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Movies Steven Woeste Review by
Steven Woeste
THE COLOR OUT OF SPACE
THANK YOU
TIP JAR
H. P. Lovecraft's COLOR OUT OF SPACE - 2019
USA Release: Jan. 24, 2020
SpectreVision, ACE Pictures Entertainment, BRO Cinema (
In association with), XYZ Films, RLJE Films
Rating: USA: R

While I haven't read everything by H.P. Lovecraft, I've read most of his writings.

I got an early start at about age 10, so there was plenty of time to cover all that ground between then and now. Still, film adaptations of his works have tended to be rather lame; at best passable, one example being THE DUNWICH HORROR released in 1970. So, I wondered about the adaptation of "The Colour Out of Space" especially since it was a short story, and the movie based on it had a running time of over two hours. As is so often the case when short stories are expanded into movies (like Stephen King's CHILDREN OF THE CORN), there is often not enough content to sustain a movie.

So, I had some misgivings when I heard the Richard Stanley (HARDWARE, DUST DEVIL, THE ISLAND OF DR. MOREAU [1996], THE ABANDONED, THE THEATER BIZARRE) movie adaptation of "The Colour Out of Space" was going to be released soon, even more when I found out Nicolas Cage (8MM, BRINGING OUT THE DEAD, THE WICKER MAN [2006], GHOST RIDER, KNOWING, NEXT, KICK-ASS, SEASON OF THE WITCH, DRIVE ANGRY, MANDY) would be one of the lead actors. It was hard to imagine him in a movie like this. Plus, they even changed the spelling from "colour" to "color". Yet I went to the movie with an open mind, still not knowing what to expect.

H. P. Lovecraft's The Colour Out Of Space
Book Cover

Understand it helps to have read Lovecraft's work beforehand, especially the story The Colour Out of Space. While Lovecraft's writing can be imbued with action and adventure, it is heavily mood-driven. The words bleak and depressing can be used to accurately describe his stories and novels. The theme of the movie that people can be driven mad by things from outside this world is also prominent in Lovecraft's writing.

TRIVIA

On Feb. 16, 2020, Richard Stanley posted this Vulture article on his Facebook.

How Nic Cage and a Ouija Board Brought Richard Stanley Back to Set
By Lila Shapiro
Richard Stanley's career in Hollywood was supposed to be over. It was 1996, and he'd just been fired as the director of The Island of Dr. Moreau, a multimillion-dollar adaptation of a novel by H.G. Wells starring an aging and monomaniacal Marlon Brando. When Stanley had first conceived of the project a few years earlier, he'd been a rising star in Hollywood, fresh off the set of a relatively well-received pagan-horror art-house feature called Dust Devil. But since then, everything he'd worked so hard to build had fallen apart in spectacular fashion.

Continued at Vulture.

And -

COLOR OUT OF SPACE wins big at 24th Annual H. P. Lovecraft Film Festival, plus all 2019 Award Winners!

H.P. Lovecraft Resources

IMDb

Cthulhu Lives.org

HPL Film Festival

Lurker Films

H.P. Lovecraft

The movie starts conventionally enough: a family moves to the countryside to escape the city. They are accustomed to rural living to the point that they raise alpacas, grow vegetables, and have horses (the family surname of Gardner may be a weak joke here). The parents in the family, Nathan (Nicolas Cage) and Theresa (Joely Richardson: EVENT HORIZON, FATAL CONTACT: BIRD FLU IN AMERICA, THE DAY OF THE TRIFFIDS [TV 2009], RED LIGHTS, VAMPIRE ACADEMY, MAGGIE, THE MESSENGER [2015], IN DARKNESS, THE ROOK), have three children. There is a daughter Lavinia (Madeleine Arthur: GRACE: THE POSSESSION, THE TOMORROW PEOPLE [TV]), and the two sons Benny (Brendan Meyer: GIRL VS MONSTER, FEAR THE WALKING DEAD: FLIGHT 462 [TV]) and Jack (Julian Hillard: THE HAUNTING OF HILL HOUSE [TV]).

While the daughter and the older son Benny are typical children, Jack is withdrawn and mostly interacts with the family dog Sam. Early in the movie, a trespasser on the property is revealed to be a hydrologist, Ward (Elliot Knight: AMERICAN GOTHIC [TV]). For extra "color" you also get Ezra (Tommy Chong: EVIL BONG), a hermit living in the nearby woods.

One night a meteor crashes to earth on their property and the hot rock gives off a sickly purplish light. Oddly the meteor disappears before long after being struck by lightning, but it leaves behind long-term effects. One of them is the sudden lush growth of plants near the space the meteor had been. Similarly other life forms begin to change; a praying mantis the size of a crow emerges from a well in front of the house.

Other odd things happen. Jack claims to hear someone in the well talking to him, while his mother "accidentally" cuts the tips of her fingers off while preparing dinner. The television begins to show disturbing images which can almost, but not quite, be seen. Much worse follows, including the alpacas the family is raising mutate into bizarre creatures, resembling the deformed dogs in the movie John Carpenter's THE THING. Additional mutated animals are found in the woods by townspeople. And yes, the father Nathan starts his own break with reality: including developing a sickly sense of humor to deal with the bizarre happenings. And speaking of the humor it performs an uneasy balancing act in the movie, on the dividing line between amusing and sick. Was I amused? At times. Was I uneasy with the humor? At times.

THE COLOR OUT OF SPACE has decent, though not outstanding special effects, and that works for the movie, which tends to be more story than event driven despite what happens.

While it could be said that the movie is fairly faithful to Lovecraft's work, it does depart in some ways. There are more characters in the movie than necessary, with some of the secondary roles being disposable. Ward the hydrologist isn't really necessary. While he discovers the water in the area including the family well is abnormal, it's not clear if the water is causing the changes or it is the meteor. Likewise, there is little use of Ezra in the movie. His theories about what is going on don't add much to understanding the cause of all the changes. There is also a subplot involving witchcraft or spellcasting that is out of place and goes nowhere.

With some of the major characters, like Theresa and her younger son Jack, there are scenes which seem to be there just to push the envelope for gross or disturbing. There seems to be no point to this besides seeing how far you can push the special effects.

The ending of this movie is neither comforting nor neat. Could THE COLOR OUT OF SPACE be called nihilistic? I think so, as could Lovecraft's work. So overall this is a decent and even a good movie.

4 Shriek Girls

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This review copyright 2020 E.C.McMullen Jr.

Color Out of Space (2019) on IMDb
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