Back in the early-1990’s, director Richard Stanley started making a name for himself in the film industry, helming two films that helped reinterpret horror and sci-fi in Hardware and Dust Devil. Both films put Stanley’s name on the map and following those two hits, he began work on adapting The Island of Dr. Moreau for the big screen, only to get fired. He was replaced by John Frankenheimer, and the film went on to become a colossal bomb and hailed as one of the worst films ever made. The trials and tribulations Stanley and that particular film went through were brilliantly chronicled in the excellent documentary, Lost Soul: The Doomed Journey of Richard Stanley’s Island of Dr. Moreau, which is worth checking out. Ever since that disaster, Stanley disappeared from the world of cinema, until now with his film adaptation of H.P. Lovecraft’s Color Out of Space.
This Lovecraft tale has been adapted before onto the screen in different, unique ways with 1965’s Die, Monster, Die!, as well as 1987’s The Curse just to name a few, but Stanley has concocted his own adaptation, which he claims will be the first of a trilogy of films based on Lovecraft’s works. If that’s the case and he does somehow get his series of films made, then this particular film is a great starting-off point. This is a mesmerising, surreal, disturbing and yet magnificent film that stays true to the broad and fundamental outlines of the original short story while also fuelling it with phenomenal visuals and hypnotic sound effects that are out of this world. It’s a fascinatingly weird experience as we witness the normal, everyday family and their idyllic Alpaca ranch get slowly turned inside out, resulting in a hellish, nightmarish landscape of deformity, gore, madness, and pure desolation.
This film is clearly a passion project for Stanley, and you can see that in every single frame with his love for the source material shining through. Steve Annis’ cinematography is stunning, as is the gorgeous effects work; the practical effects are grotesquely realised, evoking the deformities seen in John Carpenter’s The Thing. The performances are surprisingly solid from nearly everyone, although Nicolas Cage feels very uneven, going from naturalistic one minute to typical Nic Cage insanity the next. The best performance in the film, surprisingly, comes from Madeleine Arthur as the rebellious teen that dabbles in Wiccan rituals before slowly dissenting into madness herself.
There have been a good share of Lovecraft adaptations out there, but Color Out of Space is one of the very best of them, while also proving to be a massive redemption for Stanley following the circumstances surrounding The Island of Dr. Moreau. This feels like Stanley’s personal project, and frankly, it’s immensely rewarding to have someone who just wants to bring his own vision to the screen and come out of it unscathed. If you want to be swept up by a trippy, nightmarish world of insanity, then this one will do it for you.
Dir: Richard Stanley
Scr: Richard Stanley, Scarlett Amaris
Cast: Nicolas Cage, Joely Richardson, Madeleine Arthur, Q’orianka Kilcher, Tommy Chong
Prd: Elijah Wood, Daniel Noah, Josh C. Waller, Lisa Whalen
DOP: Steve Annis
Music: Colin Stetson
Run time: 111 mins
Color Out of Space will be released on DVD and Blu-Ray on April 6th.