The Colour Out of Space was a short story written by horror/sci fi pioneer H.P Lovecraft in 1921. Set in an isolated town in New England in the 1880’s, it tells the story of the Gardner family. One night a meteorite crash lands on their farm. When scientists try to examine the rock, they release a strange globular ‘’colour’’ that Lovecraft writes is beyond human comprehension. Over the course of two years all crops and animals on the farm become grotesque mutations and slowly die, and the family descend into madness before meeting grisly ends. It’s one of Lovecraft’s strongest works and has been a huge influence on horror writers such as Steven King and film makers such as Alex Garland who seemed to reference it heavily in 2018’s Annihilation. It’s also been the subject of no less than five film adaptations with Richard Stanley’s 2019 film being the latest.
Stanley has transported the story to the modern day which I was slightly saddened by as I could picture this story being an excellent period horror piece in the style of Robert Eggers’ The Witch. The cast is led by Nicholas Cage who is on top (mad) form. Stanley apparently told him that his favourite film of his was Vampire’s Kiss and asked him to play his part in that style. Unflinchingly insane then.
Stanley has largely kept the main plot points of the original story intact, though whilst one of the strengths of the novella was that the creatures created by the Colour remained largely undescribed and thus as terrifying as your imagination allowed them to be, Stanley has gone full on Cronenberg-esque body horror in this version. The mutations caused by the colour are fantastically rendered in gruesome SFX and displayed in impressively atmospheric night time photography. The film is a little over stuffed with unnecessary additions and tropes though. We have a creepy child, a daughter that’s into witchcraft and inexplicably, Tommy Chong as a massive stoner who lives in the woods? The film never quite becomes truly terrifying due to a number of knowingly ridiculous moments. Nic Cage being an expert on milking alpacas. Cage having an epic meltdown over a pile of tomatoes. Joely Richardson lapping water out of a teacup like a cat. I’m not making any of this up.
Ultimately, it’s a mixed bag but worth a watch for fans of Lovecraft, Cage and psychedelic horror. Cage is right at home being his balls to the wall crazy self in this audacious outing and I couldn’t be happier to see him making films as unhinged as he is.