directed by Ivan Zuccon
Starring Debbie Rochon, Michael Segal, Marysia Kay
Reviewed by Brian M. Sammons
Italian horror is at its best when it’s showing surreal, nightmarish images. Dario Argento, Mario Bava and Lucio Fulci were all masters of that art. Now you can add a new name to that list, a director who, while not yet as legendary as those masters, does show remarkable style and talent. Ivan Zuccon, a name some fans of Mythos cinema might recognize (The Shunned House, Unknown Beyond), gives us his latest love letter to Lovecraft with Colour from the Dark. From the deathly pallor people take on as the Colour slowly eats away at them, to the bright red splashes that accent the grey so vividly when bad stuff happens, to just how icky a slowly rotting corpse can be, this film is filled with striking imagery.
At its core this story is about an otherworldly, sentient thing, in this case a living spectrum of light barely perceivable and indescribable by man, slowing consuming all life around it. This film, despite being set in Italy in the 1940s, is nonetheless the most faithful adaptation yet of Lovecraft’s “The Colour Out of Space.”
With a few minor exceptions.
This horror doesn’t come from outer space, but from the bottom of a well after someone pokes the water with a big stick. Yeah, I’m serious. While that’s kind of silly, the director may have been trying to link the alien evil with the devil, as both come from out of the earth instead of the stars. Why would I make such an assumption? Because of the other thing that I really didn’t like about this movie: its focus on Christianity’s concept of evil rather than the cosmic evil that Lovecraft envisioned.
Take the always entertaining scream queen Debbie Rochon as the farmer’s wife and the most afflicted victim of the Colour’s influence. She doesn’t so much go mad and wither away as she becomes possessed by Satan himself. Crucifixes melt into black sludge. Debbie gives hateful glances to any Christian iconography she spies, has sudden uncontrollable lustful appetites, and voices mocking rage at a priest who comes to bless the house once it’s obviously infested with some sort of malignancy. At times this movie plays out more like The Exorcist than anything Lovecraft ever wrote.
If you can overlook those missteps, chalking them up perhaps to the director’s personal views coming through the story he’s trying to retell, then you’ll still find a good, scary and rather faithful version of “The Colour Out of Space.” The air of corruption, decay, and inescapable dread is palpable in this movie. All of the actors do a good job playing their parts, with Michael Segal, as the doomed farmer and husband, shining as a man coming to grips with a suddenly insane and murderous wife, a sister-in-law who inexplicably gets over one ailment only to all too soon fall victim to another, and a farm that flourishes and then quickly dies all in the span of a week. These, and other aspects of Lovecraft’s original story that made it into the movie, were easily my favorite parts of the film.
Colour from the Dark is a good movie, horror or otherwise. It is directed well with plenty of style to spare, and the actors are fun to watch. But how Lovecraftian is it? At times it would definitely get the HPL Seal of Approval, but at other times it doesn’t come remotely close. Take that as you will, but I happily give this movie two big tentacles up and seven phobias.
This review appeared in The Eye of Light and Darkness in The Unspeakable Oath 18.
Reviewed items are rated on a scale of one to ten phobias:
1-3: Not worth purchasing.
4-6: An average item with notable flaws; at 6 it’s worth buying.
7-10: Degrees of excellence.