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Review: Color Out Of Space – “A Lovecraft adaptation that is a wild and transcendental hoot”

Outlaw film director Richard Stanley (Hardware) returns to the helm after a lengthy post-The-Island-of-Dr.-Moreau-imposed absence to bring us Color Out of Space, an H.P. Lovecraft adaptation starring Nicolas Cage (Mandy), Joely Richardson (Event Horizon), Madeleine Arthur (Big Eyes), Eliot Knight (American Gothic), Brendan Meyer (The Guest), Julian Hilliard (The Haunting of Hill House) and Tommy Chong (Up in Smoke).

Following the death of his father, Nathan Gardner (Cage) moves into his dad’s isolated farm to get away from it all and raise alpacas. He brings with him his chronically-ill stocks trader wife Theresa (Richardson), stoner son Benny (Meyer), cool witch-y daughter Lavinia (Arthur), and nerdy youngest Jack (Hilliard).

One night a magenta meteor strikes the property and a scientist (Knight) arrives to investigate the phenomena as it begins to have strange otherworldly effects on the family, property, wildlife and live-in drop-out hermit Ezra (Chong), putting everyone through a bizarre and sanity-loosening body horror trip of a nightmare.

This is Lovecraft’s ‘The Colour Out of Space’ modernised and minus a definitive article and a vowel, but very much in his spirit. When we saw this one at last year’s London Film Festival, star and guest Joely Richardson said that both Stanley and Cage were huge Lovecraft fans and knew every word of the text backwards and forwards and it shows.

Color Out of Space is faithful, but with its own spin. The film captures Lovecraft’s unease and otherworldly mystery but expands and amplifies the freaky consequences of the “color” while adding its own anxious energy and an air of horror and unpredictability.

Stanley sets up the Gardner family quickly, allowing the actors easy chemistry to do the work and make them easily and instantly likeable. Cage is mostly very contained with the odd, awesome, wacky slip but the rest of the cast react to him like a goofball husband and a slightly embarrassing dad and it works and makes the family feel real – not like Nic Cage chewing on three cardboard cut-outs.

Richardson’s characters barely masked pain is tangible and makes later traumatising events doubly devastating while Meyer and Arthur’s teens feel real and relatable. Lavinia is the standout though – a heroine that embraces the strange energy and even makes it seem cool. She seems like a British Maika Monroe and I am looking forward to seeing what she gets up to next.

Production company SpectreVision is already so happy with this film that they have got Richard Stanley on Lovecraft’s ‘The Shadow Over Innsmouth’ next with hopes and plans of a Stanley shepherded H.P.LCU. It feels like Eliot Knight’s charismatic scientist Ward may be about to become the connective tissue and I cannot wait. He provides a charming and intelligent hero here and would make a great storytelling investigative interloper – a character present in so many of Lovecraft’s works – on which to hang an ongoing series.

Richard Stanley has an eye for the unusual and the offbeat natural visual and tonal talent to bring it to life. Leaving him to do this – as opposed to messing with his vision, firing him, and blaming him for a failure like on Island of Dr. Moreau – with properties he clearly cherishes and has the knack for is a no-brainer.

With Color Out of Space Richard Stanley has conjured up a Lovecraft adaptation that is a wild and transcendental hoot and plays like Annihilation meets The Thing meets the Stephen King “meteor shit” segment of Creepshow with a Nic Cage-rage chaser.

Color Out of Space is released in the UK on the 28th of February.

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