Column: Cthulhu Eats the World: Dark Adventure Radio Theater: The Colour out of Space

If you have been following my Cthulhu Eats the World column for any length of time, well, first, let me say thank you for doing so. But also, let me say that you have no doubt witnessed my love for the radio plays produced by the crazy creative cultists over at the H.P. Lovecraft Historical Society. Under the banner of their Dark Adventure Radio Theater, they have adapted six of Lovecraft’s best stories into very fine audio entertainment. This one, Lovecraft’s most adapted story ever (no kidding – there have been at least four movies made of this tale, with another one on the way), is their seventh Dark Adventure to come out. And honestly, if you are familiar with my other reviews of these productions, then you can stop reading now, as this one is as good as all the others. However, I’m here with some time to kill – and I never get tired of shining the spotlight on things that I really like – so if you need some more convincing, please read on.

The Colour out of Space” is one of Lovecraft’s best stories. It blends mind-bending sci-fi and truly creepy horror expertly. It is also not too steeped in his mythology – i.e., the “Cthulhu Mythos”- so even Lovecraft laymen can readily pick it up and enjoy. There is good reason this story has been made into so many movies. Simply put: It rocks! And speaking of rocks, that’s how all the trouble in this tale begins: with a big space rock falling out of the sky one night onto an unsuspecting farm. The farmer calls in some experts and learned men from Miskatonic University, and everyone ohhhhhs and ahhhhhs over the strange properties of the meteorite. But before long, the space stone evaporates (yes, really), which causes everyone to scratch their heads and then go on with their normal lives. Everyone except for the poor Gardner family, whose farm the strange visitor crashed down upon. For them, their lives will never be normal again.

So begins a story of creeping dread and slow corruption. This is one of Lovecraft’s most eerie and sad stories, as the Gardners are a nice family of everyday people, minding their own business and helping others when they can. Yet, they are nevertheless slowly, painfully and relentlessly destroyed. This is grim stuff, folks, and the HPLHS portrays that effectively. In others of their Dark Adventure Radio Theaters, they will often add some silly bits and humor to the play to brighten things up. Not so in this tale. Everything here it treated with deadly somberness and that mood really adds to the dark horror of the unfolding story.

That is not to say that this 77-minute long radio play is bad, only that it is very effective at being horrifying. That’s a great thing in my book. It is wonderfully acted by a large cast and the background music reinforces the creepiness. The whole thing is expertly done from start to finish and makes for a great listening experience as this autumn slowly rots away into the cold death of winter.

In addition to the excellent radio play, the HPLHS always adds a few physical goodies with their CDs, like the extras on a DVD. This time around, you get the work order for the Mattapan Reservoir, a newspaper article and photo of the meteorite crater, a lengthy letter from a professor of Miskatonic University about the strange meteorite, and the last will and testament of poor Nahum Gardner. If you play Call of Cthulhu, then any of these would make for Grade-A handouts for the game. If that’s not your thing, then just consider them some nifty knickknacks.

Final Verdict: The HPLHS’ Dark Adventure Radio Theater production of “The Colour out of Space” is another winner from a long line of amazing radio plays. It is a must have for any serious lover of Lovecraft and a great way to introduce H.P. Lovecraft to the uninitiated. As such, it is very highly recommended for just about anyone.

Brian M. Sammons

About Brian M. Sammons

Brian M. Sammons has been critiquing all things horror, science fiction, dark, or just plain icky for over a decade. His reviews and columns can currently be found in the pages of these magazines: Cemetery Dance, Shock Totem and Dark Discoveries, and on these websites: Horror World, The Black Glove and now here. Not being satisfied at being a humble and handsome critic, Brian has penned a few tales himself. They have appeared in the magazines Bare Bone, Cthulhu Sex, Dark Animus, and Horror Carousel, and in the anthologies Arkham Tales, Cthulhu Unbound Vol. 2, Horrors Beyond, and Twisted Legends, among others. He has also written extensively for the Call of Cthulhu role playing game, in an attempt to corrupt as many new, young minds as possible. Despite all this, Brian is often described by his neighbours as "such a nice, quiet man", and he loves animals.

Brian M. SammonsColumn: Cthulhu Eats the World: Dark Adventure Radio Theater: The Colour out of Space