It is The Color Out of Space which H.P. Lovecraft regarded as his favorite among his tales. That’s high praise from an author known for being overly critical of his work. Enter director Richard Stanley. Stanley was introduced to the writings of Lovecraft by his mother Penny Miller. When she was dying of cancer, the young Stanely would sit at her side reciting their favorites. He notes that The Color Out of Space has “always been a part of his psychological make up”. This is also his return to Hollywood since the events behind the 1996 adaption of H.G. Wells’ The Island of Doctor Moreau. All of this and more is revealed in the documentary Lost Soul: The Doomed Journey of Richard Stanley’s Island of Dr. Moreau. I’d highly recommend anyone interested watch this before viewing Color Out of Space (trailer here).
With a story stamped with the approval of the Master of Macabre himself and the deep emotional connection present between Stanley and Lovecraft’s work, you should be as excited as I was to watch this film. I loved it and I will surely get to why soon. And it may or may not have a lot to do with Nicolas Cage. Regardless of your opinion on Cage, there’s no arguing that when he is in the zone, he in the zone. However, there is, I feel, only one way to begin here. Stanley knew just as Lovecraft knew.
West of Arkham the hills rise wild, and there are valleys with deep woods that no axe has ever cut. There are dark narrow glens where the trees slope fantastically, and where thin brooklets trickle without ever having caught the glint of sunlight. On the gentler slopes there are farms, ancient and rocky, with squat, moss-coated cottages brooding eternally over old New England secrets in the lee of great ledges; but these are all vacant now, the wide chimneys crumbling and the shingled sides bulging perilously beneath low gambrel roofs.
-H.P. Lovecraft, The Colour Out of Space (1926)
One of the most difficult aspects of adapting cosmic horror and Lovecraft specifically to film, for me, is the removal of the pulse of the prose. The monsters, gods, multi-dimensional deities themselves are all unnamable and amorphous. The fear emanates from the fingers of its creator. The dread rhythm of the atmosphere and setting pull the reader into a deadly dance. To give a face to the faceless and to name the unnamable is to remove a bit of the mystery. And as the adage goes, ” The oldest and strongest emotion of mankind is fear, and the oldest and strongest kind of fear is fear of the unknown.”
Color Out of Space opens appropriately with the words of the writer and the archaic roots and rivers of the deep woods of Arkham. From the inaugural scene, the atmosphere is set. And you can feel it. For fans of the mythos, you will be happy to know Stanley slyly tosses in our favorite book of the damned The Necronomicon and makes you wonder if it means everything to the plot or nothing at all.
The movie is shot beautifully and the otherworldly Color Out of Space, while alluring, still exudes oddness. This story works so well as an adaptation because it is the setting itself that becomes the antagonist. Does that leaf look a little… different? The wind doesn’t feel quite the same. Is the world around you changing or are you losing your mind? I’d argue those two aren’t mutually exclusive.
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As a result, Thomas Gardner (Cage) and his family is forced into a situation where their home has now become just as foreign as the depths of deep space. Besides the promise of potential madness, Color Out of Space offers several slices of dark humor. I found myself laughing hysterically at a few scenes. It’s not something you expect going in, but it’s so well done, you want more. Thomas Gardner is so out of touch before things get weird, you feel like you’re losing your mind along with this crazy guy. Daughter and witch Lavinia (Madeleine Arthur) along with sons Jack and Benny (Julian Hilliard and Brendan Meyer) slowly succumb to the sickness of the land as their mother Theresa (Joely Richardson) and father spearhead their way to crazy-town. Cage is at his best when he’s crazy. Welcome to Arkham.
WICKED RATING: 10/10
Director(s): Richard Stanley
Writer(s): Richard Stanely, Scarlett Amaris
Stars: Nicolas Cage, Joely Richardson, Madeleine Arthur, Brendan Meyer, Elliot Knight, Tommy Chong
Release: January 24th, 2020
Studio/ Production Co: SpectreVision, XYZ Films, ACE Pictures Entertainment
Sub-Genre: Cosmic Horror