Richard Stanley is one kooky cat. He burst onto the cinematic scene with 1990’s well-received, cult sci-fi/thriller, Hardware, co-starring Iggy Pop, Dylan McDermott and Lemmy Kilmister. The South African filmmaker followed this up with horror flick Dust Devil in 1992. Stanley was then slated to helm New Line Cinema’s big budget The Island of Dr. Moreau redux back in the mid ‘90s before being ousted by Marlon Brando and Val Kilmer’s inflated egos and spats of bad weather in favor of veteran director John Frankenheimer. Stanley, unwilling to part with the gig, donned a mutant animal costume and often returned to set as was chronicled in the entertaining documentary Lost Soul: The Doomed Journey of Richard Stanley’s Island of Dr. Moreau. Stanley didn’t make another feature film until the recently released on home video adaptation of H.P. Lovecraft’s Color Out of Space.
COoS focuses upon the Gardner family. There’s patriarch Nathan (Nicholas Cage), matriarch Theresa (Joely Richardson), eldest son Benny (The Guest’s Brendan Meyer), mid kid daughter Lavinia (Madeleine Arthur) and the family baby Jack (Julian Hilliard). The Gardners have left life in the big city in favor of living on and working Nathan’s late father’s farm. Things take a strange turn when a meteorite strikes the family farm. Hydrologist Ward (Elliot Knight) is on the case trying to make heads or tails of the oddities occurring. He takes a shine to Lavinia and she to him. The cast is rounded out by Q’orianka Kilcher (Pocahontas in Terrence Malick’s The New World) as the bitchy Mayor of their small town and Tommy Chong as … you guessed it … the old stoner who squats on the Gardner’s farm.
COoS is gross with a capital G. There are things in this movie I wish I could unsee and unhear. I will most assuredly never be able to look at Richardson the same way ever again. The picture isn’t fun like Re-Animator – another Lovecraft-inspired flick – but that’s not to say it’s without its charms either. Cage mega-acts his way through the proceedings and is a hoot and a half while doing so. Despite being disgusting – much of this is also beautiful. Stanley and his crew shot in Portugal (strangely subbing for the fictional town of Arkham, Mass.) and beautiful scenery (both natural and artificial) abounds. The VFX are awfully impressive for a modestly-budgeted $12 million film. There are plenty of trippy colors to be enjoyed by those inclined to watch in an altered state. Stanley even cheekily tosses in a clip of an old Brando movie.
Elijah Wood’s SpectreVision genre label produced COoS, which reteams him with Cage after Panos Cosmatos’ 2018 offering Mandy. The two first worked together as co-stars on 2016’s crooked cop picture The Trust and seem to have a good rapport with one another. COoS doesn’t reach the visual heights of Mandy nor is Cage as enthralling in it as he was in the earlier entry, but that’s not for lack of trying. COoS isn’t my particular brand of vodka, but for having been made by a dude who hasn’t finished a feature in nearly 30 years it’s an impressive feat. Stanley seems to be saying something about environmentalism and consumerism with COoS, but I can’t quite put my finger on what that is. Having knocked the rust off here perhaps the message will be clearer next time out?