I’ve lamented elsewhere the difficulties of translating Lovecraft to the screen, specifically any scene involving any being to beyond human comprehension that the merest glimpse of it results in despair and madness. Obviously there’s no way to sufficiently visualize so staggering a horror.
But that should in no way imply that all Lovecraft is unfilmable. Far from it. Frequently the terrors of the Elder Gods lie in the results of their presence on those around them. This is the kind of thing that happens in, for example, such Lovecraft-themed movies as Event Horizon and In The Mouth Of Madness.
Other times, the story as it is can work spectacularly on film, and a fine example of this is “The Colour Out Of Space.” It’s definitely one of Lovecraft’s finest cosmic horror stories with its most unnerving quality being the idea that it invokes no cult rituals, no ancient evil, and no Elder Gods. It’s just speculative fiction at its finest and boasts 5 film adaptations.
Die, Monster, Die (1965)
This is not the most faithful adaptation, but it’s got its gruesome and creepy moments. An American scientist journeys to Arkham, England to visit his fiancée Susan Witley. There he meets her parents, Nahum and Letitia. Hmm. Letitia Witley. That sounds vaguely familiar, kinda like, oh I dunno, Lavinia Whateley? From “The Dunwich Horror?” Now just what did the lads at American International Pictures think they were up to with all this haphazard mix-and-matching of storylines? The effects are a bit dated as well, though Letitia’s (Freda Jackson) final transformation is a decent jolt. The obvious draw here is Karloff as Nahum, and his ending attack is right menacing despite the now hokey representation of Nahum’s radioactive glow.
The Curse (1987)
Also not the most faithful version of events, but it does deal nicely with the some of the story details, like the improved crop growth (and what follows) after the meteorite hits. The movie also boasts a lil baby Wil Wheaton just after Stand By Me. This time the father is Nathan Crane (Claude Akins). A meteorite lands near the family farm, and madness ensues. It’s not a bad flick, but it’s not fantastic either. It does, however, contain one of the most disturbing scenes ever. Zack’s (Wheaton) mother is sewing and yammering semi-incoherently about, well, stuff. Zack notices her fingers are bleeding then realizes it’s because she’s sewing her fingers along with her darning work. Makes me shiver just thinkin’ about it. Oh, and John Schneider. Oh, and Curse II: The Bite has zero to do with this movie.
Colour From The Dark (2008)
This is a surprisingly effective indie film out of Italy. This time everything is set in the WWII Italian countryside. Farmer Pietro and his wife Lucia accidentally release something that’s at the bottom of their well. Even better than The Curse, this version focuses effectively on the massive crops, subsequent poisoning, and ultimate madness brought about by whatever Pietro has released. Things go a bit off the rails in terms of Lucia becoming homicidal prompting devout Catholic Pietro to call for an exorcist. But overall not bad.
The Colour Out Of Space (Die Farbe, 2010)
This is tense and effectively shot in black and white except when The Color itself is directly involved. Some argue that this is the best adaptation of the story ever made. It certainly bears all the hallmarks of being made by someone a Lovecraft disciple. This time, a young American goes to Germany trying to find out what happened to his father, an American soldier who seemed to have just vanished. In the course of investigating, he stumbles upon the repercussions of a meteorite that had landed near a farm in the vicinity of a family the father may have had contact with. Between the oversized but poisoned crops, the bloated insects, and the weirdness of actual Color, this one takes a hold and won’t let go. Be sure to stick around through the credits because the accompanying footage does a fine job linking back to an important point made in the actual story
Color Out Of Space (2019)
If you’re gonna have someone go insane and start doin’ weird shit because of exposure to some kind of weird shit from space that also makes weird shit start happening all over your llama farm, you could do a helluvalot worse than to have that someone played by Nicolas Cage. If you hold up Mandy as the gold standard of totally batshit Nic Cage crazy-8 bonkersosity, then Willy’s Wonderland and Color Out Of Space are neck and neck for an awfully close second. It’s a nice touch in terms of the meteor’s effect on the people around it, and there are some John Carpenter/The Thing/David Cronenberg/The Fly moments that, while not exactly canon in terms of the source, are truly god damn gruesome. What this version also handles spectacularly is the color and some of its other bizarro effects (i.e. more creepy as hell bugs like in Die Farbe.
So there they are kids. My suggestion is have a read through the story (it moves fast), grab a giant piece of produce, and snuggle in for some iridescent nightmares.