Director Richard Stanley
Screenplay Richard Stanley, Scarlett Amaris based on the story by H.P. Lovecraft
Starring Nicolas Cage, Joely Richardson, Elliot Knight, Madeleine Arthur, Q’orianka Kilcher, Tommy Chong
The Gardner family moves back into their father’s homestead to recover from their mother’s mastectomy due to cancer. Father Nathan (Cage) is a decent man who has the same challenges with the kids that most middle aged men might have. His concern for wife Theresa (Richardson) is touching. Nathan feels the burn of disappointment of his father from the grave. His kids range from a pleasant stoner, to an intense teenager who resorts to any spell she can think of to get his mother to recover and to get her own self away from the house. She knows that she will never leave though.
Things have only begun to get bad.
A meteor strikes the front yard of the property, followed by a series of increasingly strange events. An incredible color permeates from the spot where the meteor landed and begins to affect the water, the animals and the plant life. Words fail to describe how strange it all is, other than to say it must be seen to even start to believe.
Richard Stanley’s career started off with a bang in Hardware and halted with a gasp a few years later with an ill conceived and even worse executed remake of The Island of Dr. Moreau. He and his mother quite fanatically enjoyed the works of H.P. Lovecraft, and he’s tried for years to get the vision of this story out of his head and onto the screen. Luckily, someone believed in him enough to let him realize this, one of the better realizations of Lovecraft to emerge on screen.
The strength of the story is in Stanley’s reluctance to completely explain each step of the horror. Instead, he provides visuals that instill more questions and fear, then move right on to the next, even more bizarre image. It’s hard to think of a horror film that has so effectively used color to set mood and connect to the other senses.
Nicolas Cage is right within his wheelhouse. Stanley indicated that he asked Cage to play Nathan in the same way that he played Vampire’s Kiss. We get to see him grow from a reasonable man to a man unhinged by the events of his life are falling apart. It’s as good as one has any right to expect from an Oscar winner who has lived in the straight to video world in the last two decades. In all honesty, it’s an excellent performance.
All of the other performances match Cage’s in believability and intensity. There is a dynamic among the family members of love intertwined with antagonism. We really feel the intense passion of the characters even before things start going to hell. It gives the impression that whatever this thing is that is introduced to the Gardner homestead from space has been as affected by the family as it affects them.
This movie has way too much body horror to be for everyone. The effects are reminiscent of John Carpenter’s The Thing as they rely only fleetingly on digital effects. We are as haunted as much by what is not shown, which is always a benefit. Stanley has an effective eye for what helps draw along the viewer without overwhelming them…until it’s too far along to turn back. This is a story that never will find the viewer looking at their watch.
If you ever wanted to see what Stanley has in his mind in any given moment, give this a try.
(**** out of *****)