Local color is a vital, must-include element not just for localized stories, but really any story. I examined the purely visual part of local color in my first piece on the subject here – looking at it purely in terms of visual composition.

With this second piece, and the premiere of Gillian Flynn's newest – HBO's mini-series event Sharp Objects with Amy Adams in the lead role – July 8 at 9 PM, we will now take a look at local color in terms of visual plus written narrative, sound, acting and essentially every sense but taste and touch as every sense but taste and touch is at play in cinema as a medium. Furthermore, Sharp Objects as a mini-series is a superb example of how to execute local color and its profound importance.

The story is an interesting one, hyper-localized to a fictional town in the Missouri bootheel, "spitting distance from Tennessee" (as Flynn says in the book, which I also highly recommend reading) called Wind Gap. A serial killer is hunting little girls and pulling out their teeth among the scent of warm apple pie, sun-bleached Rotary Club and Masonic Lodge signs, peeling paint of old adverts on the sides of buildings and murals commissioned to "revitalize" an old town square after city slickers from St. Louis (several hours to the North) called it quaint but boring, while the local diner, bank, bar and pawn shop truck onward despite ever shrinking business in their small town. The children meanwhile try to keep entertained on their bikes, but sometimes small town existence can breed things much more insidious which entertain and bring out the inner sadist in otherwise "normal," all-American children. This is a theme that is very pervasive in Sharp Objects, and only made possible in terms of exposition of the narrative through the use of local color.

"Welcome to Wind Gap": a still and example of local color in SHARP OBJECTS. Notice the slight decay and retro style lettering and layout of this mural. All add to ambiance.

With this issue of a child murderer in their town, local law enforcement are shown to be basically incompetent and rushing to judgment that “a trucker” or transient did it. Matt Craven does an excellent job as Wind Gap’s police chief Vickery who's only real job if it weren't for the killer stalking their town, would be rounding up kids bored as hell and drinking at a public party on a Saturday night, or fixing a stop sign likely busted by those same bored as hell kids and a baseball bat. Both occurrences that Sharp Objects either shows or alludes to, and really drives home this small town evil reality through that use of local color.

Vickery's foil is the detective from Kansas City, Richard Willis (played by Chris Messina) who traveled to the bootheel to lend his big city, homicide squad acumen (and hopefully forward his career) to the case. Detective Willis is met by our story's anti-heroine Wind Gap local Camille Preaker (played exquisitely by Amy Adams), who is a hard-boozing, dogged and determined journalist fighting her share of pervasive psychological issues which are brilliantly brought to life on screen in a manner that I'd imagine was the closest the creator Marti Noxon and director Jean-Marc Vallée could've gotten cinematically to how Flynn treated this same element of Preaker's dark psychology in her book: unfortunately, more can't really be said on this point without major spoilers, suffice it so say, the elements here work very well. Preaker is working at a paper in St. Louis and is sent back to Wind Gap (where she was born and raised) by her caring and equally dogged editor Curry (brought to life by Miguel Sandoval) to investigate these increasingly bizarre occurrences, because of local color: as Curry says, getting that detail makes the story.

L-R: Amy Adams as Camille Preaker opposite Patricia Clarkson as Adora Crellin inside Adora's sprawling Victorian mansion in SHARP OBJECTS.

When Preaker arrives back in Wind Gap, after a very pivotal scene of the decaying urban landscape of inner-city St. Louis – an area I'm very familiar with and have in fact shot with my camera, as I'm from less than two hours to the North – her first instinct is to stay at a hotel. She doesn't want to go home for reasons the rest of the mini-series will explore.

Preaker's mother is in so many ways at the root of her many neuroses, bravely and ferociously explored in Amy Adams' performance. Patricia Clarkson as Preaker's mother Adora Crellin was really an impeccable and perfect casting choice: Clarkson's New Orleans background (she grew up in the Crescent City) really shines through as Adora is seemingly the picture of southern gentility, perfectly-mannered, affable, and almost neurotic about her social standing while trying to stay perfectly polite to visitors.

Yet what kind of neuroses might this polished southern woman be hiding? We get various clues throughout when Preaker arrives home. The most interesting bit, however, is the atmosphere that is created in the sprawling southern Victorian mansion that Adora lives in with her husband Alan (Henry Czerny) – who essentially exists just to keep his "fragile" but domineering wife comfortable – and her other daughter Amma (Eliza Scanlen) who Adora desperately wants to be a mirror image of the dolls she keeps in her fastidiously-perfect dollhouse but is something quite the opposite – we see her using hard drugs with her friends when the child is no more than 14 in the story, and indeed many of the children of Wind Gap are keeping other dark secrets somewhere below their seemingly perfect middle and upper class exteriors – including sexual sins and other assorted acts of violence. That, indeed, is a huge part of Sharp Objects, like Shirley Jackson's haunting short story "The Lottery": what kind of truly insidious evil lies at the heart of a small town?

L-R: Patricia Clarkson as Adora Crellin, Eliza Scanlen as Amma Crellin, and Amy Adams as Camille Preaker while shopping for a formal dress for Preaker while in Wind Gap. This scene is pivotal as a look at Preaker's disturbed psychology.

The scenes in the house are permeated with an intense southern gothic air not just because of the beautifully-kept but obviously decaying Victorian fixtures and accoutrements, but from the Chopin-esque quasi-chaotic and dark classical music that fills every nook and cranny of the mansion whenever we as the viewer are there. It is nearly all that Alan and Adora play on their record player, as they down stiff ice-teas and mint juleps off their massive veranda, the locusts and cicadas keeping a constant hum in the sticky Missouri night. Indeed, this whole setup, the detail specifically, really achieves the balance of tension that makes a great southern gothic piece and also a great thriller.

This ambiance of slow-burn psychological dysfunction – where something seems to bubble just below the seemingly perfect veneer of a small town or an old but kept up Victorian mansion – is the heart and jewel of Sharp Objects. It is perfectly executed from the exquisite use of detail in visual composition, music, and the very arc of the narrative – without the local color, we would have no emotional compass from where to understand the journey toward evil that we are embarking on.

Oh what a journey that is. Sharp Objects proves in the end to be an hauntingly beautiful mix of southern gothic and murder mystery, wrapped in the garb of a thriller and all accentuated by brilliant uses of local color.

Amy Adams as Camille Preaker opposite Chris Messina as Detective Richard Willis in SHARP OBJECTS' walk of the crime scenes.