It’s been nearly thirty years, but Richard Stanley is finally back. After the butchered release of Dust Devil in 1992 and his firing from The Island Of Dr. Moreau, it seemed like he might never do another feature. He’s done some shorts and some scripts but that’s been it. So, you can imagine my joy when it was announced he would be writing and directing H.P. Lovecraft’s The Color Out Of Space. The fact it was starring Nicholas Cage was just icing on the cake.
Nathan Gardner (Nicholas Cage, Mom And Dad, Primal) has moved his family out to rural Massachusetts near Arkham, (of course), in order to raise alpacas. His wife Theresa (Joely Richardson, Event Horizon) is recovering from breast cancer and a double mastectomy.
They have three kids who are handling the isolation in their own ways. Lavinia (Madeleine Arthur, Grace: The Possession, X-Files) is practicing some kind of paganism that mixes the paperback version of The Necronomicon and Wiccan symbols. Benny (Brendan Meyer, The Guest) hangs out with the alpacas and stays stoned. And five-year-old Jack (Julian Hilliard, The Haunting of Hill House) is too young to care. Their farm is big enough they also have a hermit Ezra (Tommy Chong, Evil Bong, Pauly Shore Is Dead) living on it.
But the tranquility is about to be disrupted by two arrivals. Ward Phillips (Elliot Knight, American Gothic) who is in the area surveying the water quality ahead of the construction of a dam. And a meteorite that lands in the Gardener’s front yard. It soon crumbles to dust. But whatever it was that came with it is still there, in the air, the soil and the water. And in the Gardners.
The Color Out Of Space has already been adapted several times. From the Boris Karloff film Die Monster Die to The Curse. Even The Lonesome Death Of Jody Verrill segment of Creepshow. Stanley and co-writer Scarlett Amaris, (Blood Bags, Replace) take advantage of the advances in technology to go back to the story itself and try to visualize Lovecraft’s notoriously indescribable terrors. Most of the effects are practical and they are among the best I’ve seen recently. Especially the monstrosities composed of multiple creatures and/or people fused together.
The CGI comes into play in the last half hour. We get occasional busts before then, rendering the story’s indescribable creature. perceived only as a flash of strange color. And then the film goes off into a sequence that could best be described as the horror equivalent of 2001’s stargate scene. It’s a stunning visual.
The irony is that many of those unfamiliar with the original story will assume that The Color Out Of Space is ripping off The Thing and Annihilation among other films. But this is the original, this is Lovecraft while they are Lovecraftian. This is just one of the few times the money and technology were there to realize what his writing hinted at.
Of course, many will watch The Color Out Of Space to watch Nicholas Cage go over the top. And he does, in spectacular fashion. With his acting and the film’s hallucinogenic lighting, it often recalls Mandy, which is from SpectreVision. Balancing him off is Elliot Knight who gives a great performance as the stranger who walks into all of this. And naming a black character (Ho)Ward Phillips is a nice jab at the story’s notoriously racist author.
The Color Out Of Space will be released to theatres on January 24th by RLJE Films. This is one you want to pay the $$$ to see on a big screen.