Wednesday, March 11, 2020

Color Out of Space


This is a weird one, and that makes me happy. Modernizing the horror short story by the master of cosmic horror, H.P. Lovecraft, Color Out of Space tells of a mysterious event that takes place on an alpaca farm, where a meteorite lands and begins to alter the life around it.

Directed by Richard Stanley.

The event is witnessed by Ward (Elliot Knight) who stumbles across the farm as he does a survey of water tables in the secluded woods of Arkham County. The farm residents are the Gardner's, father Nathan (Nicholas Cage) mother Theresa (Joely Richardson) daughter Lavinia (Madeleine Arthur), and two sons, Benny (Brendan Meyer) and Jack (Julian Hilliard). After the meteorite crashes in their front yard they begin to experience an exponential growth of strange and disturbing happenings, that we know will lead nowhere good.

We don't get many straight-up H.P. Lovecraft movies, so I knew I was going to watch this no matter how bad it was, but I am genuinely impressed at how good an adaptation this is. It's set modern-day and there are a handful of other detail changes done, but with Lovecraft, the appeal isn't in exactly what happens, but the feel evoked -- and this felt every bit like the Lovecraftian menagerie of epic unknown terror that it should. The horror has that insane edge to it, and it creeps up slowly, focusing on the way the mystery effects the characters' mental states.

I loved this wobbly effect visible in the background.

It also withholds, but not so much that you feel cheated. You imagine, and then you get to see for yourself. And the effects are pretty darn fantastic. Sometimes in the vein of John Carpenter with practicals, sometimes with almost experimental digital -- rendering madness, and the indescribable. And it is cool. Violent and cosmic cool -- both in the concept and the way it is pulled off. As someone who doesn't like to be actively scared during a film, it was ideal for me. When you see how terrifying it must be for the characters, but are amazed, amused, and entertained yourself.

Despite having a fairly low budget, the movie doesn't lack anything, due to the original story dictating a remote location and tiny cast of characters. The woods and farm in the area are beautiful, and are made up in small ways to have an otherworldly vibe even before the changes begin. A lot of thought was put into the layout and details of the sets -- they stick in your mind with clear and unique imagery. And besides Nicholas Cage, no one is a big name, but they all sell the weird and the horror plus some. My favorites were Lavinia and Ward. Cage is like the cherry on top that brings out the crazy. Like he was born to play Lovecraft characters.

I would love to see more adaptations in this vein.

This film goes for it. The changes made are only to modernize, and to make the happenings film-able. Though Lovecraft's stories are not very cinematic, the solution, this film knew, isn't to try and "fix" the story. It fleshes out the characters and has to make up narrative scenes, but they are all in service to doing justice to the tone and nature of the story -- which is what's important. I was in awe by the end. It was wild and beautiful, disturbing and gleeful, and epic, and mad -- a true Lovecraftian film.

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