Color Out of Space (2019) – A Science Fiction and Fantasy Movie Review

Tyler Cook of the Portly Politico and I have decided to cross link on our reviews for this movie.  We both thought this movie was awful but we thought that readers should see nuanced differences.  Actually what you’ll see is our two styles.  Tyler is a witty and intelligent writer and I like to rant.  So here’s the link to his review and below is mine.

This is a cinematic version of Lovecraft’s story about a meteor that lands in a rural Massachusetts farmyard and infects the soil and the water with an entity that subtly alters the plants and animals and then sucks the vitality and finally the life out of every living thing around it before shooting back into space leaving a dead landscape behind.  But let us say the movie takes liberties with this plot.

How do I hate this movie?  Let me count the ways.

First off, I despised all the characters in this story.  I even despised the seven-year-old who was the youngest kid in the family.  They are stereotypical yuppie transplants to the countryside and all of them have extremely annoying personalities.  The father is Nicholas Cage and he spends his time milking alpacas and raising heirloom tomatoes.  The mother is a financial advisor who has neglected her kids to the point that older son is a useless pothead, the daughter is a bitter Wiccan wannabe and the younger son appears to be a doofus.  Tommy Chong is the forest dwelling pot grower who supplies the son with his weed and also seems to be acquainted with alien invasions.  Then there is the hydrologist who is taking water samples for a new reservoir that will be covering the property that Nick Cage’s family currently inhabits.  He walks around warning everyone about the dangers of meteorites and contaminated water but achieves nothing other than somehow surviving the apocalypse.

Next is the plot.  In the original Lovecraft story, the baleful influence of the entity slightly modifies the appearance of plants and animals but its most powerful effect is the sapping of the life force and eventually even the structural integrity of organic materials.  By the end of the book the whole farm where the meteor lands, the house, the trees, the animals and people, the wagons and the fences crumble to dust.  Only stone and metal remain.

In this version of the story the entity is able to fuse groups of animals together into hideous many-headed monsters.  It can disable all communication devices and even alter time, making days and nights shorter as needed.  So, they’ve revved up the monster’s power quite a bit.  But the use they put this to is horrendous.  In one scene the mother and the seven-year-old kid are walking in the dark near the barn when the creature zaps the both of them with its potent “light.”  Next, we see that the mother and the little boy have been fused together.  His head is attached to her shoulder, their torsos are fused and both of them are writhing in agony.  And the older son characterizes what’s happening to them as the younger son being re-absorbed into the mother’s body.  Even the thought is horrifying to consider.  And later on, the fused creature starts taking on a preying mantis like shape and Nick Cage’s character shoots both of them in the head to end this nightmare.  Okay sure, this is a horror movie and it’s no more disgusting than the scenes in John Carpenter’s “The Thing,” but he didn’t use a mother and a little boy as the victims of this abomination.  To my mind this is awful.

Finally, the acting.  The only cast members I’ve heard of are Nick Cage and Tommy Chong.  I’m guessing the rest of the cast is unknown and they should stay that way.  They were awful and so were the two better known actors.  The script was awful.  The plot was tedious and the resolution seemed pointless and annoying.  I will say some of the special effects were interesting looking and well done.  But not the fused animals and people.  Those were hideous and depressing.

I would avoid this movie.  Nick Cage has descended indeed from the time when he was a pretty good actor.  He should be ashamed that he was in this crap.   Seeing this movie has ruined a perfectly good day out of my life.  Not recommended.

10JUN2021 – OCF Update

Today is a disrupted day due to errands and visits.  But also I have to watch the Nick Cage movie of the H.P. Lovecraft story “The Color Out of Space.”  Tyler Cook of the Portly Politico and I have agreed to each watch this stinkeroo and then review it to the best of our abilities.  He has watched it and assures me it’s awful.  So today I will bite the bullet and watch it before Camera Girl gets back from weekly shopping.  I am dreading the experience already.  The things I do for my art.

Nicholas Cage – The Man, the Myth, the Legend – Giving Shatner a Run for his Money

It has been brought to my attention that a film version of “The Color of Space,” one of the only good H.P. Lovecraft stories, was made last year and it starred Nick Cage.  I vowed I would watch, no matter how bad.  And to get my self in the mood to appreciate this cinematic experience, I watched a very funny SNL skit from back in 2012 when the show was only mostly bad.

Here’s the trailer for this magnum opus.  How could it go wrong?

The Dunwich Horror (1970) – A Science Fiction and Fantasy Move Review

(War Pig loves really bad sf&f movies.  This one’s for you War Pig.)

This movie is so monumentally bad that I feel compelled to dissect its awfulness so that we can learn something from it.  First of all, look at the date.  1970 is something of a low water mark in American cinema.  Now granted this was produced by American International Pictures and they only ever made really cheap and schlocky movies.  But that sets the stage for how this movie became what it was.  Next, the story is an old H.P. Lovecraft story so the cost of buying the movie rights must have been pretty close to zero.

Next take a look at the actors.  Sam Jaffe and Ed Begley were actual actors at one time but their careers were coming to an end and they probably really needed the money.  Dean Stockwell was a young guy whose career had begun as a child actor in the big studio system but with that system now a thing of the past he would earn his daily bread working in schlock and it suited him.  Sandra Dee was a product of the post war teen movies of the late fifties and early sixties.  She had played all the Gidget and Tammy parts and was now too old to be the girl next door.  This was what was next on her ride to oblivion.  It’s also funny to see that before she got some big screen parts in movies like the Godfather and Rocky, Talia Shire had a small role in this stinker.  So, there are some actual actors in this movie.  But what can they do with this thing?

And finally, what is the plot?  Well, in the original Lovecraft story Wilbur Whateley, played by Dean Stockwell, and his monstrous twin are the product of some kind of bizarre ritualistic impregnation of their mother by one of the Great Old Ones, Yog-Sothoth.  The book chronicles the attempt by Wilbur to use the Necronomicon to allow Yog-Sothoth to break through from his own dimension and conquer Earth and eat all the humans for lunch.

But the geniuses at American International Pictures decided that what Wilbur wanted was to go for another generation of Yog-Sothoth baby making and Sandra Dee would be the baby mama.  The monster brother is still in the plot but it seems like a sort of dangling appendage that nobody knows what to do with.

Ed Begley is Dr. Henry Armitage, a university professor who has a copy of the Necronomicon and is Sandra Dee’s boss.  He will try to save her life and foil Whateley’s diabolical plan.  And to round out the cast Sam Jaffe is “Old Whateley,” Wilbur’s grandfather who seems to have inexplicably changed his mind about being an evil servant of the Great Old Ones and now just runs around warning everyone about how dangerous everything is.  Comically they’ve painted thick black eyebrows on his face.  He sort of looks like Groucho Marx in that sense.

Well, before you know it Wilbur convinces Sandra Dee to come to his groovy farmhouse and drink some tea and after he pulls the distributor cap off her car’s motor, she has to spend the night.  She has dreams that look like they were filmed with my kid brother’s super 8 movie camera.  Semi-naked hippies who look like rejects from the Manson family hopped up on hair tonic and looking for love chase her around.  It’s quite ridiculous.  When she wakes up, she shares these dreams with Wilbur and we can see that it’s all having the hoped-for result.  She’s looking for some Yog-Sothoth action.  So, Wilbur brings her up to an oceanside cliff with an altar where she will wear some kind of poncho-like garment that allows the cameraman to show us the side of her leg and butt for what seems like hours.  And Wilbur spreads her legs apart and props the Necronomicon against her groin while he reads passages to Yog-Sothoth.

At some point Wilbur’s brother breaks out of his room and eats about five people including Talia Shire.  We never really get a good look at him.  He’s got tentacles and eyes and I don’t know what else.  He makes guttural noises and he has problems with his adenoids for sure.

Finally, Ed Begley shows up at the cliff and he and Wilbur posture and spout meaningless syllables at each other.  Begley’s babbling proves to be the stronger and Wilbur’s head bursts into flames and he jumps off the cliff.  We briefly see what might be Yog-Sothoth appear as a cartoon character suspended over Sandra Dee’s groin before he disappears.  Then Ed Begley helps her off the altar and the movie ends but as it ends, we see an image of a fetus near Sandra Dee’s belly.  Yog-Sothoth scored again!

So, there it is.  It’s embarrassing to admit I even made it to the end of this awful waste of time.  As far as I know Talia Shire is the only living victim of this terrible thing.  I imagine it still haunts her.  Maybe her rich brother Francis Ford Coppola can buy the rights to the movie and destroy every copy so their family’s shame can end.  I’ve never been a big fan of Lovecraft’s prose.  His imagination was fertile and the images he came up with were vivid.  But his prose style was lackluster.  But even he deserves better than this.  The Dunwich Horror was one of his better stories.  Maybe someday someone will do a decent job of making a movie of it.  This was not that movie.

The Compound Attacked by One of the Great Old Ones

Last night abysmal horror stalked the home base.  A Lovecraftian abomination was on the move unleashing its mind shattering power on my corner of New England.  It was Cthulhu or maybe one of the Deep Ones.  The horror, the horror.

Just see the damage caused by its irresistible strength and titanic weight.  Behold!

 

UPDATE!!!!

We cowered in fear during the night time attack.  Finally this morning I gathered my shattered sanity and my courage and I ventured out to assess the damage.

I found this massive print

And finally I found this titanic creature lurking in the near by swamp.

Do not be fooled.  Those green growths are actually massive pine trees that the monster crushed with it’s cyclopean bulk.  What you are seeing is Ralsa Whateley, the hybrid spawn of a human woman and one of the batrachian Deep Ones.  Grown tremendously large from ingesting all of Camera Girl’s bird seed he now rests before once again attacking humanity with the ferocity only capable by one of the Great Old Ones.

 

My Annual Halloween Celebration

Lichen on Monument
The Raven is a Wicked Bird

 

Halloween was always one of my favorite holidays as a kid and in my heart of hearts I haven’t really progressed far from that.  I guess I’m not a progressive.  So here is the advantage to being in business for more than a year.  The calendar allows you to recycle stuff you did last year.  I did movie reviews of the Universal Classic Monster Movies and a few other related films last year and I’ll recycle them around for the Halloween season.  And I’ll add some additional films to avoid the label of laziness.  I’ll also try to find some other Halloween content.  I guess Ray Bradbury’s “Something Wicked This Way Comes” is sort of the quintessential American story for this time of year.  But there are all kinds of other stuff out there from Poe to (yikes) Lovecraft to even that lefty doofus Stephen King.  So stay tuned and I’ll start cycling those in.

 

 

Camera Girl is Buying Goats

I think it is a sign of the coming apocalypse that suburban residents think they need to have farm animals on their property.  And women are entirely impractical about pets.

Now, coming from an individual who in the past has kept four of the six giant snake species in a Brooklyn apartment this might sound slightly self-serving and hypocritical.  In fact, it probably is.  But everybody always says a boy needs his hobbies.  No one ever says a girl needs her hobbies.  QED.

But I maintain that I am a reformed former animal horder.  For this reason, I feel that I have the right to pronounce judgement against this misguided practice.

Going through the various animal keeping proclivities of our marriage, it is obvious that eventually we would branch out from indoor menageries and end up in the barnyard.  And after the fiasco of the Great Quail Fail of 2017 (as it came to be known) it was inevitable that Camera Girl would want revenge.  But my actual problem with the new animal introduction is practical.  The winters in New England can be brutally cold and snow filled.  It occurs to me that during some prodigious snow fall when the goat enclosure is engulfed by some absurd 50” snow fall that I will be called upon at some god-awful hour to go out and clear a space for the goats to allow them to get at their food and water.  And based on my memory of Lovecraft’s description of Shub-Niggurath, (“The Black Goat of the Woods with a Thousand Young”), I believe there is a better than even chance that the critters will take advantage of my proximity and vulnerability to stage some kind of satanic attack upon my person.

Alright, I don’t really think it will be satanic.  But goats are jerks and they will probably butt me with their stupid horns and that will probably really hurt.  So, there’s that.  Plus, I’ll have to clean out their pen because let’s face it, men always get stuck with the crappy jobs.  So that’s why I hate the goats.  But Camera Girl does feed me and stuff so I guess it’s still a good deal.  I guess.

But have you ever looked at goats.  They’ve got those weird eyes that are really weird and maybe they are satanic.  And they’re gonna eat everything they can get their teeth into so they’ll turn their pen into the Plain of Gorgorath where nothing can survive.  Plus, I’ll bet the pen will be under constant assault by the local coyote pack and they’ll be howling every night and I’ll probably have to defend the stupid goats as if I actually wanted them to survive.  It’ll be like that scene in Whisperer in the Darkness where the old guy is defending his compound from the giant fungus lobsters with his rifle and german shepherds.  Except that german shepherds are actually useful and goats aren’t.  And I don’t have a rifle.  And coyotes aren’t lobsters.  But it was in New England.

I feel that the only hope is if biological science makes rapid advances in genetic engineering.  If genetically modified goats that only grow to the size of crickets could be commercially available then my problem would be solved.  I could set up a pen for them in the kitchen junk drawer and they would be a very small problem to take care of.  So that’s what I’m banking on at this point.  The goats are supposed to arrive a week from Saturday so there’s still time.  I know it’s a long shot but my luck’s got to change some day.  Maybe this will be it.  So, come on you genetic researchers, stop being so selfish and put aside all this cancer jazz for a minute, and solve a really urgent need, the world’s cricket-sized goat shortage.  What color ribbon is still available for the cause?

Whispers from The Abyss – An Anthology of H. P. Lovecraft Inspired Short Stories –  Edited by Kat Rocha – A Horror Book Review – Part 3 – Conclusion

Whispers from The Abyss – Part 2

 

So, I’ll sum it all up.

Are you an H. P. Lovecraft fan?  Then for you, “Whispers from the Abyss” is a no-brainer.  It’s a cornucopia of Lovecraftian themes and inhuman doom.  You are bound to enjoy the majority of the stories and probably find some writers whose work you’ll want to check out.  And for those of you who buy books made of paper instead of electrons, I’ll say that the paperback book was a high-quality item with very nice cover art and excellent readability.

For you Lovecraft agnostics it’s a judgement call.  There is a mixture of styles and as a fellow agnostic I was happy to find a few stories that I thought were very good.  And there were a number that didn’t work for me.  And that make sense.  Without the Lovecraft bias the authors are fighting an uphill battle to get my sympathy.  And I would say there is a generational thing going on.  Any time the author includes even the smallest left-wing jibe, whether it’s an anti-religion or anti-male remark it jars me right out of the story.  So, I’m probably not the target audience for several of these stories.  So that needs to be taken into consideration if you have similar inhibitions.  But if not then you’ll probably be fine with the material in all these tales.

I’ll close by saying if you’re a horror fan and especially if you’re a Lovecraft fan I think you’ll enjoy this book.

Whispers from The Abyss – An Anthology of H. P. Lovecraft Inspired Short Stories –  Edited by Kat Rocha – A Horror Book Review – Part 2

Whispers from The Abyss – Part 1

Taking up where I left off, I’ll discuss some of the longer works in the anthology.  I arbitrarily divided the works as those eight or more pages long and those shorter.  First up, “Secrets in Storage” by Tim Pratt and Greg Van Eekhout.  It’s a straightforward tale of a man who looks in a mysterious box.  The set-up is up to the minute Americana.  A man spends his whole nest egg on the contents of a storage locker.  He goes with a hunch and of course exhibits more guts than brains when he reacts to an impossible scenario by literally climbing into the paradox.  I like the ending.  It reminds me of the ending of Heinlein’s “The Unpleasant Profession of Jonathan Hoag.  Only instead of no mirrors, no boxes or pools.  It’s a refreshing change of pace.

Next is “The Substance in the Sound” by W. B. Stickel.”  This is also a simple tale but well told and the details of the characters and the harbor environment is interesting.  The tie-in to the mythos is not the conventional one and allows some added surprise.  As a New England resident it’s always interesting when the stories return to Lovecraft’s old stomping grounds.

My favorite long story is The Jar of Aten-Hor. By Kat Rocha.  It is a story linking back to the Egyptian religious customs surrounding death.  The description of the funerary artifact around which the story revolves is very vividly described. As with some of Lovecraft’s best imagery it calls out for a visual representation.  But the description is detailed enough to bring it to the mind’s eye.  The protagonist at each turn is provided an avenue of escape and each time she believes that she is deciding her own fate but by the end of the story it is evident that she was the one being manipulated.  Although Egypt wasn’t the most frequent focus of Lovecraft’s mythic sources he did borrow from it for some of his Old Ones names.  I remember reading a description of the pyramids that Lovecraft wrote for some event of Harry Houdini’s.  It was entitled “Under the Pyramids.”  It was one of the better things Lovecraft ever wrote.  It’s nice to see a story that links Lovecraft back to a rich source of highly relevant mythic material.  The inexplicable changing images on the jar provide the link to show the change going on in the protagonist.  Her fascination with the jar grows past a professional interest until finally it becomes an obsession.  The story is well crafted and full of interesting details.  If only Lovecraft himself had been as careful with his writing.  Then I wouldn’t have to make so much fun of him.

In my final post I’ll sum up my thoughts on Whispers from the Abyss and I’ll even throw in some more abuse of Lovecraft at no extra charge.

Whispers from The Abyss – An Anthology of H. P. Lovecraft Inspired Short Stories –  Edited by Kat Rocha – A Horror Book Review – Part 1

 

Anyone with a comprehensive knowledge of this blog knows that I have a love/hate relationship with the works of H. P. Lovecraft.

Why No Love for the Craft of Howard Phillips? – Part 1- The Whisperer in the Darkness

Space Opera (High and Low)

On the one hand, some of his stories are, in my opinion, terribly written.  The action and narration are painful to read and sometimes seem like parody.  On the other hand, some of the images he presents possess the potency of an archetypal nightmare.  I feel that he had an extremely powerful imagination but for whatever reason lacked or neglected to use the writing techniques needed for good story-telling.  For this reason, I continue to circle around Lovecraft’s works.  Aggravated by the reality but fascinated by the potential.

So, I just finished the stories in this anthology.  I read them over the course of yesterday and today.  That’s twenty-eight stories inspired by the writings of Lovecraft.  By any protocol currently in place that is dangerously north of the recommended median safe dosage.  And what I found is consistent with both what I know about Lovecraft and what I know about anthologies.  Let’s look at the categories.

Case 1:  Assume you are a rabid Lovecraft fanatic.  Then by definition you’ll love this anthology.  It’s chock full of Lovecraftian bug juice.  You’re not gonna find a stronger dose of the real thing.  But even you, the grand master of the Lovecraft Day Parade will enjoy certain stories more than others.  Stands to reason.  Because even though the stories have the main attraction it’s there in different dosages and also it is flavored with the other ingredients.  Suppose you are a rabid right wing Lovecraftian and you hit upon a story that includes some feminist story elements or sentiments.  Then that would decrease your enjoyment.  Or suppose you’re a Cthulhu Mythos purist and a story contains some element that you see as heretical, say humor or some science that disagrees with your vision of the saga.  This also would be a negative.

Case 2:  You’re a Lovecraft agnostic.  You don’t hate or love him.  Then each story is taken on its merits.  And so, even more powerfully than in Case 1 your own spectrum of preferences come into play and by definition you will have a much lower average score for each story since it won’t start out on the Lovecraftian plateau.

Case 3:  You despise Lovecraft.  Well, in that case you’d have to be reading this collection out of some kind of masochistic impulse.  Because even if the story characteristics agreed with your other requirements for good fiction, the Lovecraftian elements would be a constant irritant.  Chances are a much smaller subset would be acceptable.  These would be stories that have all the other personal qualifications going for them to offset the anti-Lovecraft bias.

As previously stated, I fall into the second category.  The story will work or not based on how well the elements resonate with my tastes.  And since I’m an old geezer brought up in the paleolithic era I respond well to regressive, patriarchal, hetero-cis-normative, Europhilic, western pro-American themes extremely well.  All other influences lower the enjoyment quotient to some degree.  By definition, anything written after 1957 is going to suffer from a certain deviation from this baseline point of view.  End of truth in advertising disclaimer.

So let’s get started.  The story that best represents the nightmare quality that I think is the most powerful part of the Lovecraft experience is also one of the shortest pieces in the anthology.  I’ve always thought that parents’ emotional bond to their children is the strongest point of attack for horror writers.  In his story “When We Change,” Mason Ian Bundschuh identifies what can be truly horrific about humans being forced into a meat grinder.  Forcing people to make unthinkable choices is the very essence of tragedy and horror.

Interestingly, another of my favorites is a parody, a Lovecraftian farce.  James Brogden’s “The Decorative Water Feature of Nameless Dread” was very good.  It falls into the British tradition of Wodehouse, Fawlty Towers, The Office and anything else that juxtaposes the English desire for propriety and normalcy against the actual absurdity of real life. I definitely was smiling during my read of this story.  It aligns very nicely with my own sense of humor.

In the next installment of this article I’ll give my ideas on some of the larger stories.