So, intergenerational relations are wildly getting out of control; the White House is continuing to melt down; an Internet friend is talking about the continuing political deterioration of Lebanon (and, probably the Middle East in general); one of my brain cancer friends is trying a new, experimental immunotherapy to treat a recurrence; and there’s a trailer out for the next Nic Cage movie. I will be discussing one of these today, go ahead and try to guess which one (I didn’t sleep well last night, and I think I pulled a muscle in the gym; my critical thinking skills aren’t great at the moment).
So, first, roll film!
There’s a lot more to unpack here than you might initially think but — alpacas? Really? That’s the new American dream? Dream house in the country, enough to retire early… and an animal that spits and produces itchy wool? I’ll discuss the rest of the stuff, but you can not go, “Alpaca shot” immediately followed by “We’re living the dream.” Anyone who’s lived in a rural area and/or metropolitan area and has met domesticated mini-camels is going to be immediately suspicious. That is some serious, second-home-in-a-ski-resort-town shit right there. If you want to telegraph to the local criminal element, “The homeowners are not here nine months of the year, help yourselves,” that is the perfect pet.
On the other hand, it is a film about mind-bending cosmic horror, and they’re clearly nailing that ten seconds into the trailer just with some bizarre editing choices, so, bravo.
At this point, it behooves us (Do alpacas have hooves? I thought they had toes or something) to discuss the two big names involved; professional insane people Nic Coppola (better known by his stage name, Nicholas Cage) and Richard Stanley.
“Who is Nic Cage?” I hear no one asking.
I’m so glad you didn’t ask!
That might be the greatest thing on Youtube just because it has the word “whilst” in the title, but I digress! More Nic Cage!
Cage is not only meatspace famous, he’s Internet famous for being attached to the ill-fated 1996 Kevin Smith reboot of Superman. For any Gen Z folks who want to know what the 90’s were like; roll film!
Good God, it’s like someone completely unfamiliar with human anatomy ordered a muscle suit to be welded onto a muscle suit!
What I’m getting at is, Mssr. Cage is well-known and beloved amongst bad film cognoscenti for starring almost exclusively in delightfully awful films. If he’s in it, you can flip a coin, and there’s a 50–50 chance the film will be bad, or so bad it’s great. Oh, he also won an Oscar for the film Leaving Las Vegas (ironically, Mr. Cage lives in Las Vegas). I have a friend who’s a professional novelist and thinks it’s a productive day to get 200–300 words on his latest work per day; I feel like I can’t do justice to this two minute trailer with less than 25000 words. Yes, kids, there is that much palpable madness on display. Where was I? Nic Cage. Right. All you need to know is, his next project after winning an Oscar was the unmade Superman movie, he’s famous, he’s been married four times (that we know of), he actually once bought — this is true — two albino King Cobras (and there you were, just trying to make do with one). I do not know if he is actually a James Bond villain, but all the confirmed evidence would suggest he does, in fact, have Sean Connery in shackles in his basement (right next to the venomous snakes)(it is taking all my willpower not to obsess on the two albino King Cobras thing, because, TWO ALBINO KING COBRAS).
The next name on there is Richard Stanley, who you probably have never heard of, but I’m sure you’re familiar with his best-known work.
I’m giving you guys the Rifftrax version because the actual footage is painful (as in, if I had to choose between watching that movie and another month of chemo, I’d have to do a pro-con list to figure it out)(yes, it really is that bad). Also, what is it with Stanley’s obsession with South American camel-descended beasts?
So, Richard Stanley is well-known for making a bunch of well-received independent films, and then the worst film of the 90’s, which is like being the worst-tempered German or the most unreliable French plumber; it’s a stiff competition. Let us never forget that the decade saw Cool World, AND Showgirls, AND Congo. And somehow, Island of Doctor Moreau is easily the worst.
Stanley’s name is not attached to Island of Doctor Moreau because Val Kilmer (if you think my take on Cage was not charitable, you don’t want me to write about Kilmer) a man whose madness completely dwarfs even Marlon Brando, had him shit-canned the first month of shooting and replaced by John Frankenheimer.
We are only ten seconds into the trailer, and there’s still a ton to be discussed.
Island of Doctor Moreau is not only legendarily awful, but the behind the scenes shenanigans make the filming of Apocalypse Now seem positively restrained and tempered in comparison. Seriously, there’s an entire documentary on the making of the film called Lost Soul: The Doomed Journey of Richard Stanley’s Island of Doctor Moreau. I will stop this essay so you, the reader, can go watch it. I’m sort of serious here, you can not appreciate the stakes here until you see that documentary.
Wasn’t that completely insane? Cthulhu themselves would be hard-pressed to beat that for mind-bending horror. The dude actually hired a warlock to perform an animal sacrifice on his behalf. That’s not a metaphor or flowery language; let me repeat that. In pre-production of Dr. Moreau, Richard Stanley actually hired a man who claimed to be a genuine witch (technically a warlock) to perform a blood ritual on his (Stanley’s) behalf. Every word there is accurate and not exaggerated. I’ve had fevered chemo-induced hallucinations that were more lucid.
After being burned by Kilmer and the studio, Stanley hasn’t really been heard from, apart from assorted shorts and minor screenplays. He also gets bonus points for being one of the few people who somehow swims in a broad-brimmed hat despite being, shall we say, “generously proportioned.” That has absolutely nothing to do with anything, but I thought I’d interject some light sexist overtones into the conversation, lest we drift too close to sanity (also, we’re talking about an HP Lovecraft film, we’re going to have to bring up mindless bigotry sooner or later).
Continuing with my critique of the trailer, despite being something of a hermit for the last twenty years, it would appear that Stanley’s only knowledge of wilderness comes from Walt Whitman and Jack London; because that is the only reason I can think of for someone owning a wolf (I’m 99% certain that’s not a dog, it’s a wolf). Of course, the owner is, presumably, Nic Cage, who actually owned two albino King Cobras (apparently, his neighborhood wasn’t zoned for deadly, venomous creatures)(to all the libertarians out there, let me remind you, municipal government is literally the only thing standing between you and Nic Cage’s “pets”). Like, basic stuff. Where does this family put their garbage? Do they just drive it to the dump, themselves? Why don’t they turn off the lights when they’re gazing at the night sky? Was this written by someone who thinks “wilderness” is synonymous with “Reseda?” Coming from a rural area and being educated in an urban one, I’m not usually much for that, “Big city people are morons” thinking, but, dude, maybe at least take a stroll along a hiking trail before trying to depict rural living? We don’t actually use wells, except as yard decor. But I digress.
Post-watching this delightful mess of a trailer thoughts. First, it’s nice to see Tommy Chong working again, but it’s an indicator of bad craziness (to borrow an idiom from Hunter S. Thompson) that he’s comparitively sane and staid. Also, why does Nic Cage need a gun? He has two albino King Cobras. Also also, unless he’s shooting clay pigeons or pheasants (or that’s a B. Searcy game rifle), that’s probably not the best choice for your shotgun needs (again, I’m getting a massive “I am a writer who has never ventured further afield from Los Angeles than San Clemente” vibe here).
Also, Cage’s repetition of the phrase “the color” throughout the trailer compels me to post this.
I am dead-certain there is a 0% chance this will be a good film after watching that trailer. The only question is, “Will this be delightfully awful, or just forgettably mediocre. or mind-bendingly, Battlefield Earth awful?” For some insight, let’s turn the source material; Scientology! Whoops, sorry, getting my overrated writers mixed up. H.P. Lovecraft!
From Wikipedia, about H.P. Lovecraft’s Color Out of Space.
In the tale, an unnamed narrator pieces together the story of an area known by the locals as the “blasted heath” in the wild hills west of the fictional town of Arkham, Massachusetts. The narrator discovers that many years ago a meteorite crashed there, poisoning every living being nearby; vegetation grows large but foul tasting, animals are driven mad and deformed into grotesque shapes, and the people go insane or die one by one.
That’s just the plot from John Carpenter’s The Thing, right? Or Annihilation? I mean, this story undoubtedly predates them, but the concept of evolution was already floating around before Darwin came up with natural selection (this is true), but Alfred Russel Wallace came up with natural selection at the same time (also true). Darwin gets the credit because he spent twenty years compiling evidence for his theory and presented it in On the Origin of Species. Similarly, Color Out of Space has been overshadowed by bigger, better-known films that it undoubtedly influenced. Oh, it’s also been adapted into feature films in 1965, 1987, and 2010. You know what they say; fourth time’s the charm.
I mean, Cthulhu bless the producers for sending money Nic Cage’s way; dude needs to buy food for his two albino King Cobras (I know that, in the wild, they eat other snakes, but that doesn’t seem like a sustainable long-term solution)(of course, we are talking about Nic Cage, so there’s a distinct possibility he is actually feeding his two albino King Cobras OTHER albino King Cobras), but I’m still not sold on the idea that we really need another adaptation of a work that, while well-regarded, is 100 years old and was written by a man who was regarded by people of his era as being horrifically bigoted and racist. I honestly don’t know how well those racial undertones are going to play in the 21st century. Of course, we still haven’t completely evicted Nazis from our fair shores, so, who knows?
In summary: the source material was about mind-bending cosmic horror, written by a man who was probably slightly mad, it is adapted by two men who we know are completely bonkers (in an industry renowned for insanity, let’s not forget). On the other hand, Val Kilmer and Marlon Brando are not involved, so, for all we know, everything went according to plan, the shoot was a picnic, and N. Cage brought his two albino King Cobras to work on Take Your Daughter to Work day. One can only hope. I will be keeping a keen eye on this film, and hope the ensuing madness envelopes the world and destroys the planet. At least that will keep Ben Garrison from unleashing his awful “comics” upon the world.