There’s plenty of hype around Colour Out of Space for a variety of reasons:
- Richard Stanley directs his first film after his infamous sacking from The Island of Dr Moreau (read about it and then watch the disaster unfold).
- It’s the follow up from the producers of the severely under seen, recent cult classic that is Mandy (also starring Nicholas Cage).
- It’s widely touted as the first Lovecraft adaptation to have broad appeal whilst staying true to the Lovecraftian style.
- Nicolas Cage.
The screenplay does indeed stay true in spirit to the source material. But it doesn’t quite capture the escalating terror on the small farm set in the of the pre-20th century world. There’s a magic to the horror and sci-fi from that turn of the century period. That magic is the belief in the weird and unknown, prior to humankind rapidly shaking off its cultural superstition and myths. It would have been nice to keep that time setting.
The story focuses on the Gardner family. Patriarch Nathan (Cage) has moved his family to his boyhood farm to rear alpacas and grow tomatoes. The move in part is to alleviate the emotional scars his wife, Theresa (Joely Richardson), carries after a double mastectomy. After convincing her to get intimate for the first time following a six month abstinence, the couple’s coitus is interrupted by a meteorite striking their property, bringing with it a horrible odour and an undefinable colour that flashes over the landscape.
Slowly the flora and fauna around the crater take on new colours, behaviours and later, malevolent characteristics. Nathan’s son becomes obsessed with what is now at the bottom of their well. Their daughter dabbles in Wiccan magic using the Necronomicon. The physics of time and space around the farm begin to break down. It’s all pretty eerie. But never terrifying. The film certainly brings the miasma but doesn’t manage to grapple with the horror at the source of it.
The budget is perfect for a film of this size. Too small and it would have been impossible to bring to life the visual abnormalities. Too large and it would have been butchered by committee into a story about Nicholas Cage saving the Earth from a rogue meteor. Stanley has done a terrific job capturing the visuals of a ‘new colour’ with iridescent shimmers that vibrate the world around it.
Whilst he is more than adept with the sci-fi elements of the story, it’s in the horror department that Stanley surely is no maestro. The body horror is more nauseating than unnerving. It’s not terrible either, just not up to the same par as the rest of the production.
For those curious Cage is at a 10 in this one, bringing his unique mania and energy. His performance and the visuals are more than worth the price of admission. For all its strengths it really isn’t as gripping as it should be though. It’s a little unfair to compare an adaptation to the classic source text. Though that’s what I’ll do. The short story, as with most of Lovecraft’s work, focuses much on the unexplained; supernatural’s triumph over science during the age of enlightenment. This begets budding unease, which begets the horror. This adaptation rushes through that suspense to get straight to oddities. The colour and performances are bang on. It would have been great if the tension and terror were at the same level.
Colour Out of Space is in cinemas from 6th February through Umbrella Entertainment.