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'The Color out of Space' is Just as Insane as You'd Expect

Updated on January 25, 2020

I don’t think I’ve seen an H.P. Lovecraft adaption that tries to replicate the author’s style as hard as Richard Stanley’s ‘The Color out of Space’. Adapting a Lovecraft story to film is definitely a challenge. People consider his work unfilmable for a reason. I mean, Lovecraft himself couldn’t even describe some of the things that would go on in his stories. So, its no wonder that most adaptions bring a very light Lovecraftian style to the table, opting for the most conventional approach they can. This movie, though, dives headfirst into that style, boldly trying to translate it to the screen. And it’s approach is clever: it takes every opportunity it can to be comedic. Of course, absurdity is to be expected in a Lovecraft adaption, and the fear is that the movie could cross a line into unintentional comedy. But, by adding some humor to the mix, this movie helps the viewers accept it’s absurdity while having an admirable self awareness.

In terms of the story, this movie sticks closely to the source material. A meteorite, which seems to wield mysterious alien powers, crash-lands into a family’s farm and slowly causes them all to go insane. Now, the titular color in this story is famously said to be something alien and never before seen by humans. The characters in the movie describe it this way, even though its clearly purple every time we see it. This may sound like a nitpick, but its just one example of how a little more subtlety could have helped this movie. There are a couple other moments where the obvious CGI and unnecessary jump-scares can be jarring. The old rule of horror is that things can be scarier when left to the imagination. There are a few scenes where this movie abides by that rule, only giving us glimpses of something unthinkable, that are genuinely effective. When it comes to special effects and visuals, this movie could have been slightly toned down.

However, that is the only aspect of this movie that should be toned down. The rest is a deranged stoner film led by a psycho Nicolas Cage and its awesome. Cage has had tons of batshit performances in his career but this is one where it feels like he’s trying to keep up with the movie’s craziness instead of it being the other way around. The same could be said about his performance in ‘Mandy’ which was produced by some of the same people. Hopefully this second collaboration means theres more on the way, and Cage is entering a period where the movies he’s in are just as crazy as he is. Its only fitting for filmmakers to utilize him this way after decades of over the top performances.

Overall, ‘The Color out of Space’ seems to be about as close as you can get to taking a Lovecraft story and putting it right on the screen with minimal changes. But, more importantly than staying true to the source, its also just a really good horror movie. Its good to have Richard Stanley back if he’s going to make movies like this. His next film is supposed to be a ‘Dunwich Horror’ adaption. Thats certainly an even more outlandish story and its hard to imagine it being made into a film, but Stanley seems to have a good feel for Lovecraft’s stuff. I just hope Nicolas Cage will be in that one.


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