London Film Festival review #8
Richard Stanley made a couple of interesting cult films in the early ‘90s (Hardware and Dust Devil) then somehow managed to recruit Marlon Brando to star in what was to be his third film, The Island of Dr Moreau. Unfortunately, the casting of Brando meant that the budget ballooned and the money men who were keeping a close eye on Stanley became nervous at his lack of experience. They fired him and replaced him with John Frankenheimer, who battled with Brando to complete a film almost nobody liked. There’s a fascinating documentary about this entitled Lost Soul, which can be viewed on Youtube.
For a very long time, it appeared as if Stanley would never direct another feature, but here he is after a break of 27 years. The fact that he has chosen a story by H.P. Lovecraft as the basis for his new film makes it even more tantalising.
Color out of Space tells the story of Nathan Gardner (Nicolas Cage), a man who has fled life in the city, relocating his family in the middle of nowhere and trying to survive by farming. One day, a meteor lands close to his house, bringing with it a mysterious force which changes everything.
Unfortunately, Stanley’s film fails to work for a number of reasons. The family’s situation is already pretty weird before the meteor lands – instead of the more traditional farm animals, Gardner keeps alpacas, which he enjoys milking every morning, and he has a mad hippie living in a shed on his land. The alien force itself is too ill-defined to present an appropriate sense of threat, appearing variously as a shape-shifting Thing-type monster, a giant purple mantis, and a kind of disease that infects the plant life.
Some of the dialogue is frankly terrible, and the family’s reactions to the mayhem that ensues often feel ludicrous, prompting frequent unintended laughs from the preview audience at the National Film Theatre. Cage does not help matters by giving a performance that is way over the top even for him.
Color out of Space is not badly made, but it is fatally misconceived and seems destined for a future as the kind of cult bad movie fans love to snigger at.