Tuesday, January 21, 2020

The Color Out Of Space (2020, Richard Stanley)

Directed By: Richard Stanley
Written By: Richard Stanley, Scarlett Amaris
Starring: Nicolas Cage, Joely Richardson, Madeleine Arthur
In Theaters January 24, 2020

The Gardner family has recently relocated to a family estate to focus on a quieter life of farming for patriarch Nathan (Nicolas Cage) and his family. Their quiet life changes when a meteorite crashes in their back yard. All of the family goes to check on its vibrant glow giving off hues of pinks and purples. Each family member has their own individual reaction to coming in to contact with the space rock. Soon after the meteorite dissolves to dust and infects the local water system around the house leading way to beautiful and bountiful crops and flora before the foreign presence wreaks havoc on anyone that it has infected creating a series of mental and psychological terrors along with severe and deadly physical effects.

Before I begin any form of critical review let me first say welcome back Richard Stanley! It has been over two decades since we last got a feature film from the man who brought us cult classics such as Hardware and Dust Devil. His 1996 production of The Island Of Dr. Moreau is infamous for its highly troubled production that saw Stanley leave the production by running off into the jungle and more or less being blacklisted by the studio system. I'm a big fan of Stanley and believe that his voice is one of the most original and interesting that genre film has seen in recent years and even his short film entry Mother Of Toads for the anthology horror film The Theater Bizarre from several years ago showed that he still has his directing chops and his creative mind. When it was announced that he would be directing an adaptation of H.P. Lovecraft's classic tale of astral horror it quickly became one of my most anticipated movies and it arrived and will immediately be heralded as one of the greatest Lovecraft film adaptations of all time.

THE COLOR OUT OF SPACE is one of the most widely adapted Lovecraft stories with filmmakers putting all sorts of spins on the story for their films but the source material in Richard Stanley's version is immediately recognizable and you're put in the middle of this tight family dynamic on this small farm that becomes a scene of complete mind altering madness and bone wrenching body horror the likes of which you haven't seen lately. Richard Stanley doesn't rush things along, he allows us to settle good and deep into our seats and become acquainted with the family and gives us a reason to care about them. Nicolas Cage proves to be a great father figure but also one that is a bit distracted by his own ventures. Cage has become a bit of a punchline in recent years for his over the top and very animated performances but I think he's really turned on his chops in the last couple of years as he's very good in this as his world melts away. That isn't to say we don't get one of those infamous Nic Cage freak outs because we absolutely do.

The rest of the cast carries their weight with grace, especially Madeleine Smith who plays the daughter and is left to carry plenty of scenes on her own. Richard Stanley's direction is unsettling and at times mildly disorienting which leaves the viewer feeling how I imagine the characters dealing with the effects of this space rock would be feeling. His use of the color emitting from the rock is dazzling and makes those pink and purple tones a monster character of their own. As the film moves closer to its inevitable conclusion I found myself digging deeper in my seat as the uneasy feeling from tension grew and grew. I just knew something major was around the corner on top of the classic Lovecraft attack on the psyche. Then we're subjected to witness a mangled mess of flesh and it writhed around the floor and couch with no discernible rhyme or reason as to where limbs and appendages protrude from. I tell you that THE COLOR OUT OF SPACE is worth the time just to see this disgusting mass of flesh and bone. It is an indescribable experience to say the least.

THE COLOR OUT OF SPACE was a perfect storm of ingredients for me that I was hopeful yet skeptical it may not turn out as I hoped it would. I'm pleased to say that not only did I love the movie but I believe it will be discussed as one of the best horror films of the year as Richard Stanley creates a world not of this Earth and gives us one of the finest HPL adaptations ever committed to film.

Friday, January 10, 2020

THE LIGHTHOUSE ( Lionsgate Films Blu-ray Review)

USA, 2019
Directed By: Robert Eggers
Written By: Robert Eggers
Starring: Willem Dafoe, Robert Pattinson
Black & White/109 Minutes/R
Region A
Relese Date: January 7, 2020

The Film
How you view THE LIGHTHOUSE is as important as what you view in the film itself. Blacken the room, raise the volume a bit and perhaps turn on the subtitles - you'll need them if you want to catch every last word of dialogue between our two wickies but I promise you won't need to understand every last word to have this film affect you if you let yourself become fully engulfed by raging seas and swirling winds that pound the small island our two characters are tending to on a four week stay.

The plot,  a grizzled old lighthouse keeper and a greenhorn are assigned lighthouse duty on this old island for four weeks but quickly descend into madness is not important as the film follows little in the way of traditional story telling rules. Time shifts, jumping foward weeks or slowing to a crawl watching the men perform their mundane tasks amidst only an audience of squawking seagulls and each other as they banter back and forth about events of their past or bickering about position on the proverbial totem pole. Their accents are thick and distincy, Willem Dafoe a life long man of the sea and Robert Pattinson a man who has left a life working in the timber industry up north behind. The constant bellowing of the foghorn and the persistent squawking of the gulls is designed to agitate and it does. One of many things that begin to break down the psyche of Robert Pattinson's character but the sea has a way of its own and visions of floating corpses, mermaids and ungodly tentacled beasts deliver blow after blow to his fractured mind. His only salvation being that their shift is coming to an end and relief is in sight.

Robert Eggers took the horror world by storm several years ago when he released THE WITCH which I feel is one of the best horror films of this century. His slow burn, it gets there when it gets there attitude is one I appreciate and one I don't find to be self indulgent as both of his feature films are wholly engrossing in spite of their deliberate pace and unorthodox story telling. THE LIGHTHOUSE is all about the atmosphere and mood created from the first second we lay eyes on our duo as they depart their transport and trek through the pounding rain dragging all of their gear to the lodging. It's immediately dark and cold, obviously damp and distant. Seclusion only begins to describe it. Eggers creates a lore of the sea that H.P. Lovecraft would be proud of and this entire film would definitely fit the "Lovecraftian" bill. THE LIGHTHOUSE is entirely hypnotizing, wonderfully ghostly and eerie and at times even a bit funny. What it never is is typical.

I can't say enough about THE LIGHTHOUSE, it has gorgeous photography that I could spend days talking about, it is led by two award caliber performances, the music is blasphemous and helps the film become this mesmerizing piece of art that it truly is. Let this film wash over you and find out why Robert Eggers is one of the most important names in genre filmmaking at the moment.

The Audio &Video
Lionsgate delivers THE LIGHTHOUSE on Blu-ray with a stunning transfer featuring a 1.19:1 pillarboxed presentation. This is a very deliberate artistic choice for framing the film and I think it lends a hand to the feeling of being cut off and stranded. The black and white photography looks incredible on this release. The black levels are very deep and show no signs of blocking or compression issues. The varying levels of grey and white are crisp with fine details coming through beautifully from the threads in clothing to the hair on their grizzled faces or the textured surface of a brick wall. The audio is presented with a 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio mix that features booming low ends and a wide dynamic range that is handled with ease. Powerful and subtle with layers of light background sounds amidst perfectly mixed dialogue and score show how fantastic this audio mix job really is. English SDH and Spanish subtitles are available.

The Extras
-Audio commentary with co-writer/director Robert Eggers
-"The Lighthouse: A Dark And Stormy Tale" - featurette
-Deleted scenes

The Bottom Line
THE LIGHTHOUSE is one of my three favorite films of 2019 and easily the best horror film. It transcends the genre and is more of a full body experience than simply a movie to watch.  This is essential viewing.