This article kicks off our coverage of Portland, OR’s H.P. Lovecraft Film Festival and Cthulhucon. Stay tuned for more coverage as the weekend goes on and my fingers get to typin’!
There’s something in the air in Portland. No, not moisture. (But, yes, moisture). I’m talking about the palpable excitement that the Lovecraft Festival brings to the Hollywood Theatre and its surrounding block. Fans of cosmic horror wander freely, freak flags raised high, perusing books and art in between catching curated screenings of the odd, tentacular films inspired by Lovecraft’s oeuvre.
Before I get to the main event, I have to talk about how much of a production Lovecraft Fest truly is. This is seriously next level. Vendors armed with woodcuts of Dagon, original paintings, jewelry, and much, much more is abound. You could easily make a day going around and just shopping Lovecraft inspired merch. Statues of monsters and a weekend guide of the fest mocked up as an era newspaper make it feel all the more otherworldly. Freaks and weirdos who think of only thing when they hear the word ‘mythos’ will feel right at home.
This year, the keynote film showing was Richard Stanley’s Color Out Of Space adaptation, and of course, as a devotee of horror as well as Nic Cage freakouts, I made it my mission to squeeze into an already packed theatre to catch it’s West Coast premiere. I won’t say that I am a huge Lovecraft fan (more of a general horror dude), but I do like the original short story. It’s weird, unsettling and has managed to echo through other media (see: Annihilation) without ever getting a proper adaptation of its own, besides the German language Die Farbe.
As I waited for the lights to come down, the hype was real, but it got realer when Richard Stanley appeared on stage to introduce the flick. He said a couple short words on the decision to make the film, wanting to make “a core Lovecraft story.” The film itself supports this notion, opening with a direct quote as its voice over, accompanied by beautiful shots of foggy woodland.
Without giving too much away, Color Out of Space did not disappoint. I was both surprised and delighted at how funny the film was too, even with its eerie tone. The balance struck between comedy and horror is a fine one, but one the film manages well. Nicholas Cage is superb in this respect, despite being something of a bad movie effigy. His memeage aside, Cage is a talented actor and handles the material well, veering between dorky, alpaca-obsessed father to raving maniac, blending the two aspects of his character with impressive dexterity. While Cage will take most of the attention, it’s important to note how strong the rest of the cast is also. This is a film carried by its cast, who are charismatic and likable, enough so that when they’re not, the audience’s dread is earned.
The lighting in this film is a character of its own, from the establishing shots of the house, to the recurring theme of triangles (or, if you like: prisms), to the Color itself. Making a film about an unseeable color is a difficult task, but the pink-purple hue the film chooses is a cinematically wise one, as it renders all it touches unnatural. The film treats the Color as a character of its own, infecting life with its hue, and turning innocent flora and fauna into Rob Bottin-inspired monstrosities.
Without a doubt, Color Out of Space earned its prime time programming. For my money, it’s the best Lovecraft film to date, and more than that: just a plain good flick. At the end of the day, even in the horror genre, you can’t get much better than a good flick made well. And that’s exactly what we have here. Stanley impresses with his visuals as well as characterization, and in the end, the film strikes a perverse, half-mad chord that is sure to resonate with audiences.
More from the Lovecraft Fest is coming! If you liked this, like Signal Horizon to keep up to date on all the latest horror and sci-fi news. If you want to hear more about Color Out of Space, check out Tyler Unsell’s review here.
Carson Winter is an author, beer afficionado, and denim vest wearing punk. His story “Zero Boundaries Podcast: Episode 182” has been published at Signal Horizon as well as The Nosleep Podcast. He likes his cats and thinks working for a living is the greatest insult to life since death.