For as influential and popular as 20th century horror author H.P. Lovecraft was, there are surprisingly few major film adaptations. Even fewer of them properly capture the mix of hopelessness and awe that the author instilled. Even the most beloved Lovecraft movies—those from director Stuart Gordon—tend to leave out the true cosmic horror of the oeuvre. Filmmaker Richard Stanley looks to change that with a trilogy of Lovecraft movies from SpectreVision. The first of these, Color Out of Space, hits theaters Friday.
We spoke to Stanley about adapting (and contending with) Lovecraft in 2020 and infusing the bleakness of “The Colour Out of Space” with humor, heart, and heaps of Nicolas Cage.
“The challenge of Color Out of Space is to try to hint at something which is beyond the spectrum of human perception,” Stanley explained. “Which I think comes with the title, so one is automatically flung into a situation of trying to create onscreen, both with the light and sound, a sense that the audience is being pushed to their very limits. And I think since Lovecraft’s time, we understand that process a lot better than we might have done say in 1926.”
“I like to think the film is structured in the same way as a decent drug trip,” Stanley continued. “You’ve got for the first 30 minutes or so; the audience are kind of looking at each other going, ‘Okay, well, nothing is happening. What’s going on? Is this working?’ Then very slowly, little things start to manifest and go a little bit wrong and little gaps widen in reality.”
“On one hand, it’s a faithful adaptation of Lovecraft,” Stanley explained, “but it’s also a battle or an argument I’ve been having of Lovecraft. I’m not as much of a materialist atheist as Lovecraft is. I still have some faith in love and in the human condition. So I did want to introduce those themes and ideas into its universe. And one way I did that was by connecting all of the characters in my mind to different family members.”
For the filmmaker, the essential “Lovecraft moment” in any story is a character traveling into the void and horror alone. Nothing can protect them (or us) from the terrible things lurking things, but they’re going to try. “For me, in Color Out of Space,” Stanley told us, “[I tried to include those] moments. Like when Nic’s character, Nathan, has to go to the barn to deal with the mutant alpacas. You’ve got a character who is fundamentally flawed and too weak to deal with the situation. He has no choice but to propel himself forward into the dark and face whatever is waiting for him. And I think pushing the characters to the very brink of oblivion that gives me the strongest Lovecraftian frisson, or chill, when I’m trying to get at it.”
Featured Image: RLJE Films