It’s difficult to find good movie adaptations of H.P. Lovecraft’s stories. Out of the few I’ve seen, “Re-Animator” (1985) and John Carpenter’s 1994 movie “In the Mouth of Madness” are the best in my opinion. “Re-Animator” is a loose adaptation of the story “Herbert West: Reanimator” (1922). “In the Mouth of Madness” is not a direct adaptation of any Lovecraft story, it’s more of a tribute to the author’s weird fiction. (If you haven’t seen it, I recommend it. It’s a pulpy blast of B-movie madness with a memorable performance by Sam Neill.)
So when I heard about this recent film version of Lovecraft’s story “The Colour Out of Space” I was curious to watch it. Especially after I learned it was directed by Richard Stanley, the South African director who had seemingly disappeared from the movie scene after being fired from that production of “The Island of Dr. Moreau” (1996). I enjoyed Stanley’s first two films “Hardware” (1990) and “Dust Devil” (1992), which have since become considered “cult classics”.
In “Color Out of Space,” Nicolas Cage plays Nathan Gardner, a farmer living out in the sticks with his wife, three children, and a small herd of alpacas. Yes, alpacas. One night, a small meteorite crashes into his front yard, setting into motion a series of increasingly strange events. If you want to know more about the original story, please check my review here.
So, what kind of movie is “Color Out of Space“? I’ve read reviews that complain this film is dull and boring. Well, if you are looking for a jump-scare-filled, action-packed thrill ride, then this is probably not for you. What it is, is a slow-building, visually beautiful, modern adaptation of Lovecraft’s story. The first half of the movie is all about atmosphere and building suspense, just like the original story. In the second half of the film, things really start to warp into the weird with some fairly gruesome scenes of body horror involving both the humans and the animals. You have been warned! It was refreshing to see some high-quality practical effects, instead of the endless reliance on CG in most modern movies.
Nicolas Cage’s presence guarantees a certain chaotic or bonkers edge to the film, and he doesn’t disappoint. I also enjoyed Joely Richardson’s understated performance as Theresa Gardner, Nathan’s medicated wife. There’s a scene with her chopping vegetables that actually made me close my eyes, horror-lite boy that I really am! The three actors playing the children are all worthy of mention, too. In fact, there isn’t a bad performance in the movie, despite Cage’s occasional histrionics. That’s why we love him, right?!
The review site Rotten Tomatoes sums it up well with: “A welcome return for director Richard Stanley, Color Out of Space mixes tart B-movie pulp with visually alluring Lovecraftian horror and a dash of gonzo Nicolas Cage.” I highly recommend it for fans of Lovecraft’s stories. For anyone else, I would say watch it if you are in the mood for a different, more cerebral kind of horror movie; one that is heavy on atmosphere and characters, but also offers some creepy, and at times trippy visual effects. In fact the whole movie looks beautiful, especially the outdoor scenes.
Thanks for reading!