I guess nobody is going to make a film adaptation of H.P. Lovecraft's fantastic story The Colour Out Of Space in the man's own language, unless Brian Yuzna already did and called it something else and packed it with naked chicks and rubber monsters. Enter: The Germans. Black and white and subtitled, so more for us artsy smart types.

Does this hurt your eyes? It's supposed to!

hey cool
Authentic Lovecraft
but YUCK
CG colour out of space

Remember the days now so long ago when people would borrow books made of wood pulp from public libraries, on promise to bring them back? With the information superhighway not yet even a gleam in whoever invented its eye, we grey-clad masses shuffled off toward such dreary institutions as if to question the Oracle of Delphi, vainly hoping her wisdom would be less than twenty years out of date. Quietly, furtively we lurked the aisles, our eyes scanning the titles, row upon seemingly endless row of books. Perhaps we'd check out for the dozenth time that volume of theoretical science illustrated with full colour images of great lizard things, which proposed that these so-called "dinosaurs" had once actually roamed the Earth. Ah but here's the horror section. Say, look there! What's all this Lovecraft business?

I don't recall exactly what formed that question in my young-adult mind, but I imagine it was a sort of primordial calling. Becoming a horror fan is probably much akin to realising you are something like, say, a foot fetishist. They probably start out just sort of unconsciously liking to look at feet with no thought of it being anything, and it lays crouching latently, perhaps for years, until some fateful day an urge guides their hand to thumb through certain publications or type certain queries into google, just to see, you know, what it is? Then the shoe collecting.

This, then, my undoing:

No I did not steal the book. Many years later I tracked down the same 1963 Arkham House edition with its wonderfully weird cover of Wilbur Whately floating through a planetscape on some unnamable quest. It was the back cover however which chiefly intrigued me - that subtly shocking mug. Of all horror writers only the likenesses of Poe and Lovecraft have become icons of the genre in and of themselves, and honestly, Lovecraft would melt Poe in a staring contest.

And it's not just how he looked, but that he looked like who he was. It's almost a cliché to say of horror writers, directors, even fans, that they're really just normal people under the surface. H.P.L. was not normal people. Say what one will about his writing, which admittedly in his early works can be a bit heavy on the eldritch, fungoid adjectives, the man and his creations were authentic.

The Colour Out Of Space is the first Lovecraft story I remember reading, and I knew this was going to be my thing. As one thrilled by vibe above all else I have a particular fetish for stories in which the environment itself is the monster - the weird place with its tainted ground, deformed animals, overgrown plants dripping with bulbous, bitter fruit, trees that sway when there's no wind. There's something in the well. That's my hot soup on a rainy day man, and The Colour Out Of Space is the original archetype.

There's certainly no shortage of big studio films based on the writings on Howard Phillips Lovecraft, virtually all of which would make the old gentlman turn in his grave with enough force to knock the the Earth off its axis. Entertaining though Reanimator may be, it's not even one tiny bit Lovecraft. So with a sense of moral obligation I collect and dutifully sit through every last low budget independent Lovecraft movie I can find, on the principle that while such may often resemble something found in a dumpster outside the high school A.V. club, at least hopefully they were made with love.

But once in a great while - twice in human history to be exact if we're only talking full length movies - something will come along that is both competent and authentic. I guess we're finally talking about Die Farbe.

The weird tales on H.P. Lovecraft are basically mood pieces, so a filmmaker trying to present one in moving pictures must be brave enough to show pretty much nothing happening for 90 minutes. Properly done this story should simply be an immersion in vibe - a descent into weirdness, hopelessness, madness, decay. These Germans have basically done it. I doubt any movie will ever fully nail one of these stories, but this is as good as one can reasonably not complain about. Of course this time it happens in Germany and involves a soldier returning home after the second world war, but I thought that was actually interesting. Lovecraft himself didn't bother much with setting up the story anyway; just something about dam inspectors going out there.

The only objectionable cheating here is a scene of fake American soldiers throwing grenades down the well, but aside from that bit of sillyness, yeah, this is the H.P. Lovecraft story The Colour Out Of Space accurately depicted in a movie, and those are words I never thought would even form in my mind, let alone type on a popular website.

What I love about this movie is it takes the time to craft the atmpsophere of wrongness and encroaching doom that pervades the story. It's full of these almost still shots of the farmstead, trees, animals, melancholy and yet somehow buzzing with an alien vivification. According to the rather dull making-of feature they used a digital camera with some sort of homegrown modification to give its footage the look of film. Looks digital to me, but with a strange subtle difference that I can't quite describe. Everything looks just a bit surreal, like an ever so slightly stylised matte painting instead of real life. I don't know, maybe it's in my head, but the effect is perfect.

The horror reveal of the sloughing, dessicated, yet somehow alive bodies was fantastic for this budget too. It's only when we get to the colour itself that the movie shows any lack of Deutschmarks. In presenting this story a filmmaker is confronted with the fact that it concerns a colour that no human eye has ever seen. So, do you show it? Kind of hard not to, but as this is shot in black and white they had the opportunity to cheat and show it without showing it. They opted instead to emphasise the colour by making it the only colour in the film. So the colour out of space is: violet.

I don't necessarily have a problem with this artistic license, and neon violet is certainly dazzling against the greyscale world. The story itself takes license, as I don't believe it's actually possible for the human brain to register a colour outside the normal spectrum.
I personally imagine it as a kind of metallic pale green with a hint of pinkish glow, but that's only because it boggles the mind to try and think up a new colour. It's that concept at the heart of the story, the idea of actually seeing an impossible alien chroma that so agitates my fancy, and striking though violet may be, it's still of this Earth.

I don't know what else they could have done though. Maybe have it morph through all colours of the spectrum a thousand time a second? Just... something else might have been better I think. Again, not complaining. The violet does create an effect within acceptable perameters of the bizarre. The actual CG effect of the colour is my only real problem here. At times they have it ooze and bubble about like a miniature blob monster, which objectifies something that in my opinion is best left a formless, all pervading menace.

Not overdone to a degree that significantly diminishes the film though. This is a good Lovecraft movie, and how many times will I get to think that in my lifetime? I'd even go so far as to say I believe H.P.L. himself might not have said too many terribly mean things about parts of it.