Richard Stanley struts back into the limelight, as his mesmerizing new film “Color Out Of Space” plays to an enthusiastic, sold out crowd at Beyond Fest.
Beyond Fest yet again broke a ticketing server this year after their jaw-dropping lineup was announced. It was a lineup that boasted Tom-A-Thon, a series of iconic films including The Fog, Night of the Creeps, and Halloween III — all starring the beloved actor, Tom Atkins, with Atkins himself attending. Attendees were also treated to anniversary screenings of Jennifer’s Body, The Exorcist, and Natural Born Killers, all with some of their respective key creators and actors present for Q&As afterwards. Joe Bob Briggs even came out to perform his highly entertaining How Rednecks Saved Hollywood.
The prestigious fest also featured several West Coast premieres, including the killer double dose of director Joe Beggos with his latest, VFW and Bliss, Travis Stevens’ anticipated first feature, The Girl on the Third Floor. Bong Joon-ho even traveled all the way to Los Angeles to share his incredible work, Parasite.
But there was one screening in particular that made my pulse pound upon that initial announcement: the chance to experience Color Out of Space and listen to Richard Stanley in person, discuss his first feature in far too long.
Thanks to the fine folks over at Spectrevision, the world will now become reacquainted with this filmmaker who created the visionary works of Hardware (1990) and Dust Devil (1992).
For the most part, Stanley has been woefully absent from Hollywood. It was an absence that was seemingly forced upon the artist after New Line Cinema unceremoniously ousted him from one of his personal dream projects after only a few days on set in 1996, The Island of Doctor Moreau (yes, that one starring Marlon Brando and Val Kilmer). To be frank, the movie ended up being pretty much a shit show, and I believe that this cut Stanley deeply — to have to sit back and watch a studio completely fuck up what he had such high hopes for.
Disillusioned by the system, and rightfully so, Stanley stepped back from making anything for several years and then began to slowly focus on a few shorts and documentaries (The White Darkness, The Otherworld). Enter Team Spectrevision and their magic wand, aligning the sun, moon, and stars, and creating this epic opportunity for Richard Stanley to make a mighty return.
On Wednesday, September 25th 2019, the historic Egyptian Theater on Hollywood Blvd. was filled to capacity. Tickets for the double bill featuring Richard Stanley’s Color Out of Space and Adam Egypt Mortimer’s Daniel Isn’t Real sold out in mere minutes. The lobby was buzzing with industry representatives and fans, all filing into the auditorium to claim a coveted spot to experience what was long overdue.
After Beyond Fest cohorts gave an enthusiastic introduction, along with some of those from Spectrevision, the customary launching of goodies such as Blu-rays and t-shirts into the audience ensued. The lights dimmed, and a tribute to the late, great Sid Haig appeared on the screen while the crowd began to applaud and whistle loudly in reverence. And then before I knew it, the beginning landscape for Stanley’s brand new affair engulfed the screen of the Egyptian.
We are first introduced to the loving Gardner clan who have somewhat recently acquired Nathan’s (Nicolas Cage) father’s farm in an effort to connect as a family and find some peace amongst the daily grind of life.
In stark contrast to what many family members do once uprooted from their surroundings, the Gardners seem to embrace their new digs, all except career-driven mama bear Theresa (Joely Richardson) who struggles with the failing WiFi.
Daughter Lavinia (Madeleine Arthur) conducts meaningful, timeless rituals in the woods near their homestead, which are uncovered by the handsome and vigilant Miskatonic student, Ward (Elliot Knight). Brother Benny (Brendan Meyer) enjoys visits with the local hermit Ezra (played by counterculture hero Tommy Chong) and corralling the questionable flock of alpacas his father Nathan has proudly but naively procured.
The youngest, Jack (Jullian Hilliard), is inexplicably affected when an unusual object from the sky lands upon the family’s property one evening, subsequently setting off an unfathomable chain of events. And just as soon as the object came crashing down to Earth, it disappears.
But not all is well, as the Gardner’s beautiful property and solid family structure begin to shift towards an abstract, mutated nightmare.
What struck me was the infatuation the youngest member of the Gardner clan had with dinosaurs, who were notoriously eradicated by a meteor.
The beautiful purple and lavender-shaded hair of the daughter, Lavinia, echoed the impending alien haze to soon surround the area. But what was most foreboding was the comment young Jack makes while looking into the water well on his family’s property.
Stanley trades in his signature color palette of reds and desert landscapes for a more lush, accessible feature in Color Out of Space.
And to be honest, I wasn’t prepared. Hues of colors that have yet been explored in Stanley’s realm are now deeply dove into and become simply mesmerizing.
Based off a short story of the same name, by legendary author H.P. Lovecraft, Color Out of Space successfully makes the jump to contemporary times while still paying proper respect to the original tale with a healthy number of Easter Eggs scattered throughout.
This film delivers a beautiful, moving, and at times humorous but ultimately terrifying experience.
It also boasts one of the most stunning, visually dynamic climaxes I have ever seen. There was an eruption of applause as the ending credits began to roll and the lights went up at the Egyptian.
After our time with Stanley’s mindmelt, I looked around and noticed many were wide-eyed, as if they just stepped off a rollercoaster. None of us moved. We sat still to hear cast members and Stanley himself speak about what we all just witnessed. It was a spirited Q&A with lots of laughs and anecdotes from the set shared.
The director begins by sharing that his mother would often read him tales from Lovecraft when he was a boy, as early as 7 or 8 years of age. This influenced some of his creative endeavors as an adult. And when Spectrevision wanted to back him and Color Out of Space, it seemed almost serendipitous.
The actors present at the Q&A — Madeleine Arthur, Jullian Hilliard, Elliot Knight, Brendan Meyer and Q’orianka Kilcher — all mentioned how much they loved Stanley’s energy and his genuine love of filmmaking. They noted the director even delivered to each a lengthy, detailed multi-page character description which they all greatly appreciated.
I look at Stanley as they all speak highly of him, and he seems to sit uncomfortably, not used to or not particularly reveling in the praise. I was surprised to learn that Stanley actually completed a proof of concept for this project six years ago. When asked if he is satisfied with the finished product, he answered, “Yes, I’m highly satisfied. This was my first time in the digital sandbox.”
Another amazing fact was, despite the family home seeming like it could exist in any number of small towns in America, it was actually shot in Portugal.
The opportunity to hear Stanley talk about his exciting new project was a very big deal to me.
You see, one of my fondest memories growing up was watching Hardware with my father in the theater. Yes, I was far too young to be watching that. But thanks to my family’s unwillingness to censor my cinematic intake, I am the movie lover I am today. Watching Hardware was life-altering for me and helped shape my love of the genre.
In addition to helping set in motion my infatuation of all things horror, I deeply empathize with what happened to him during production for The Island of Doctor Moreau.
I have long awaited the triumphant return of one of my heroes to feature filmmaking, and I couldn’t be more satisfied with Color Out of Space. He got knocked down, but he bounced back up middle fingers blaring. And man, is it inspiring. I only wished I would have had the courage to tell him to his face as he stood next to me at Beyond Fest.