Given the insanity of Richard Stanley’s work (this is the man who got fired from the set of The Island of Dr Moreau and sneaked back on set in full monster costume), it’s a wonder he hasn’t worked with Nicolas Cage before.
And for a good chunk of Colour Out Of Space, it’s almost disappointing how understated Cage is. The dream team maniac pairing finally happened, with a Lovecraft story no less, and neither maniac has dialled up the crazy.
Careful what you wish for. By the end of Colour Out of Space you’ll be harking back to a simpler time, when Nicolas Cage was no more than a father to two fairly well-adjusted kids, and husband to a perfectly normal wife. Who isn’t fused at the head to her own child.
For early on, that’s all that’s happening – family life They live in a large country house, buried in the woods, where Theresa Gardner (Joely Richardson) has a little office in which to run her high-powered job, and Nathan Gardner (Cage) raises alpacas…. okay, so normal is relative.
Quirky daughter Lavinia (Madeleine Arthur) wants to live in a witchcraft world or something, but at least her little brother Jack (Julian Hillard) behaves like any 10-year-old boy. Everyone is happy. And normal.
Then one night a meteor lands in the back garden. The ground shakes and lots of bright, colourful lights shine in the dead of night. The lump of alien matter lies in a hole in the garden. The family inspect it. Local news too. Then shit gets weird.
Theresa starts losing her mind. Cage gets quirky. A weird moth comes out of the well. Jack gets obsessed with the well. Cage gets crazy. Fingers are cut off. Bodies are fused together. The local stoner, who lives off the grid in a wooden hut in the forest starts acting stranger than usual. Cage gets batshit.
As the events get crazier, so do the Cage-isms – the weird one-liners and random twitches that Stanley clearly encourages. They may or may not be intended to elicit laughs from the audience, but they’re likely to get them.
There haven’t been many credible H.P. Lovecraft adaptations, but we have seen many stealth attempts, from The Thing to Annihilation. His ideas and imagery are seared into our minds from so many other sources, so it seems right to have Stanley go to the place where those films took their inspiration.
However, quite what’s happening isn’t ever made entirely clear. There are no characters to really explain it, because nobody knows what’s going on. It’s just a colourful, nasty fever dream – and that’s precisely what director Stanley is looking for. As far as he’s concerned, human aren’t capable of comprehending the aliens, and if the characters can’t, neither can the audience.
What we can enjoy is an incredible, colourful visual feast. Like the characters in the film, we’ve never seen anything quite like the colour and sound display that the alien entities bring.
Ultimately, what point Lovecraft was trying to make with his book isn’t clear, and Stanley doesn’t seem too bothered about clearing it up for us. We asked for a Richard Stanley/ Nicolas Cage production. We wanted it. We needed it. We wanted to see what it would look like. And goddamit we got it.