The Color Out of Space

| August 21, 2012

H.P. Lovecraft’s works have been notoriously difficult to bring to the screen successfully, largely because Lovecraft often wrote of things “beyond description” or that human language lacked the ability to convey. Unsurprisingly, though, many independent filmmakers have taken interesting routes to get to where bigger productions couldn’t quite reach: the H.P. Lovecraft Historical Society’s silent-film take on The Call of Cthulhu is easily one of the best and most effective filmed Lovecraft adaptations around, and mostly relies on miniatures and elaborate shadowplay. Huan Vu’s new feature-length adaptation of Lovecraft’s The Color Out of Space was clearly made on a tiny budget, but mostly gets by on its strong grasp of the tone of Lovecraft’s story.

Jonathan Davis (Ingo Heise) has hired a private detective named Ward (Alexander Sebastian Curd Schuster) to find his father (Patrick Pierce), who has mysteriously disappeared. Ward informs Jonathan that his father bought a plane ticket to Germany, and from there the trail goes cold. Jonathan manages to discover that his father has likely returned to a small village where he had a strange encounter in the last days of World War II. The village is almost entirely cut off from civilization, located near a valley about to be flooded to create a man-made lake. Jonathan finds the locals unhelpful, except for one: Armin Pierske (Michael Kausch) recognizes Jonathan’s WWII-era photograph of his father, and begins to tell the strange tale of what happened to the Gärtener family after a strange meteor landed near their farm.

The bulk of The Color Out of Space is taken up by this story, told in a series of long flashback sequences. The tone of the film is perfect, as Pierske draws Jonathan along with strange goings-on and unanswered questions. A sequence in which scientists take samples of the meteorite and attempt to identify it is particularly interesting, and very much in line with Lovecraft’s love of science, which often takes a backseat to the cosmic horrors he is best known for. The acting is mostly very good, and the story is well told, at its best when examining how the strange happenings impact the lives of the villagers. Some of the late-film CGI effects are decent, but once the film moves towards its climax, the reliance on heavy CG animation is understandable if still a bit disappointing.

Still, the film overall is a very well-executed take on Lovecraft’s story. The black and white cinematography fits the film perfectly, and the solid performances help keep the viewer on edge. The pacing of the film may be a bit slow, but again it fits snugly with Lovecraft’s style. Fans of Lovecraft and independent horror should find The Color Out of Space well worth seeking out.

BRINKFilms has released The Color Out of Space on DVD. Special features include the film’s trailer, a “lost scene,” “Science and Horror,” “Effects and Concepts” and “Making The Color Out of Space” featurettes. A limited edition version of the DVD includes a version of the original story presented as a handwritten journal; this release is limited to 200 copies. For more information, visit the BRINKFilms catalog site.

About the Author:

Jason Coffman is a film writer living in Chicago. He is author of "The Unrepentant Cinephile," and a regular contributor to Daily Grindhouse and Film Monthly as well as a member of the Chicago Independent Film Critics Circle. He is co-director of the Chicago Cinema Society and proud owner of 35mm prints of Andy Milligan's "Guru, the Mad Monk." Follow his long-form film writing on Medium:

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