Q & A with Federico Zampaglione

Ahead of the UK premiere of graphic and disturbing supernatural horror film THE WELL at FrightFest Glasgow 2024, director Federico Zampaglione talks about returning to hardcore horror, working with the late, great Giovanni Lombardo Radice and emerging from the shadow of Italian masters of the genre.

Federico Zampaglione on the set of THE WELL
Federico Zampaglione on the set of THE WELL

So, Federico, THE WELL has its UK premiere at the Glasgow Film Festival, as part of the popular FrightFest event. Excited, or what?

Frightfest it’ s the place where everything has started in 2009 and it’s one of the best festivals in the world. I can’ t wait to show THE WELL to the UK fans.

What inspired you to make the movie?

Wanting to get back on the horror horse! I deeply love this genre, because it speaks to the human soul, investigates our unknown fears and gets lost in deep darkness whilst clinging to a blade of light. THE WELL pushes at the most extreme emotions, destroying the border between reality and fantasy, good and evil, life and death. You will discover that evil has new depths”. Hopefully, it brings new life into contemporary Italian horror.

Without giving too much away, how would you describe THE WELL?

The Well is a terror puncher. My regular screenwriting partner and I started throwing ideas around – from The Picture of Dorian Gray, Countess Dracula and The Texas Chain Saw Massacre – and one concept I kept coming back to was the double level chiller, a sort of ‘Upstairs, Downstairs’ type of story. Then I was discussing with my wife (actress Giglia Marra), what the scariest place in the world could be and she came

up with a well. Trapped deep underground in a constricting space full of dank water, what could be worse?

Lauren LaVera as Lisa in THE WELL
Lauren LaVera as Lisa in THE WELL

It’s a terrific cast, a combination of rising talent such as Lauren LaVera and Taylor Zaudtke, mixed with legends like Claudia Gerini and Giovanni Lombardo Radice. And one of your daughters has a substantial role. Take us through the process.

I saw Terrifier 2 and liked it a lot, it was a full-on, no excuses gore-fest and Lauren LaVera was a fantastic anchor. So, I contacted her on social media and told her I was about to make this new horror movie and that she would be great as the main character. She was interested, I sent her the script, two days later she said she loved it. I couldn’t be happier with all the casting choices. It was a great experience. Every single actor was so talented and inspired and a real pleasure to work with.

Sadly, Radice passed away a few weeks after filming THE WELL. How would you describe his legacy?

He was an immense actor and a very unique guy. Despite him being just in a cameo role he gave an incredible strength to a very important moment of the film.  When I knew he passed away  I felt very sad.  It was an honour to share the set with such a legend.

You’re on record as saying you were very determined not to compromise on the horror, suggesting that extreme gore is where the zeitgeist is. Can you explain in more detail?

Just look at Terrifier 2, Scream VI and Evil Dead Rise. No compromises. I wanted . The film is very graphic. Importantly both producers didn’t want me to lighten the horror. They insisted it be gory in the extreme, so it gets really nasty and brutal at times. The master of practical effects, Carlo Diamantini, did a very impressive job. You will feel  on your own skin every single moment of pain because that’s where the zeitgeist is.

Are you worried that the film is too extreme for the mainstream genre audience?

It’ s definitely extreme but you also have some touching dramatic moments  and a little bit of black humour in a couple of scenes as well.  Just to make you breathe in that bloodbath.

Guron in THE WELL
Guron in THE WELL

The Well is set to solidify your reputation as a stand-alone genre filmmaker. Has it been tough coming out from the shadow of other Italian genre filmmakers, such as Argento?

Yes, very tough.  We all love and respect the great Masters of Italian horror, but they can easily overshadow you . I learned so much from them and I have a beautiful relationship with a lot of them; but at the same time I’ m working on my style …to get better and better and deliver my own vision of the darkness.

What is your opinion of the current horror trends? Do you have a favourite film of 2023?

This is a very good moment ! I loved ” When evil lurks”, ” Talk to me” , “Speak no evil”,

“Barbarians”  and many others. It seems that this genre is getting to the next level.

 Finally, what’s next?

Who knows ?…

THE WELL is showing at the Glasgow Film Theatre on Sat 9 March, 6.05pm, as part of FrightFest Glasgow 2024. Lauren LaVera and Federico Zampaglone will be attending.