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Colour from the Dark (2008)
Worth seeing, but not the best Lovecraft adaptation (mild spoilers)
I saw Ivan's first two films at the HP Lovecraft Film Festival: The Darkness Beyond, which was an episodic feature with elements from a few of HPL's stories, and The Shunned House, which adapts three of Lovecraft's tales in one tortured location in different times.
His latest is a feature based on Lovecraft's "The Colour Out of Space".
I must admit my bias in this review: I have a feature script based on the same story. It is difficult for me to be objective and separate what I would like to see on screen with what I did see on screen in Ivan's movie.
In the original text, a meteorite crashes into a farm, releasing a terrible alien life form, a "colour" that slowly devours all life in the area.
Overall, I wanted to like the movie more, I really did. It is a fine film; it certainly has amazing cinematography and production design. The special effects are well-done and well-placed. The musical score was fair.
The colour itself: the movie is filmed in color, so the alien isn't indescribable, it looks like a lightning-blue shimmering reflection off a swimming pool. I thought it worked well. I suspect that hard-line Lovecraft fans will be insulted that the "colour" has a color, but I am not upset.
There are four problems I had with the picture:
1. It takes place in Italy, 1943. I don't mind this choice in and of itself, however, the setting got in the way of the story. There was a small plot thread dealing with the Nazis and a runaway Jew that I couldn't understand and found out of place for the story (plot and story are different things to me).
2. There was a strong religious overtone to the picture, especially in the alien, which takes on Satanic qualities. This is a problem, as I view Lovecraft's material as being beyond any human religion. There are frequent shots of crucifixes being despoiled by the alien, which doesn't make sense to me. I would think that aliens would have no care nor concept of our religious symbols, but I am neither an alien nor religious, so what do I know?
I am guessing Ivan or the screenwriter is Catholic, so it was easy to see the motivation behind this choice, but I don't agree with it, not for a Lovecraft picture and especially not for this story. The movie becomes a "my god can beat up your god" tale, whereas I interpret Lovecraft to suggest "There are no human gods, there are only extremely powerful alien entities that cannot be comprehended by humans and are worshiped as gods."
I also don't think that every time a female is possessed by an entity (even a Satanic one) that makes her a nymphomaniac. But perhaps the sex had to be included to sell the movie, as T&A is unfortunately a sound marketing choice for low budget horror.
This brings me to
**LAST, MILD SPOILER**
3. The alien colour wasn't from an interstellar meteorite. Although it could be interpreted to have come from the outer cosmos, it wasn't portrayed as such. And that takes away from the punch of the original story, which I quite enjoy: that there are sentient things that exist in the wide Universe that we haven't a clue about, and woe to us if one of them happens to land here.
Without the meteorite impact and with the religious filter, the colour becomes more of a demon than an alien. It is just as dangerous, but not quite the same way, and, as a fan of the story, it bugged me. I also don't understand why Ivan didn't use the meteor; his special effects team was certainly talented enough to pull it off.
4. This movie is made in Italy, by Italians, with a cast of Italians. But it's in English. The dialog wasn't of the "Engrish" or babel-fish translation, but the acting seemed just a bit wooden when delivering lines, as if they weren't really sure of what they were saying. It detracted from I think could have been a better performance if it was subtitled in Italian. I couldn't really feel sympathy for any of the characters. Lacking a good baseline (introductory scene that shows the audience what things were like before the monster arrives), it was difficult to see how much the family was losing as the colour "sucks the life out!" (as the tagline implies)
Despite these issues, I recommend you see this movie if you are a fan of H.P. Lovecraft and it is available to you (theater or DVD). Aside from the major artistic changes above, it mostly plays out like the original story, far closer to the text than the other movie adaptations: Die, Monster, Die!, The Curse, and the Stephen King-starring episode of Creepshow.
Colour of the Dark didn't make me angry as bad movies will, but it disappointed me, as Ivan has the talent and drive and wherewithal to make a great Lovecraft picture, but this one wasn't quite it*. 6/10
*don't forget my bias towards this particular story
Frank and Cindy (2007)
Honestly, I didn't expect much going in to see this; a documentary about your parents? But I was never so glad to having seen a movie than after watching "Frank & Cindy".
It's extremely revealing, often by the characters who aren't aware of it. And there's so much to confess, it's both hilarious and heart-wrenching at the same time.
It's nearly cringe-worthy to see, in one scene, the filmmaker's mother left alone with the camera (smartly) still running on her, trying to figure out her life, her eyes darting back and forth like a panicked deer, to suddenly and quietly ask, "GJ (the filmmaker, her son), what am I going to do?"
There's so much about modern American life (or "This American Life", as the new Showtime show had a segment on this movie) in this feature; if you're a fan of REAL people (revealing unscripted, raw stuff, very UNlike reality TV), and can put up with some awkwardness (both with the film-making--a few frustrating camera angles/shots and some hard-to-hear sound parts--and the subjects themselves as they try to realize something, ANYTHING meaningful, but too afraid to look at the deeper problems in their lives), this flick is well worth your time.
It's nice to see some not-so-pretty things in movies sometimes.
An almost perfect adaptation
This short film, based on the "Re-Animator" stories by HP Lovecraft, is far more serious and dramatic than Stuart Gordon's version. "Solution" is not as gory (although there are a few shots to make you wince, plus a blood soaked corpse) and it lacks a severed head taking liberties with an immobilized co-ed. That's good. What Matzke does here is magnificently bring you to the time period of Lovecraft, with props and locations that are worthy of larger budget fare. More importantly, the film examines the real issues involved in re-animation...why would anyone even attempt it? This isn't a movie to make you laugh--it's a movie to make you think; a rarity these days.