The most interesting original idea introduced in the film is the character of Alice (Marysia Kay), a mute childish woman, who despite being around 22 years old, is very much a portrait of a young and easily frightened child. She has a fear of the stairway in her home and when passing through it an anxiety generates in her that causes her to rush down the stairs afraid of something unseen and unknown. This easily reminds me of that same fear we felt as children all alone late at night in the hallways of our own homes, afraid of something not there, with an impulse to run through the hallway and back into bed under the secure blankets after a late night trip to the bathroom. Alice has a tendency to rely on her doll for security from the perceived hidden threats that lurk in the dark. Wandering around late at night, she covers one hand over her eyes while looking though her fingers and holding her doll out in front of her as if the doll is her protector, watching and letting her know if it is safe ahead. This introduction to Alice at the beginning of the film made me feel that I was in store for something pretty interesting with that surreal sensibility one can expect from Zuccon.
Similar to Lovecraft’s original story, the film is set on an isolated farm with a creepy ancient house but in World War II Italy instead of the farmlands west of the mythical New England town of Arkham. The interior of the farmhouse strikingly resembles the exact place I had in my imagination when I first read the book. It is here that Pietro (Michael Segal) lives with his wife Lucia (Debbie Rochon) and her little sister Alice, who are all making best of the meager fruits that the farm provides. Not having to leave for the war due to a leg injury, Pietro works hard to maintain a stable life for his family with a large reliance on the farm’s water well… That sinister well that serves as a demonic source for the unnatural and macabre happenings that take place and is sort of like a character in the film as well.
The 1940s feel is made believable through the costumes and mannerisms of the characters as well as the haunting classical music that contributes to the films beauty and creepiness. Also of note are the floating camera shots of the windy farmland that, along with the ethereal scenic beauty of the location, enhance the dreamlike feel of CFTD.
One day on the farm while Pietro is fishing around in the well to retrieve a fallen bucket, something formless and smoky is unleashed as if a seal had just popped open. This despite having a bad smell doesn’t seem to affect the taste of the water, and since the wellbeing of the family and the crops relies heavily on that one and only source of water, they continue to still appreciate the well without much skepticism. It isn’t long before the farm produces giant crops, Pietro’s leg miraculously heals, and previously mute Alice starts speaking words. If only such miracles didn’t come with a price….
The story rolls on in a days-of-the-week progression and things really go to Hell as the week goes by. In just a day or two, the plants die and the giant crops rot away. The fact that something is really wrong becomes apparent when Lucia begins to act differently towards her husband and sister. She has a newfound veracious sexual appetite for her husband, and she makes terrifying faces at Alice, one of which involves a great CG enhanced jump scare scene that spooks me every time (You’ll know what I’m talking about). When Lucia’s behavior causes her to be dangerous to herself and others, Pietro locks her up in the attic and later calls for the exorcist!!! It has to be said that Debbie Rochon just kicks ass in this movie because she really does the “Lovecraftian descent into madness” justice. The blackness in Lucia’s eyes when she is overtaken-by-madness is truly creepy, and the duel between her and Father Mario (Matteo Tosi) is terrific with a few well done nods to THE EXORCIST.
CFTD is a dark, morbid, and serious film without a shred of comic relief or camp value but that makes it feel more suitable for something based off of Lovecraft’s doomful writing style. There’s also an emotional feel in the later part of the movie that is not present in the original story. I also feel that Zuccon visually nailed the aftermath of the life draining entity that infects the farm. There’s no bad acting here either, Rochon shines, Kay is great, Segal charms with his Italian accent, and Tosi gets into his exorcist role.
|"It gets inside you.... It sucks the life out"--Michael Segal/Pietro|
In the DVD extras for the VANGUARD release, there is a segment about the haunted production of CFTD. According to Rochon, the film’s set was haunted by an egotistical poltergeist that would frequently ruin takes by manifesting itself in shots. Rochon states that they named the ghost Trevor, which could’ve possibly been a nickname for the ghost of Lovecraft.