‘Color Out Of Space’ Brings Back Cosmic Horror
And Director Richard Stanley
If ever there were a recipe for the kind of audacity needed to bring some of H.P. Lovecraft’s more challenging stories to life on film, it would include a director like Richard Stanley, an actor like Nicolas Cage, and the studio that brought us Mandy last year.Twenty-three years removed from his last directorial outing, which famously ended after just three days, Stanley makes a triumphant return behind the camera with Color Out of Space. Lovecraft fans can rest assured that this is one of the best direct adaptations of the weird fiction writer’s seminal works since Re-Animator.
COLOR OUT OF SPACE ★★★ (3/5 stars)
Directed by:Richard Stanley
Written by: Richard Stanley, Scarlett Amaris, and story by H.P. Lovecraft
Starring: Nicolas Cage, Joely Richardson, Madeleine Arthur, Elliot Knight
Running time: 111 min
The film makes a few major changes to the short story, namely bringing it into the present day and telling the story from the perspective of the family rather than as a second-hand account of events. These changes succeed in making the story more immediate and don’t sacrifice any of the spirit of the source material.
Thie story marinates in the cosmic nihilism one would expect from Lovecraft. The Gardner family, headed by the super dorky Nathan Gardner (Cage), has an idyllic life together, until one day a meteorite strikes their farmland and begins poisoning everything. Animals, insects, plant life —it all starts giving off an eerie pink glow. It’s like cosmic bowling!
Luck has it that a very intelligent hydrologist happens to be surveying the Gardner’s land around this time because of a city-proposed new reservoir, and he discovers that the water contains contaminants. There’s just poison all over this damn place now, and for some reason this family ignores the red flags long enough to descend into the kind of madness normally reserved for mountains.
Madness and Nic Cage go together, so there’s no shortage of instant classic outbursts from him , but the rest of the cast perceivably attempts to match that energy. While they don’t quite ever get there, and who could blame them, they make a commendable effort. They do just enough to sell the family drama and add some absurd levity so that we can enjoy what we really came here to see. The realized vision of an unimaginable terror awaits.
The central horror comes from the source of the spreading mutagen poison, which is an indescribable, incomprehensible hue that doesn’t register on the known color spectrum. How the hell do you film that? Stanley’s answer is mostly to use magenta and morphing neon, which are en vogue right now with many cinematographers, but it works.
While some of the CGI Special effects leave a little to be desired in spots, they build to an ethereal atmospheric effect not unlike what we saw in Annihilation. The practical effects pick up the slack on grotesquerie and give the film the kind of verve that’s lacking in a lot of modern horror films. As a result, a pack of four alpacas and an unspeakable familial monstrosity are the real stars of this movie.
Lovecraft’s fingerprints are all over horror classics that were not direct adaptations of his work, like Alien and The Thing, which is why it’s so exciting when we get a film like Color Out Of Space that comes from a place of deep reverence and understands what the audience wants from cosmic horror.
At a Q&A for an LA premiere of the film, Stanley clarified that Color Out of Space is the intended beginning of a Lovecraft film adaptation trilogy, with the next script he’s working on drawing from “The Dunwich Horror.” One can hope he gets to follow through on that vision.