H.P. Lovecraft, despite his racist tendencies that pop up in his writings, was a master of unnerving cosmic horror, and in 2010, Huan Vu adapted the classic novella, The Color Out of Space into a moody and ominous thriller. A German made film whose only problem lays in some of its special effects, but more from when some actors attempt to portray Americans, and speak English.
Jonathan Davis (Ingo Heise) lives Arkham (a very important location in Lovecraft lore) to Germany, looking for his missing father. The trail leads to a remote German village and a terrifying horror. Arriving in the town, he meets Armin (Michael Kausch, and Marco Leibnitz in the flashbacks) who recalls Jonathan’s father, and relates a horrific, seemingly impossible tale involving the village, a chance encounter with Jonathan’s father, and a meteor from space that is more than it seems.
Shot in black and white, the introduction of any colour in the film (in this case, glimpses of purple) stands out, and in this case portends something ominous. The colour leaks out of a cracked open meteor, and begins to infect the environment of the town, from its vegetation and animals to the water sources.
Armin relates a tale about a family, the Garteners, who are slowly infected and give themselves over, intentionally or not, to the colour. Whether it’s a living creature (which is hinted at) or just a collection of elements and molecules is never revealed, but it feels like there is an intelligence at work, one we don’t understand given the glimpse afforded us in this story.
Vu takes his time with the story, much the way Lovecraft would, slowly building the sense of foreboding until the climax is inescapable and hints at something terrifying for the future, as there are plans to dam up the rivers, and flood the village and its valley, which would allow the colour to spread even further…
Then, of course, there’s the last few minutes of the film that lets you wonder about how things should be interpreted, and what is really going on.
Some of the bluescreen (or perhaps greenscreen matting) isn’t as strong as it could be, but the film works, it’s moody, troubling, and if you get into the film, it ends up being really unnerving, exactly the way that Lovecraft’s stories affect readers.
This one gets lost in the bustle, as a remake came along nine years later boasting Nicholas Cage, which we’ll check out next week.
There are a number of smaller budget films inspired by Lovecraft stories and I may just have to hunt some of them down in the near future. This film has set a pretty solid bar for the other ones to meet, so lets see how they work out.