Director: Richard Stanley
Script: Richard Stanley & Scarlett Amaris
Cast: Nicolas Cage, Joely Richardson, Madeleine Arthur, Brendan Meyer, Julian Hilliard, Elliot Knight, Tommy Chung, Josh C. Waller, Q’orianka Kilcher
Running time: 110.5 minutes
Richard Stanley has been a favourite director of mine for many years ever since I saw his first two feature films that emerged way back in the early nineties, namely Hardware (1990) and Dust Devil (1992). Both of these films had a unique feel to them and were clearly the work of an individual to watch out for. Sadly, after the debacle that was The Island of Dr Moreau (1995), when Stanley was sacked just days into production, Richard was subsequently lost to art-house cinemas producing a number of very niche documentaries, including The Otherworld (2013). After David Gregory’s documentary Lost Soul: The Domed Journey of Richard Stanley’s Island of Dr Moreau (2014) brought his name back into vogue, to a degree, Richard was able to gain a bit of credibility as a director once more and Color out of Space is his first mainstream feature film for nearly thirty years. So is it worth the wait?
Based on the short story ‘The Colour out of Space’ by horror legend H.P. Lovecraft, Stanley’s rendition is probably one of the best adaptations of the author’s work I’ve seen, and I’ve seen a lot.
The story concerns the Gardner family, who now live in father Nathan’s deceased dad’s farmhouse out in the sticks of rural Arkhamshire. Nathan (Cage) and his wife, Theresa (Richardson), are just starting to congratulate themselves on their recent move from the city when their lives are changed forever by a meteor landing near to their property. The meteor unleashes an extra-terrestrial pathogen of some kind that causes radiation-like mutations in their own bodies and in those of their animals too, including their dog and the Alpacas they’re rearing. The pathogen also changes people’s personalities, so the normally good-natured, but bickering family become increasing acrimonious towards one another.
Add into the mix a hydrologist, Ward (Elliot Knight), who’s been monitoring the local environment and who ends up being a hero of sorts, and Ezra (Tommy Chung from the ‘Cheech and Chong’ cult films), an eccentric local who seems to know more about what’s going on than anyone else, and Color out of Space manages to broadens its appeal and scope.
This being based on a H. P. Lovecraft story, you just know that things are going to get extra weird and ‘sanity-fucking’ very quickly and this adaptation doesn’t fall far from the original Cthulhu-yielding tree. Stanley throws in all kinds of strange stuff including weird purple lights in the sky, vicious purple-tinged lightning strikes, a bizarre purple praying mantis creature and some nicely realised practical effect grotesques reminiscent of the mutations in John Carpenter’s The Thing. The mum and son monster is particularly disturbing!
The performances are all pretty strong, although I thought Nic’ Cage should have reigned in his ‘Cage rage’ shtick a little, despite me having really enjoyed his ‘cocksucker’ rant to his malfunctioning car. There were a few peripheral characters that seemed somewhat pointless, including the local major; although I suspect they may have featured more in an earlier edit and were later lost to improve the flow of the narrative.
Director of photography, Steve Annis, has created a nice, at times, psychedelic look to the film, and Colin Stetson’s music score enhances the otherworldly visuals nicely, although I did miss Stanley’s usual musical collaborator, namely Simon Boswell, who I think would have created something even more memorable given half the chance. There are also some impressive visual effects on display by User T38.
I would certainly recommend this Lovecraft adaptation to fans of cult, and generally weird, cinema, and Richard Stanley and Scarlett Amaris must be congratulated on having produced such an interesting and successful adaptation of one of H. P. Lovecraft’s finest works. I just hope that we don’t have to wait so long for Richard Stanley’s next feature film.
Studiocanal is distributing Color of of Space on Blu-ray, DVD and EST. Unfortunately the only extras on the disc that I reviewed were trailers for Apocalypse Now: Final Cut and for cinema re-releases, in 4K, of four of John Carpenter’s early 80s classics, such as The Fog, They Live, Prince of Darkness and Escape from New York. Sadly, I’m guessing those cinema screenings will all be postponed for the time being due to the Corona pandemic, but all are worthy of seeing up on the big screen. Studiocanal will soon be releasing a special edition Blu-ray of Color out of Space, which includes a fold-out poster, a booklet and slipcase, which is available only from HMV.