H.P. Lovecraft. Richard Stanley. Nicolas Cage. I was sold from the get-go and Color Out of Space did not let me down. If you are a fan of any or all of those three major elements, this film delivers each in spades. The Hardware and Dust Devil filmmaker has finally returned to narrative feature filmmaking, after decades of only making shorts and documentaries, and he has not lost a single step.
The film centers around The Gardner family: father Nathan (Nicolas Cage), mother Theresa (Joely Richardson), daughter Lavinia (Madeleine Arthur), eldest son Benny (Brendan Meyer), and youngest son Jack (Julian Hilliard). The Gardners were formerly big city folk, but have forsaken the busy life for a quieter, more contemplative one in the countryside of Arkham, Massachusetts. Theresa still has her financial advisor job, but works remotely from home. Nathan, with the help of his children, now grows tomatoes and raises alpacas for milking.
The family dynamic is fairly normal in that everyone loves one another, but can still get on each other’s nerves. Nathan is both excited by and a tad resentful of his newfound occupation, with the latter feelings stemming from a difficult relationship with his now-deceased father. Theresa is calmed by her new surroundings, but still stresses about both her job and her recent bought with cancer. As for the kids? They’re adjusting and they are kids, so they deal with it in their own way. For the most part, things are going well until a strange meteor comes crashing down into their front yard. With the meteor comes the…Color Out of Space!
What is the Color Out of Space? Simply put, it is magenta. You might not normally think a color could be dread-inducing, terrifying, and deadly. You would be wrong, although I cannot fault your doubt. After all, while his writings often work like gangbusters on the page, adaptations of H.P. Lovecraft’s work are a crapshoot. Even the most cinematic ones can sometimes stumble, so one where a malevolent color is the antagonist certainly isn’t the kind of tale you would expect to sing on the screen.
If you are craving some horrors that are a bit more tangible, worry not! Stanley has got you covered, dishing out not only metaphysical magenta madness, but also healthy doses of animal and plant mutations, body horror, disturbing cosmic visions, and even a little witchcraft. The titular color has a nasty habit of altering reality and changing people near it (both mentally and physically). Malevolent cosmic rocks tend to do such things.
If you’re wondering whether or not Nicolas Cage goes full “Rage Cage” here, the answer is yes. He does. As always, whether or not it works for you will be a matter of personal taste. Cageisms don’t always get me going, but on the whole I think his unpredictable weirdness and rants fit very well with the story at hand. Unlike one of his DTV actioners or thrillers, Cage is not the craziest thing on display in this film, so his performance feels of a piece, instead of sticking out like a sore thumb.
The true star here, beyond Stanley’s filmmaking, is Madeleine Arthur. There’s a wonderfully ethereal quality about her. She comes off here like a cross between Amanda Seyfried and Meg Foster. If that sounds were, it’s because it is, but in the very best way. Her character Lavinia is the closest thing that the film has to a central protagonist and I found myself wholly invested in her from start to finish. Here’s hoping others see this film and scoop her up for equally great opportunities going forward, as Arthur is one to watch.
Color Out of Space is stunningly beautiful across the board and its disc release doesn’t let it down. The picture is crisp and striking and the audio matches it every step of the way. As far as special features go, this release is lighter than I would like, but what’s here is worthwhile. The “making of” featurette runs about 20 minutes long and covers the breadth of the film’s production, from its initial inception up through post-production effects work. Stanley’s storied past, chiefly the troubled production of The Island of Dr. Moreau ’96, is discussed, as is the importance of him returning to feature filmmaking after over 20 years.
The deleted scenes featurette runs about 13 minutes. Some of it is comprised of extended and alternate moments, but the bulk of it is new. All of the sequences are interesting, but they are each superfluous or redundant enough when weighed against what made it that it’s not hard to see why they were trimmed. Lastly, there’s a nice photo gallery centered around the Gardner Farm. The 25 images within showcase both the house and the surrounding property, juggling moody atmospheric shots with more home catalogue-esque imagery.
As a big fan of Stanley’s, I would have loved to have received an audio commentary from him, but that’s just nitpicking. It also might have been nice to have some sort of interview with Cage, but he is present enough in the on set footage during the “making of” that he still feels at least somewhat represented. All in all, this is a good release of a great movie. I will be shocked if this still isn’t in my Top 10 by the end of the year.
Color Out of Space is a horror film adaptation of the H.P. Lovecraft short story by the same name. It was directed by Richard Stanley, from a screenplay by Richard Stanley and Scarlett Amaris. The film was produced by Daniel Noah, Josh C. Waller, Elijah Wood, and Lisa Whalen. It stars Nicolas Cage, Joely Richardson, Madeleine Arthur, Brendan Meyer, Julian Hilliard, Elliot Knight, Josh C. Waller, Q’orianka Kilcher, and Tommy Chong.