Colour Out Of Space is the first feature film that Stanley has made in 20 years, find out what put him into into exile and why it took so long for him to come back in this movie review.
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Colour Out Of Space is a modern re-telling on one of HP Lovecraft’s short stories that first appeared in the science fiction magazine Amazing Stories in September 1927. In fact the majority of Lovecraft’s stories featured in pulp magazines at the time and he wrote a bunch of them to turn a quick buck. Poor old Howard Philips Lovecraft didn’t have much of a life, succumbing to intestinal cancer at the young age of 46 he died a poor, bitter and quite racist bastard.
When you talk about posthumous success, there’s not many who can match Lovecraft. There’s no denying his legacy and the tentacles of his influence can be felt in loads of modern horror. With writers like Stephen King and Alan Moore and in films like The Thing, Alien, Underwater, The Lighthouse and countless others.
A lost soul
Much like Lovecraft director Richard Stanley is no stranger to suffering for his art.
Stanley’s mainstream debut as a director was set to be a film adaptation of H.G. Wells’ The Island of Doctor Moreau in 1996.
That experience was enough to take him out of the game for 20 years.
Stanley actually never ended up making that movie. After months of development he was fired 3 days into shooting and John Frankenheimer was brought in to clean up the mess.
The production was riddled with problems. Stars Marlon Brando and Val Kilmer seemed to deliberately want to sabotage the production, the set was almost wiped out by a tropical cyclone, most of the extras included hippies and ferals who were of their tits on drugs.
When he was fired Stanley actually retreated into the rainforest to live on coconuts and cannabis until he was discovered by some of the film crew. They hatched a plan to dress him up as one of the mutant half-man half-dog characters and snuck him back on the set as an extra. Check out the documentary Lost Soul: The Doomed Journey of Richard Stanley’s Island of Dr Moreau for an utterly fascinating insight into one of the most troubled productions of all time.
A lover of the craft
Richard Stanley was introduced to the works of H.P. Lovecraft at a young age by his mother who would read them to him as a young boy. His mum actually was probably one of his biggest influences as he travelled with her throughout her youth while she was researching her book Myths and Legends of Southern Africa. Along with horror stories before bedtime, little Richard was exposed to witch doctors and animal sacrifice. He bailed on South Africa as a teenager to avoid being conscripted and directed music videos in the UK. Then he moved to Afghanistan in 1989 to film the Afghan war, ended up joining a group of guerrillas got caught up in the battle of Jalalbad, survived, decided that perhaps war wasn’t for him and went back to filmmaking.
He’s a fascinating guy, kind of like this neo-pagan cowboy and the movie business really does need more of these eccentric creative types.
How could things possibly get any weirder?
Let’s team him up with Nicholas Cage and find out!
The story of Colour Out Of Space is that of the Gardner family, who in the wake of wife and mother Theresa’s mastectomy decide on a tree change for their family. Dad Nathan decides leave the city life to grow tomatoes and raise alpacas for their milk. Daughter Lavinia is a typical goth teen who has taken to practising Wicca and performing rituals in the hope of restoring her mother’s health. Young son Jack is your typical little brother and older son Benny has taken to hating out with the local hermit, Ezra and smoking pot.
One night a meteor lights up the sky with a brilliant glowing purple and crash lands on their property. The colour seems to distort everything around it. Weird stuff starts to happen, strange plants grow, things start to mutate, the Gardner’s world spirals out of control and things start to go pretty much insane as the family and their world changes for the the worst.
The cast are all really good, Nicholas Cage hot off the heels of Mandy turns in another nutty and psychedelic performance. Joely Richardson gives a really solid dramatic performance that grounds the story before it gets completely out of control. Julian Hilliard is a kid actor destined for great things as younger son Jack. Brendan Myer, you might remember him from that show the OA plays Benny. Madeleine Arthur is excellent as Lavinia and Tommy Chong makes a brief but really cool appearance as the Ezra the hermit, hardly a dramatic stretch for him though.
Richard Stanley and writer Scarlet Amaris have done an excellent job bringing Lovecraft’s story into the modern age. They’ve been loyal to the subject matter but still take enough liberties with the story to make it relevant and fun. Yes it is a horror film, and it gets pretty gruesome but it really is a whole lot of sick, psychedelic fun. Lovecraft’s story has been branded cosmic horror and it doesn’t get much more cosmic than this. This is largely aided by the awesome score from composer and saxophone virtuoso Colin Stetson, who previously worked on Hereditary. He’s just one of those musicians that gets horror and the film is all the better for it.
Nicholas Cage is in danger of being taken fro granted as a novelty these days, especially in the wake of Mandy (this film incidentally is is brought to us by the same studio). While Cage is often cast in these roles because he does deranged really well, he’s also got the range to give it some impact. It’s really entertaining watching his character build up to the madness that engulfs everything in this movie. You can tell he’s having a great time with this role.
Movies are all the better for having Richard Stanley back and adding his eccentric style to the mix. He’s a great director, he always was, he just got fucked over by the business end of town. Colour Out of Space is a total triumph for him and one of the best HP Lovecraft films ever made. There’s word he’s planning on a trilogy of Lovecraft movies which is fantastic.
Can’t wait to see what he does next.