C: The Color Out of Space (2010)

Letterboxd ♠ Master List

“The Colour Out of Space” was my introduction to H.P. Lovecraft, via a thick gray book with the inventive title A Science Fiction Anthology. I was 12 or 13 – reading far beyond my age range – and though I was at first put off by its length, I persevered, and was absolutely terrified. Movie adaptations of Lovecraft are a pretty hard sell for me, with a lot of misses and a few hits (most of those being the obvious ones directed by Stuart Gordon), so The Color Out of Space came as a pleasant surprise.

It’s Arkham, 1975, and Jonathan Davis (Ingo Heise) is looking for his missing father. The investigating officer (conveniently named Ward – Alexander Sebastian Curd Schuster) finds that the man suddenly went to Germany, where he served during the post WWII settlement. Davis hastily flies to the forest region where his father was stationed, to find that the valley is about to be flooded by a new dam, and only the elderly still live in the nearby village. None of them recognize his father – until he literally runs into Armin Pierske (Michael Kausch), who recognizes the photo of his dad in his 1945 uniform.

Armin met the elder Davis when he returned from the Russian front to find the Army appropriating his farmhouse for refugees. He warns the Americans away from the neighboring valley because “It looks like it’s still happening,” which causes the squad to take him along to check it out . Armin is not surprised that his old acquaintance returned to the valley. “Once you see the colour, it is hard to forget.”

The bulk of the movie is Armin’s re-telling of what happened in that valley in the days just before WWII. A meteorite crashes into the Gärtner farm, and the stone’s properties confuse scientists; it radiates constant heat and continually shrinks, despite not producing any gases or ash. All tests are inconclusive, and they continually return for new samples, until they discover an oddly-colored sphere at the center of the bizarre rock, which shatters and disappears once tapped. And so the troubles begin.

Crops on the Gärtner farm begin to grow like crazy, producing huge fruit that is still blighted. Frau Gärtner begins to act oddly, eventually locked up in a room in the attic. One of the boys returns from the well screaming about lights. Trees seem to move on their own, with no apparent wind. The only person who still speaks to the increasingly beleaguered family is Armin, their immediate neighbor – and when he doesn’t hear from them for two weeks, he fearfully walks up to that darkened house.

This is a remarkably faithful adaptation of Lovecraft’s novella. Pre-War rural Germany is a good analog for Lovecraft’s backwoods locale, and the decision to make the movie in black-and-white is effective. I think you can deduce what the only thing in color in the movie is going to be, and it’s perhaps unfortunate that Lovecraft’s protagonists always have to see the indescribable indefinable unknowable, and filmmakers have to show that, and they will never be able to afford what that looks like in our heads.

The only other false note for me is a last-minute attempt to put a twist in the story for those of us familiar with it, which led me to have too many questions, but past that: Good adaptation. Recommended.

3 Comments

  1. Heh, time to cross “Die Monster, Die” off that list of films I’d like more if they were more like the book, I guess. I’d been meaning to check this out, so thanks for the boot up the charts (ouch!).

  2. For Lovecraft adaptations, have you ever seen The Call of Cthulhu? It’s a 2005 independent silent movie done by the H. P. Lovecraft Historical Society, which does a lot of audio adaptations. I saw it at a film festival years ago and was really impressed….

    Trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XHuY2wXTd0o

    • I have. It’s truly cool. Same folks did “The Whisperer in Darkness”, which wasn’t quite as successful, but still a good adaptation.


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