- 24 Feb 20
This jumbled sci-fi horror goes gleefully off the rails
These days, it’s a rare surprise when Nicolas Cage isn’t the weirdest part of a film – and his idiosyncratic energy is merely one strange facet of Richard Stanley’s HP Lovecraft adaptation. Cage plays Nathan Gardner, who has just moved his family into his father’s old farmstead, deep in the countryside of Arkham, Massachusetts – and they’re all adjusting to the change.
Nathan’s wife Theresa (Joely Richardson) is trying to maintain her job despite having no internet connection; son Benny (Brendan Meyer) is smoking even more pot than usual; and daughter Lavinia (Madeleine Arthur) is taking the wild country landscape as an excuse to fully commit to Wicca, which little Jack doesn’t seem to mind. Nathan, meanwhile, is doing what every suburbanite going through a personal crisis and rural relocation does: he’s bought some alpacas.
However, the family’s disquiet and awareness that they’re an hour away from any form of civilisation escalates rapidly when a meteor fragment crashes into their front yard, radiating a neon, otherworldly glow. Overnight, it cools and vanishes – but strange occurrences persist in its absence. New flora and fauna appear, all slightly alien. The alpacas keep escaping. Radios emit an unsettling crackle. And slowly, members of the Gardner family each begin losing time and experiencing strange, out-of-body experiences, slowly spiralling out of control.
Stanley creates an escalating sense of dread, both through the characters’ increasingly disturbing actions, and by suggesting truly nightmarish body horror – severed limbs, mutilated animals, deforming burns – without showing everything onscreen.
Though some narrative and thematic threads fail to cohere, and Cage’s performance and accent are mercurial mysteries, the visuals are beautiful and disturbing – and the wild, strange silliness never fails to entertain.
Directed by Richard Stanley. Written by Richard Stanley, Scarlett Amaris. Starring Nicolas Cage, Joely Richardson, Madeline Arthur, Brendan Meyer, Julian Hilliard, Elliot Knight. 110 mins.
In cinemas February 28
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