Wednesday, January 29, 2020

Color Out of Space

Hey, this is getting a second week at Kendall Square! Not surprising just in terms of it doing well for them - there was a good crowd when I went to see it Sunday night, and you don't exactly get a good crowd for anything on Sunday night - but it's kind of surprising; most theaters in the area played it as a one-night thing via Fathom (or something Fathom-like), and it's coming out on video just a month after its theatrical release, and most chains balk at anything less than a three-month window. Considering that the Kendall is not exactly the place you go for horror in general - and Richard Stanley, while kind of an interesting auteur, isn't really an art-house guy - that's a bunch of people turning out for it. I suspect that for a lot of them it's a Nicolas Cage thing bubbling up into theaters, but who knows, maybe there's a bigger Lovecraft fandom out there than I know.

Good for Stanley, too. I don't believe I've seen any of his movies - I've got a disc of Hardware that I picked up, and zonked out during the Fantasia screening of L'autre Monde. That latter experience was genuinely unusual, and there was a deep affection for Stanley from everyone there (and you really can't miss him when he comes to Fantasia either in support of a project or just to attend). He's a guy that I mentally put in the same category of Alan Moore and Alejandro Jodoowsky, creators who have an element of mysticism to them that's probably natural-but-cultivated, enough that it's sometimes more surprising than it should be when they turn out to be pretty good at just doing the work of actually making a film.

Color Out of Space

* * * ¾ (out of four)
Seen 26 January 2020 in Landmark Kendall Square #6 (first-run, DCP)

Color Out of Space is the first horror movie in a while to have me giving second glances to things I saw out of the corner of my eye between the theater and the bus stop, so if nothing else, I've got to give it credit for working on that purely visceral level. It's better than that, though; Richard Stanley's film genuinely gave me the creeps and I can only "yeah, but..." that in one or two fairly minor ways.

It starts off by referring to a more grounded bit of horror as Lavinia Gardner (Madeleine Arthur) does a sort of neo-pagan ritual to hopefully dispel the cancer that mother Theresa (Joely Richardson) has been fighting, before being interrupted by hydrologist Ward (Elliot Knight) and returning home to her family's farm, deep in the Arkham, Massachusetts woods, where father Nathan (Nicolas Cage) is making a go of raising alpacas and brother Benny (Brendan Meyer) wanders off to get high with squatter Ezra (Tommy Chong). Youngest brother Jack (Julian Hilliard) already awake when a meteor crashes into the yard that night, glowing a strange color and seeming to assail the other senses as well. It soon starts sinking into the ground but nevertheless having an uncanny effect on the farm and those in it.

Stanley and co-writer Scarlett Amaris are adapting a story by H.P. Lovecraft, and while hardly the first, this is likely the highest-profile one to actually get made (Guillermo del Toro and Tom Cruise had a big-budget project fall apart shortly before filming). Despite Lovecraft's long-lasting influence and popularity, adapting him has often proved difficult as his strengths - the quality of his prose and its descriptions of terrors which the human mind cannot comprehend - are not an easy match for film, and that his conception of those terrors was likely rooted in a level of racism and xenophobia that raised eyebrows in the early twentieth century does not help. Stanley and company do what they can to see the story modernized but not awkwardly so, from making sure that the most decent and reasonable character is African-American to establishing Theresa's cancer as a way for the viewer to think of something invasive and mutating from the start. It is, perhaps, a little less abstract than the story, and less mysterious if only because there have been decades of pop-culture terrors brought to Earth via meteors since its publication, but it becomes a filmable movie that way, giving the cast room to show how this messes the characters up.

Full review on EFilmCritic

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