A meteorite crash lands at a secluded farmhouse unleashing unspeakable horrors on the family, the surrounding area, and possibly the world.
Color Out of Space (2019)
Directed by Richard Stanley
Written by Richard Stanley and Scarlett Amaris
Starring Nicolas Cage, Joely Richardson, Madeline Arthur,
Brendan Meyer, Julian Hilliard, Elliot Knight, Tommy Chong
Based on the short story by H.P. Lovecraft
Admittedly, I am behind on my Richard Stanley filmography. To be exact, I haven’t seen a single one of his previous movies. Color Out of Space is my introduction to this very cult filmmaker I’ve heard of for a very long time. Regardless, I was intrigued upon seeing the trailer. I’m a big H.P. Lovecraft fan and, obviously, Nicolas Cage. So, when I saw the trailer for this filmmaker’s return to cinema with it being a Lovecraft adaptation and starring Cage on his current resurgence, I was more than willing to see this. In short, before I go into detail, I’m glad I did. This is one of the most beautiful, daring, and original horror films I’ve had the pleasure to view from last year. To Richard Stanley fans, I promise I will be correcting myself and watching his previous works.
To begin with, I have to start with the cinematography. Stanley really knows how to fill the screen with colors in his shots that are both horrifying and beautiful. From the meteorite crash to the strange fauna which grows, there are some seriously amazing shots that could serve as some awesome screensavers. The use of color as the enemy, as opposed to some kind of alien being, is also brilliant. The cinematography also does a great job of showing how isolated the family is as they battle this unseen force. The other great part is the performances. While everyone does a great job, have to give kudos to Cage. As most horror fans know, he has been making a little of a comeback by mainly sticking to genre fare in recent years. Much like Mandy, he delivers another great performance here. He is much more subdued than usual, but when he does his classic “Rage Cage” moments, they are worth it. Finally, I have to give Stanley credit for making this feel the most like a Lovecraft movie as opposed to prior adaptations of his work.
Color Out of Space serves as an amazing Lovecraft adaptation and horror film. Richard Stanley really showed me why he has developed such a huge cult following and made a strong comeback film in the process. It’s also always good to see Nicolas Cage trying again and giving us the performances which made him famous to begin with. I hope he continues his work in the genre. Based off the ending and Stanley’s own comments in interviews, I really hope to see the next two films in this planned trilogy.
Lovecraft has never really sat well with me. I've often found him to be pretentious, vehemently racist, and quite frankly, up his own ass when it comes to his deliberately "complex for the sake of complexity" work. I wanted to see Color Out of Space because I'm a huge Nic Cage fan and because I thought it looked neat. Visually, the film is breathtaking and freakish, with some nightmare fuel that will last for months. In terms of story, this film is a mess, with a boring, sluggish plot that jumps around just to keep the audience confused.
We follow the Gardner family, Nathan (Cage), his wife Theresa (Richardson), and their kids Lavinia (Arthur), Benny (Meyer), and Jack (Hilliard). One day, a meteorite crashes on their farmland and begins to change the landscape around them. Whatever was inside this meteorite gets into the water and begins to change them too, but these changes are different to everyone. Theresa and Jack get fused together into some weird sort of Siamese twin crab monster, which I'll admit freaked me out. Nathan gets a weird skin rash and becomes a huge asshole (not literally, thank God. That'd be a bit much even for Lovecraft). Slowly but surely, this nondescript space evil poisons the farm and seemingly takes a big bite out of the town, I think. I don't know because the end of the film doesn't really show you the ramifications of what has just transpired. Plus, I'll be honest, my interest was already waning and at this point, I was waiting for it to end.
Color Out of Space will surely excite longtime Lovecraft superfans, but casual film watchers will be bored out of their skulls waiting for something to happen. Nicolas Cage nearly saves it thanks to his gonzo method of overacting, but there's so many unanswered questions and weird moments that make no sense. I can't just ignore that. Narrative is the most significant thing I look for in a movie, and when there's issues, it's hard for me to look past them.
Adapting the stories of H.P. Lovecraft is a daunting task because his writing is not structured in a conventional way. His themes exploring man's place in the universe and its insignificance in the face of older cosmic entities is not ripe for character development. Instead they are more about the terrible and, oftentimes, indescribable horrors that take center stage. I will admit that if one isn't familiar with Lovecraft's work they will probably not enjoy this as the character development is minimal and you're only seeing them slowly descend into madness. For me, I was fine with that because I wanted to see what Richard Stanley was bringing to the table for his adaptation. That said, the cast do well enough in fleshing out the characters who bear witness to the horror from the cosmos. Surprisingly, Tommy Chong was great in his cameo as hippie hermit Ezra who knows that everyone who comes to this area is doomed after the meteorite lands. Who knew a comedy legend could bring something to a Lovecraft movie?
In the lead up to watching this, I listened to Richard Stanley give interviews on a couple of podcasts and he said he was introduced to the Providence author's work at a young age from his mother and that he always wanted to adapt this story for the screen. Another comment he made was about how he structures his films like hallucinogenic trips. It is this that is most telling when watching Color Out of Space. The film has moments that peak and build, leading to the finale when the cosmic horror has finally consumed the Gardner family. I have never read the story so I will not be comparing them and, for me, it's apples and oranges when it comes to a Lovecraft adaptation. Things happen slowly after the meteorite crashes. Purple flowers and vines start showing up and soon choke the immediate area by the end. So, too, does the insanity that is the result of the family's exposure to their cosmic visitor.
From a technical standpoint, the sound design and visual effects really immerse you into the world Richard Stanley has crafted for this film and, hopefully, future tales from Arkham. This film is a visual voyage into madness and the aftermath of an encounter with something from the stars. This thing does not come in peace, it wants to tear you to pieces.