Color Out of Space
Nicolas Cage, Joely Richardson, Brendan Meyer, Madeleine Arthur, Julian Hilliard, Tommy Chong, Elliot Knight
…a well-made, mostly effective slice of cosmic horror cinema…
In 1996, director Richard Stanley appeared to be on the edge of much-deserved mainstream success. After attaining a niche audience of fans with Hardware (1990) and Dust Devil (1992), Stanley booked his dream job: directing a big budget version of The Island of Dr. Moreau. What occurred during that shoot is far too complex to get into in any detail – and in fact forms the basis of the fascinating documentary Lost Soul: The Doomed Journey of Richard Stanley’s Island of Dr. Moreau (2014) – but the short version is: Stanley got royally screwed by a number of factors and eventually fired from the production. After that bracing experience, Stanley stayed away from Hollywood in a kind of self-imposed artistic exile. However, 23 years after Moreau, Richard Stanley returns with an adaptation of H.P. Lovecraft’s The Color Out of Space, and the result is a solid addition to Lovecraftian cinema.
Color Out of Space focuses on the Gardner family, comprising dad Nathan (Nicolas Cage), mum Theresa (Joely Richardson), stoner son Benny (Brendan Meyer), witchy goth daughter Lavinia (Madeleine Arthur) and youngest Jack (Julian Hilliard). The family are pleasant, if slightly dysfunctional, but after a meteorite crashes in their backyard things begin to change in strange and alarming ways…
The Color Out of Space is a wonderful short story by Lovecraft, and possibly the tale of his most easily achieved on-screen thanks to its relative simplicity when compared to the likes of The Call of Cthulhu or At the Mountains of Madness. Stanley clearly understands he’s working with a limited budget here and shoots the gloopy horrors in the dark, or edits around them so we only get glimpses of the pink hued chaos, which is smart. The cast also acquit themselves well, with Madeleine Arthur and Brendan Meyer doing great work here, although some may find Nicolas Cage… a bit much.
Cage is a fascinating screen presence – and probably a big selling point for this flick, after all “Cage meets Lovecraft” is a fantastic elevator pitch – but his wild mood swings and inconsistent characterisation tends to be a distraction during the mood-building sections of the film. Don’t get us wrong, Nic Cage bellowing about alpacas or punching a car is objectively awesome, but it sometimes feels like an odd fit.
Happily, Richard Stanley hasn’t lost his touch, and Color Out of Space is filled with nice little touches and hallucinatory flourishes, with a couple of sequences being genuinely disturbing and trippy in the extreme. The pace is slow, but builds to an exciting climax, and while Cage’s wild-eyed bull fuckery can be a little trying at first, he’s completely at home in the third act.
Color Out of Space is a well-made, mostly effective slice of cosmic horror cinema, not to mention the welcome return of a director with a fascinating eye, and is well worth a look for genre fans in the mood for something a little different.