Fantasia ’13 exclusive: Richard Stanley talks his Lovecraft film “COLOUR OUT OF SPACE”
While attending the current Fantasia festival in Montreal to host the world premiere of his striking documentary L’AUTRE MONDE, filmmaker Richard Stanley also took part in the Frontières market, pitching his H.P. Lovecraft adaptation THE COLOUR OUT OF SPACE. Fango got the chance to sit down with the man to get his thoughts and details on the project.
Written by Lovecraft in 1927, the “Colour Out of Space” short story deals with a meteor that crashes to earth in rural Massachusetts and causes mutations and madness among the animal, vegetable and human population. It is one of the eldritch author’s most-filmed works, having served as the source for the Boris Karloff-starrer DIE, MONSTER, DIE!, the U.S./Italian co-production THE CURSE (a.k.a. THE FARM, with Lucio Fulci as an associate producer), Ivan Zuccon’s COLOUR FROM THE DARK and a 2010 German feature a.k.a. DIE FARBE.
“I did a crash course and went back and saw all of them,” Stanley tells Fango. “Out of the bunch, I like DIE FARBE the most. It’s set at the end of WWII, is in black and white and takes a very different approach to the material—thankfully, because for a while I was thinking, ‘OK, if this is good, I don’t need to do the story again.’ But it’s also not really a horror movie, which is the most unfortunate thing about DIE FARBE. I thought if it had some gore effects—if it had some latex in there and some kind of monster—it would’ve been worth it, I guess, for the audience to get through the German language and the subtitles and the black-and-white art-house approach. And THE CURSE is just kind of a gloss over the material; it has a nice well, but apart from that there’s a lot of stuff missing. We all love DIE, MONSTER, DIE!, but it’s hokey as hell now, just like the original DUNWICH HORROR. DUNWICH HORROR desperately needs a decent adaptation too, I think. That’s one we’re looking at very carefully; I’m so in love with Wilbur Whateley that I would love to see him done properly in a movie.”
With his COLOUR, Stanley wants to give Lovecraft the big-screen respect he feels has been lacking in the last several years. “Personally, I’ve been a little disappointed by the recent Lovecraft movies, and I want to do something that’s a return to the spirit of the original stories. I want to make a Lovecraft film that genuinely terrifies and traumatizes the audience and makes people ask questions about the reality we’re living in. Lovecraft should still be more dangerous than ever, in a way, rather than something that’s quaint and part of the past. It’s too easy, I think, to take a slightly campy approach and keep Lovecraft trapped in the ’20s and ’30s. I would like to see the Great Old Ones back in a much more unfriendly manner.
“One of the things we’re going to do,” he continues, “is set the film in a universe where the characters are already aware of Lovecraft’s work. There are two teenage kids in the family, and one’s a WARHAMMER addict and the other’s got a copy of the paperback NECRONOMICON. So they’re aware of all this material, but of course, it doesn’t help—referring to the NECRONOMICON or even carving the sigils into your flesh, as one character does trying to protect themselves, doesn’t make any difference. The thing from outer space doesn’t have a name and doesn’t conform to any of the rules.”
Joining Stanley on THE COLOUR OUT OF SPACE will be editor Douglas Buck and a few key collaborators from L’AUTRE MONDE and his MOTHER OF TOADS segment from THE THEATRE BIZARRE: screenwriter Scarlett Amaris, composer Simon Boswell and director of photography Karim Hussain. “During L’AUTRE MONDE,” the director says, “Karim and I were talking a lot about COLOUR, and how to create the extremely trippy visuals. Another thing that attracts me to COLOUR is the opportunity to make another psychedelic film, but a very, very dark one, and rethink that approach in terms of, ‘OK, what haven’t we seen before, and how can we make this extremely trippy and disorienting for people?’ ” He further reveals that COLOUR looks likely to serve as a comeback film for ace makeup FX artist Steve Johnson. “We’ve talked to him about it,” Stanley confirms, “and we need to get him back in the world again. He seemed to have backed away from the industry; I think it was a similar issue to myself, because he also dropped out to France, and felt he didn’t need to do anything for some reason.”
The occult-suffused region of the south of France where Stanley now resides, and is the subject of L’AUTRE MONDE, may also serve as the shooting site for COLOUR OUT OF SPACE. “It was written for that area,” he says, “but it all unfolds on one farm location, so it could be pretty much anywhere. The story is set in backwoods Arkham—well, west of Arkham, Lovecraft says; no one has ever quite figured out where that is.” Quebec, he muses, may also be a possibility: “Lovecraft had a deep love for Quebec, and it was one of the only places he ever visited at length. He went on a lot of trips up there from Providence and wrote a very long tour guide about it, TO QUEBEC AND THE STARS, this fat book about the old buildings and architecture there. I often think that Lovecraft’s backwoods farmers would work well as Quebecois people just as well as, or probably better than, the usual… ‘Colour’ gets relocated to the Midwest an awful lot, with your typical sort of dungaree-wearing yokels. So COLOUR could shoot either in Quebec or in France, depending on how it works out with the funding. It’s a bit of a movable feast.” Watch the preproduction teaser trailer below, and learn more about the COLOUR OUT OF SPACE project at its official website.