Richard Stanley, welcome back. Ever since the debacle which was The Island of Dr. Moreau — and brief visitations which gave us the Stanley-written Replace and the documentary The Otherworld — this genius was mostly silent. Just watch Lost Soul: The Doomed Journey of Richard Stanley’s Island of Dr. Moreau to find out why.
That time is over. Now, the first of three proposed H.P Lovecraft films by Stanley has arrived and it’s everything I ever wanted it to be.
Nathan Gardner’s (Nicolas Cage, Mandy; of course, nature made for a movie with Stanley) life is in transition. His wife Theresa (Joely Richardson, sister of Natasha, daughter of Vanessa Redgrave and stepdaughter of Franco Nero; she’s astounding in this) feels mutilated after her recent mastectomy and is losing clients because their internet is so fragile out in the country. His daughter Lavinia (Madeleine Arthur, Big Eyes) has turned to Wicca to heal her mother and escape her life. His son Jack is withdrawn and only takes to the dog. Another son, Benny, years to escape with the drugs he smokes with a hermit named Ezra (Tommy Chong). And he keeps failing as he attempts to raise alpacas and tomatoes.
That’s when a meteor crashes and changes everything for the worse.
Ward, a scientist, tries to warn them not to drink the water that the meteor has contaminated. But it’s too late. Too late for the alpacas, which have become hairless monsters. Too late for the wife and young son, who are fused into one being. Too late for his other son. Too late for Nathan, who is driven insane by the color itself. Too late for even the young hero, Ward, to save the girl who has scarred symbols all over herself as she collapses into ash in his hands, but not before sharing a vision of the world that this color has come from, a place that destroys minds.
This was obviously a personal film for the director. His mother as a huge Lovecraft fan and read the story to Stanley when he was 12 or 13. He claims that the story has “always been a part of [his] psychological makeup.” As his mother died from cancer, he would often read the author’s stories to her. And if rumors are to be believed, Stanley and Swedish filmmaker Henrik Möller performed a ritual to the Lovecraftian god Yog-Sothoth to get the film made.
Every frame of this film shows that Stanley is a master. In a world of people creating content for the machine, he remains a unique artist. Whenever I am worried about our place in this universe, I remember that it still creates artists like him — and Cage — unafraid to howl in the dark, unworried and uncaring what others may think.
UPDATE: “Nic Cage Bitch” is our Nicolas Cage blowout written by Paul Andolina of Wrestling with Film. It’s a must read for all fans of the Cage, so check it out and learn about some Cage films you may have missed, such as A Score to Settle, Between Worlds, Kill Chain, Outcast, Rage, and Seeking Justice.