let me thank you for agreeing to do this interview. I feel
(as do many people I have talked to) that you are one of the
rising stars of Lovecraft cinema, and the horror field in
general. The Shunned House will surely be considered
one of the classics of Lovecraft cinema.
What inspired you to start directing movies? Is there
a specific film or director that has influenced your work
Zuccon: It's something that grew up along with me. Since
I was a kid I was fascinated by cinema. I really loved Sergio
Leone's westerns. I remember planning to shoot a si-fi western,
and starting to put down a plot. The real passion came years
after, getting acquainted with the horror genre. I had always
been scared to death of horror movies, but one day I decided
to face my fears and watch the movies of the horror masters.
I rented ten movies and closed myself in a room, alone with
my VCR. I was impressed by Mario Bava, Dario Argento, Sam
Raimi and John Carpenter. I was mostly interested in the
technical side of Raimi's films and the visionary approach
of Bava's. I decided I would make horror movies, because
they would allow me to use a more creative way in shooting
techniques. I fished out my father's old super8 camera and
shot some very short movies, which I edited myself. It was
fun, and very gratifying. Since then I've never stopped
thinking and making cinema.
Unfilmable.com: What made you choose Lovecraft
as the basis for your films?
Ivan Zuccon: I love Lovecraft. But rather then his
stories I'm much more interested in the man. I'd like to
make a film telling his biography as the real story it was.
His literature comes by him feeling like a "stranger",
an "alien" to this world. Something I share
with him. My interest in HPL comes from this feeling, not
much by the terrible creeping creatures but by what they
really meant for him. Often I get more exited by how one
story was conceived than by the story itself. And I appreciate
his terrible effort trying to describe what cannot be described.
Why were the following short stories (The Shunned House,
The Music of Erich Zann, Dreams in Witch-House) chosen for
the film The Shunned House? Were any other Lovecraft
Ivan Zuccon: My screenwriter [Enrico Saletti] and
I were looking for three stories sharing the same location
but taking place in different times, so we came up with
The Music of Eric Zann and Dreams In The Witch
House, which shared the inn's location. Then we used
The Shunned House to glue the previous two together.
At first we were undecided between The Music Of Eric
Zann and Cool Air, but in the end we selected
Music because we think it's a better and visually
more interesting story.
Unfilmable.com (fan question): In the film,
The Shunned House, how did the character banging
her head against the wall tie into the story?
Zuccon: The head-banging woman once was one Estelle
Roulet's follower and betrayed her. Her punishment was having
her lips knit together (maybe she talked too much?) and
her eyes ruined (as she probably saw too much of what was
going on in the Inn). Then after so many years of this sort
of limbo she is forced to suicide, and her blood (since
it's spilled and therefore it opens doors) brings a hole
in the floor to life. Thanks to this new live threshold
the girl's corpse turns into the living mould which is seen
by young Alex as he comes to recover his ball, and that
kills Rita spreading itself over her face and into her lungs.
(fan question): The deleted footage [from The Shunned
House] implies a rather large
plot change at the climax, how did this come about?
Ivan Zuccon: Editing a movie (and sometimes even shooting
one) if I realize some scene doesn't work I usually change
it. Sometimes in a radical way. I try not to fall in love
with any of the scenes, dialogue or shots, because the risk
is to be blind before evidence. I try to keep my distance
and cut! I do this because I want the results to be the best.
So it happened in time I found myself with different choices
in the movie's solution. Editing is when you give sense to
the whole, create the mood and take every scene to its best.
Unfilmable.com: Besides The Darkness Beyond,
Unknown Beyond, and The Shunned House, what
other films have you been involved with?
Ivan Zuccon: I started shooting short films in
1995, and I still shoot some, waiting to find the money for
my next feature-length movie. You learn a lot shooting shorts.
I've shot 12 short films, mostly horror. Some of them don't
have real distribution, and are shown rarely because of they
are politically incorrect. One example is L'Ultima
Cena (The Last Supper), a sort of re-examination
of the Gospel, taking place in the future and with a cannibalistic
turn. Another is Degenerazione (Bad Brains)
in which I put on screen a matricide. These shorts were screened
at several important festivals, producing a hell of arguments
and resentment towards the festival boards. Recently I shot
a couple of different shorts. One is L'Albero Capovolto
(The Upside-Down Tree), where I tell the story
of a lonely painter, a girl, who finds out a lock implanted
in her belly. And Neve (Snow), the latest, which
is a very intense family drama. Right now I can't wait to
shoot another full-length horror.
Unfilmable.com: Is the short film
L'Altrove (which was expanded into The
Darkness Beyond) available, and if not are there plans
to release it? Can you tell us a little more about this film?
Ivan Zuccon: No, is not available and there are no plans
to release it for the moment. I started shooting The Darkness
Beyond (L'Altrove) during summer 1998, with
a ridiculous budget, about $ 2,500. The actors worked for
a very small wage and I called a friend of mine, Massimo Storari,
to take care of special effects and make-up. We worked 9 days
from 7 p.m. to 6 a.m. inside an abandoned farm. We wanted
to make a horror short which could bring attention to our
work so to find enough money to shoot a real film. Darkness
Beyond was shot on digital, the camera I used was really
good and lighting was conceived to make everything very alien
and disturbing, after Mario Bava. Massimo Storari proved himself
to be an excellent special effects maker, actors were good
and competent. The result was an amazing and really
scary 30 min short. Then everythingwent to sleep. It took
us two years to find someone interested in our work. I showed
some scenes of the short to Prescription Films (once a Los
Angeles distributor), pretending they were part of a feature
length movie. They really liked it and told me they would
distribute it. So I wrote in a rush other scenes to turn it
into a full movie, found a troupe and shot for ten more days,
with some new actors I had just recruited. The $ 7,500 budget
had to be enough for editing and soundtrack too. I had the
film ready just in time for Cannes Market, and that's how
our international adventure begun.
Unfilmable.com: Do you have any films you
hope to do in the future? Do you have a dream project
that you hope to one day do?
Ivan Zuccon: We are working, my scriptwriter Enrico
Saletti and I, on a couple of very interesting projects, which
unfortunately are much beyond our present financial resources.
If I had carte blanche I would surely start working on one
of the two. The most interesting one is titled Time Out.
It's a science fiction story taking place in a post-atomic
future where, due to obvious resources restriction, overpopulation
is controlled by a device implanted in everybody's wrist which
"decides" how many years that person is going to
live. This situation alone generates a conflict worth a movie,
but the story I have in mind tells about a woman who discovers
she is pregnant and doesn't have enough time to give birth
to her child. It's a human story inside a nightmarish world
where mass homicide has become a demographic control measure.
Unfilmable.com: Where are some
of the locations your films have been shot?
Ivan Zuccon: All of my movies were shot here in
Unfilmable.com: Do you have any specific
actors you like to work with (such as, Stuart Gordon's teaming
up with Jeffrey Combs)? Do you have any actors that you
hope to work with in the future?
Ivan Zuccon: I like working with the same actors, trying
them, shooting more than one movie with them. But I understand
it's also important finding and working with new actors, people
who can help me grow professionally. In the future I hope
I'll always be able to work with talented actors.
How are films funded in Italy? Does the government help
with the funding of feature films?
Zuccon: It's a tilt at windmills! Horror doesn't sell
much here... well, Italian horror doesn't, actually. This
situation brought our directors to turn to other genres.And
Italian distributors don't trust Italian horror. They want
to be safe, I mean completely safe. They want stars in the
cast and idiot-proof stories, so there's very little to
understand. They audience are accustomed to this logic and
this is how things work now. If I had a star in my films
(Asia Argento, to name one), I wouldn't have had problems
at all finding distribution. We don't give up, though. We're
knocking at all doors, and sooner or later someone will
open and listen to us.
Your films seem to be hard to find in America. Where can
fans go to find them?
Ivan Zuccon: Things should change fast,
and fans will be able to find my movies easily! The Shunned
House had quite a success among the distributors and so
will be sold most everywhere in the States. It'll be released
next July by Brain Damage Films, through Blockbuster and Hollywood
Entertaiment, both on DVD and VHS. I have good news about
Unknown Beyond too, since its release in USA is finally
announced by LeoFilms for next March 18th (also DVD and VHS).
In Europe The Shunned House will be released next June
in the UK, and in Spain and France by Summer. Unknown Beyond
is to be released in Germany very soon.
Have your films made the film festival circuit? If so,
what festivals screened them?
Ivan Zuccon: Both Beyond films were showed and
appreciated at several international festivals, such as
the Festival of Fantastic Films in Manchester (UK) in 2001,
the H.P. Lovecraft Film Festival in Portland (OR, USA) in
2000 and 2001 and the LA ScreamFest in 2002.
How well is Lovecraft known in Italy, and what is the
popular opinion of his work?
Zuccon: HPL is very and broadly known in Italy. Gothic
literature's fans scan bookstores for anything written by
the Master. Once disregarded as a genre author, it's now possible
to find very interesting and valuable editions containing
Lovecraft's letters, biographies, and stories he revised or
wrote in collaboration with other writers.
Unfilmable.com: Are you familiar with any
of the American made indie productions of Lovecraft's stories,
such as Cool Air, Return to Innsmouth,
Ivan Zuccon: I heard a lot about
them and I recently watched Christian Matzke's Nyarlathotep.
I think they are very interesting productions and demonstrate
how Lovecraft's inheritance is alive and well after all these
What is your personal favorite Lovecraft story, and do
you think it would translate well to the film medium?
Ivan Zuccon: That's a difficult question!
I love many HPL's stories, and used some of them already
in my movies. I'll probably use more in the future, but
there are some I know I'll never shoot since they are impossible
to shoot. I really love The Shadow over Innsmouth,
which I prefer to The Dunwich Horror. But to tell
the truth I love all Lovecraft's stories. I love his letters
too! His biography, the transcript of his dreams and nightmares.
Unfilmable.com: What is your favorite Lovecraft
film adaptation, and which do you think best translates
his work to the screen?
Zuccon: I really enjoyed
Dan O'Bannon's The Resurrected, based on The Case
of Charles Dexter Ward. I saw this movie many years
ago during a festival. I don't remember it perfectly, but
it had a great impact on me. The title is impossible to
find in Italy, since distributors don't take the genre very
seriously. In spite of its not being inspired to any particular
Lovecraft's tale, I loved Carpenter's In the Mouth of
Madness. It's evidently Lovecraft-inspired and a very
peculiar movie. It tells a lot about the workings of fear
and has a powerful and original structure.
Ivan Zuccon: We're working on it. We've got a plot,
ideas don't lack. Our problem is, as always, budget. Actually,
some production companies seems to be interested in co-producing
with us this third chapter of the Beyond saga, but we're all
waiting to see how Unknown Beyond and The Shunned
House will do on the US market, before applying ourselves
completely to the project.
Unfilmable.com: When can we expect to see
the third film in the Beyond trilogy, The Lost
I would like to thank you again for your time. I eagerly
await your next film, and hope you have a long and
great deal of thanks goes to Ivan Zuccon for agreeing to
do this interview. Special thanks as well to Aaron Vanek
and Christian Matzke for help with the questions, and thanks
to Enrico Saletti for help with the translation.
content © 2011
Ivan Zuccon and Craig Mullins unless otherwise noted