Richard Stanley directs Nicolas Cage, Madeleine Arthur and Joely Richardson in this sci-fi horror where a middle-class family who have relocated to the wilderness are terrorised by the puce contents of a meteorite.
Richard Stanley (director of Dust Devil, and nothing since due to the vagaries of Hollywood) teams up with horror comeback Cage to do Lovecraft. This could have been a bin fire and I’d still be in. The movie itself is a creepy uneasy treat. Not fully palatable for mainstream audiences. The performances are variable, not helped by Stanley’s eagerness to shoot a lot of his dialogue in face-on close-ups. Cage starts out amusingly as a pretty regular unhip Dad but soon warps into a mix of Jack from The Shining and a Donald Trump impersonation as his idyllic life goes off the rails. It is an unpredictable, unrestrained jolt of acting… in keeping with the surreal mania of the plot. Either you are going to relish Cage obliviously collecting mutant tomatoes or you are going to switch off. I’m a tomato kinda guy personally. Madeline Arthur holds her own as the witchy daughter, though her personal disintegration isn’t given enough screen time to fully convince. She fares better than the older son who you forget even lives at the farmhouse until he suddenly reappears next the family dog who you have been caring about. Stanley is a rare unique voice in genre cinema and for the first half he seems muted and aiming for a subtle atmosphere of paranoia. Once the alien bacteria begins altering everyone’s DNA and perception the brakes come right off. The shocks in the final act are genuinely affecting and relentless. A visual treat for fans of both The Thing and 2001: A Space Odyssey. Only one shoddy CGI character reveals the budgetary limitations and Stanley is smart enough to cut around and only let us glimpse that monstrosity. Most “modern” directors would hold on such a weak FX as it cost a sizeable proportion of the budget. Stanley knows a rush of overwhelming chaos and nasty we can’t stop to pick apart is far more powerful. A beautifully ugly cult item.
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