Director: Riccardo Paoletti
Writers: Manuela Cacciamani, Carlo Longo
Stars: Daisy Keeping, David Brandon, Joy Tanner
It’s not often you come across the Etruscans in Italian films. There were a couple of giallos (The Etruscan Kills Again (72) and Murder in the Etruscan Cemetery (82)), but considering they were a civilization with a very distinct – and often macabre – set of beliefs, it’s surprising that they haven’t been used as cinematic source material more than they have. Even during the 1960s boom of horror films they were largely ignored, with writers turning instead to less local themes (vampires, zombies, ghosts); and they didn’t get a glance in the peplum productions of around the same time either. All of which means that Riccardo Paoletti’s 2013 release Neverlake, based on a script by Manuela Cacciamani and Carlo Longo, stands as a welcome attempt to reclaim an authentically Italian subject matter, even if its not a particularly successful film in its own right.
Student Jenny Brook comes to stay with her distant father (David Brandon), a surgeon who lives in Tuscany and has given up his career to pursue his passion for Etruscan history instead. He’s also now living with Olga (Joy Tanner), a former student of his and long-term lover who doesn’t exactly make Jenny feel welcome. Left alone for long stretches of time, Jenny becomes friends with a strange group of children who live at a nearby hospital. They explain that her father has been stealing artifacts from a local lake which was considered a scared place by the Etruscans, and convince her to steal them back and return them to where they belong. But these children also have a closer connection to her father, one which will also bring Jenny into danger.
As an Italian attempt to make a Spanish-style ghost story, Neverlake isn’t bad. It has some spooky atmospherics and a reasonably interesting story line, although it doesn’t take a genius to figure out that the children [spoiler] aren’t actually alive. It all goes mad in the last twenty minutes or so, throwing a Jesus Franco style surgical horror subplot into the mix, but at no point is it ever remotely scary. Furthermore, the pacing is variable, with very little happening for the first hour or so beyond Jenny’s dad behaving in a generally suspicious manner and Jenny acting like a complete muppet. The acting is acceptable and it’s nice to see David Brandon – who was a fixture in 80s Italian exploitation films – back on the big screen, but it’s ultimately a rather forgettable and disappointing experience.