By ROBERTO E. D’ONOFRIO
Since the announcement this past February that musician and director Federico Zampaglione (SHADOW, TULPA: DEMON OF DESIRE) had started production on a new film, expectations amongst the horror community were high–especially for this writer, who was invited to the set at De Paolis Studios in Rome. Stepping onto the same stages where movies ranging from Dario Argento’s DEEP RED and SUSPIRIA to FELLINI SATYRICON were shot was an exciting and unforgettable experience.
THE WELL is now set to have its official world premiere in the Midnight Extreme section of the Sitges International Fantastic Film Festival in October, but yours truly was invited to an exclusive private screening of the picture. Written by Zampaglione and Stefano Masi, the latter of whom also produced, THE WELL is set in the 1990s in the small Italian village of Sambuci. American art restorer Lisa Gray (TERRIFIER 2 heroine Lauren LaVera) is hired by Duchess Emma Malvisi (Claudia Gerini) to restore a medieval painting by Arcano, an artist famous for depicting the unknown, back to its former glory, after it was blackened by fire damage (an evident reference to Pupi Avati’s THE HOUSE WITH LAUGHING WINDOWS). At the Foschi Malvisi mansion, Lisa meets Emma’s strange daughter Giulia (Linda Zampaglione, daughter of Gerini and the director), whom she’s told suffers from severe personality disorders. Soon Lisa starts having terrifying nightmares, and Giulia tells her that the painting is cursed, while an ancient evil lurks in a deep well located in the manor’s dungeon.
THE WELL grabbed my attention within the first few minutes and didn’t let go until the end credits. The enthusiasm of Masi–who was previously unfamiliar with the genre–and Zampaglione’s devotion to horror, with the loyal collaboration of Giacomo Gensini, merge to result in 90 minutes of nonstop darkness and terror. The script manages to dodge most current horror and thriller clichés, and the movie is permeated with eerie Lovecraftian overtones and an unsettling Gothic atmosphere reminiscent of classic Hammer films. While delivering an original story, Zampaglione gives fans a film that will have them delightedly spotting references to past chillers such as THE PICTURE OF DORIAN GRAY, PHENOMENA, COUNTESS DRACULA, SUSPIRIA, I VAMPIRI and MARTYRS. THE WELL was made by people who love this genre, and it shows.
The sets designed by Blazej Wasiak are enriched by the Gothic cinematography of Andrea Arnone, who uses darkness to create a wonderful creepy effect and a claustrophobic atmosphere. The film is also an imaginative, unrelenting blood feast, filled with graphic and revolting gore scenes created by Carlo Diamantini. Using only prosthetic and practical effects, he delivers a variety of interesting and creatively violent demises and a truly frightening creature. Add an effective score by Oran Loyfer, Federico and Francesco Zampaglione and Luca Chiaravalli, blending synthesizers, Gregorian overtones and guitar work, and the stunt coordination by Ottaviano Dell’Acqua (ZOMBIE’s iconic “wormface” ghoul), and you’ve got an unrestrained flick in the great Italian tradition.
The casting of LaVera, a strong actress who has become an icon to TERRIFIER 2’s many fans, and Gerini is the final piece of this frightening puzzle. Completing the cast are Taylor Zaudtke, Jonathan Dylan King, Lorenzo Renzi and newcomer Courage Oviawe. THE WELL is also the swan song of legendary Italian-horror actor Giovanni Lombardo Radice (a.k.a. John Morghen, from CANNIBAL FEROX, STAGEFRIGHT et al.), as he passed away a few weeks after completing the film.
If you’re tired of the formulaic rubbish being pumped out of Hollywood, THE WELL will not disappoint you. It may not be everyone’s cup of tea, but it’s definitely mine!