Ghostly goings on at Villa Clara

blog

Well it is Halloween season, the time that ghosts, ghouls and goblins come out to play and everyone becomes a horror fan. But none of that really makes a jot of difference to this post as I will be talking about the Italian supernatural film Clara.

Now I am a big fan of paranormal & supernatural films and in recent years Hollywood has put out some good stuff such as some of the films in the INSIDIOUS and THE CONJURING series, not to mention the OUIJA sequel. However I do feel that the Europeans are often left behind in this genre, especially during the last decade or two, so I am hoping director Francesco Longo can prove me wrong with his upcoming feature-length effort CLARA, which is scheduled for a December 2018 completion date.

The story of the film sees the British woman Helen Ludovisi, an art graduate, inherit an old palazzo known as the ‘Villa Clara’ near the Italian city of Bologna.

Arriving in Italy with her boyfriend Jacob and three members of the cultural heritage superintendency of the United Kingdom, there to help with the restoration, the group discover a dark history to the villa which perhaps is not consigned to the past as strange occurrences start to haunt the group one-by-one.

I will admit that this in itself does not seem all that unique but as stated I am a fan of these types of films and let’s be honest the sub-genre is more about what you do within an almost standard framework rather than coming up with something wholly unique. I like to compare this situation with that of the artists working in the low renaissance where quite often the topics would be the same but the originality comes in how they present and individualise it. Judging from the photo stills that you can see at the end of this article I think you will agree that this is the case here.

This brings me on to the reason that I am giving this film a bit more attention – writer/director Francesco Longo. I have been left very impressed with his eye for a shot (again see the photos if you have not seen his short films), use of light and the strong narrative he has managed to display in his short films NYCTOPHOBIA and THE THIRD DAY, not to mention his contributions while working on the visual effects for INSANE; IN ARTICULO MORTIS and THE WICKED GIFT.

Additionally it would be remiss of me not to mention a couple of the cast for CLARA which includes Veronika Urban (NYCTOPHOBIA; HERBERT WEST: RE-ANIMATOR, the series by Ivan Zuccon), the prolific Michael Segal who has starred in too many contemporary Italian genre films to mention, and Roberto Ramon who returns to work with the director once more after starring in NYCTOPHOBIA and THE THIRD DAY.

In my opinion Francesco Longo certainly has the potential and the network in the contemporary Italian genre scene to make this work, especially if he does not play it too safe.

Keep an eye out for this film and the director. CLARA is expected to gain its premiere at the 2019 Creepy Crypt event in Berlin but you can keep up to date over on the official Facebook page.

NYCTOPHOBIA (2017) BY FRANCESCO LONGO

Reviews

Director: Francesco Longo
Writers: Francesco Longo, Paolo Mercandante
Year: 2017
Starring: Roberto Ramon, Michael Segal, Roberto D’Antona

Synopsis:
When the darkness comes at night a man is tormented by visions of the past but are they only visions or something more?

Review:
The third in a trilogy of short films looking at phobias (with SKIZOPHRENIA, 2014, and CLAUSTROPHOBIA, 2015, coming before) from upcoming director Francesco Longo, NYCTOPHOBIA unsurprisingly focuses in on the fear of darkness and wastes no time with preamble, immediately introducing us to our main character, the man, as he returns home and gets ready to go to sleep. While attempting to doze off the film INSANE plays, a nice nod not only to co-star Roberto D’Antona but also perhaps indicative of our man’s mental state and with it perhaps an analogy of what is about to occur – namely a psychological journey in which the darkness may or not be playing tricks.

One of the strengths here is that the setup is surprisingly very normal and grounded in reality, from the mysterious, unspecified creaking in the dark to the lying silently in bed trying to pin down the logical cause of the noise, helping make the situation more relatable and safe to us…that is until Longo introduces a few supernatural flourishes and things start to get a little creepy.

A menacing tone starts to pervade throughout the film, suddenly we are unsure as to what is real or imagined as things start to go south for our man and surreal for us pretty quickly. It is worth noting here in the realisation or rather visualisation of events that things do come across a little like I imagine they would in the mind of Rob Zombie from the crazy blonde chick to the interpretation of the devil and from this it has to be noted that the success of this film on a personal level may depend on your own stylistic preference for this type of horror. Although for my British readers imagine the writers of PSYCHOVILLE and INSIDE NO.9 playing it a little straighter and that would give some indication of what to expect.

In short NYCTOPHOBIA is a decent watch that will entertain and one that ultimately achieves what it sets out to. It is not a mindless dull literal translation of the concept of a ‘scary dark’ à la recent Hollywood hogwash horror but rather a more thoughtful, internalised and dare I say European approach as to the true horrors brought about by the impenetrable mysterious darkness, one’s own mind…and perhaps some supernatural forces too.

Throughout the films brief run time Longo manages to expertly craft a decent amount of tension within a short amount of time thanks to an intelligent use of audio and strong pacing (aided by the editing choices) although perhaps the narrative itself is a little too obvious for the seasoned horror fan with the turn being seen from a mile away nonetheless this minor gripe does not detract to much from the film.

Oh and check out what time the lead character wakes up. Amityville or Italy – evil is the same everywhere (and disregards time zones).

Visit the films Facebook page here.

Version Reviewed:

I watched an online screener of the film.