Before one dives into the film there’s a few things to unpack first, among them when it comes to adapting authors their favorites among the horror genre, King, Poe, Barker and of course H.P. Lovecraft, and then there’s the understanding of cosmic horror subgenre. This last part becomes a slight confusion, for some, this is not sci-fi/horror, it is far past that realm, think of the body horror of The Fly (1986) or Bite (2015) tangling with John Carpenter’s The Thing (1982), it intwines the richness of both worlds, leaving the audience shell shocked. The horror layered in In the Mouth of Madness (1994) and the overwhelming conceptual scheme in The Mist (2007) are equally good references for understanding the scope of cosmic horror, in other words where human interests are seen regardless of how basic they are and have no solid footing in vastness of space.
Often Lovecraft’s work is considered indescribable and impossible to film, though often filmmakers do attempt, such as Stuart Gordon, and his famed flicks of Full Moon Studios, that contains an element of b-movie horror which often misses the true essence of Lovecraft’s words. Hence, enter a connoisseur of his work the legendary director, writer and overall filmmaker Richard Stanley (Hardware ), who returns to the director’s chair after 20-years ever since his firing from The Island of Dr. Moreau (1996), but somehow snuck back on set as an extra and made for a shocking revelation at the closeout party. Alas that is another tale for another time, Stanley was busy in the industry in other aspects, but clamored for the Lovecraft project Color Out of Space, a popular story of his from 1927, it is similar to that of Poe’s Tell-Tale Heart in regards to the versions that was done. In fact, in the past 8-years three short versions were released one in 2012 by director George Jenne and two in 2017, from directors Patrick Muller and Italo Donato respectively, however Stanley’s creation is a remake of The Curse (1987) and clearly references Annihilation (2018). It’s clearly a H.P. Lovecraft story, and he’s served as a source for material in 189 horror films, and Stanley supplied some masterful strokes to the story, assisted by Scarlkett Amaris (Replace ). Assisting in the production of this movie is the newer studio XYZ Films, responsible for many horror films such as The Endless (2009) and The Void (2016) and have collaborated with Nicolas Cage on three other films Mom and Dad (2017), Mandy (2018), and Prisoners of the Ghostland (2020) releasing later this year.
It all starts with a simple story of the Gardner family living on an inherited alpaca farm, not too far from Arkham, Theresa (Joely Richardson (The Turning )), the matriarch of the family is recovering from cancer, and the sole breadwinner in the family, a financial broker, her husband is Nathan (Nicholas Cage (Pay the Ghost )) a struggling farmer. They have three children the youngest Jack (Julian Hillard) followed by teens Benny (Brendan Meyer) and Lavinia (Madeleine Arthur) who is into casting nature spells as a practicing Wiccan, refreshing that she’s not mocked for her beliefs. Meanwhile, the Ward Phillips character portrayed by Elliot Knight, as a hydrologist represents a collection of characters from the original story. The alpaca farm actually serves as multiple facets for the story, especially as a wonderful comedic punchline, when the story needs to break the tension, it reverts to these animals and personal interactions with them, namely Nathan. One night a meteorite crashes on their farm and erupts with a vibrant and vivid color display that could equal a Pink Floyd concert, it affects everything in the surrounding area, in multiple mind bending and body altering manners. Ward serves as the general know-it-all guru on scientific aspects, which is quite common in many horror movies to mysteries, such as in Tremors (1990) to that of Sherlock Holmes. As the movie progresses so does the chaos and Cage’s outrageous and outlandish performance all in a positive spin especially throughout the third act. The alpaca transformations become a clear homage to that of the special effects and appearance from The Thing (1982). Cage’s madness goes completely unhinged compared to the rest of the cast who never recovers enough to match his insanity, in fact it works on another level, as he’s the patriarch and the leader of family. He’s now taken over by the meteor and its alien powers, acting as celestial creator rearranging life as we know it into new forms of nightmarish growth for both the characters and viewers trying to comprehend, but isn’t all life beautiful in the eye of the beholder. Hence this separates the general audience to those craving cosmic horror wonderment, that no one truly can understand why it’s all occurring, and frankly most likely don’t care as the horror portrayed on the screen is more than delicious for their eyes feasting pleasure. The atmosphere generated in the movie rips apart the body and mind, for every step towards sanity another three steps to shred reality.
Stanley deploys many practical effects in his arthouse meets cosmic wonderment bliss of madness that incorporates elements found in Rob Bottin’s The Thing design, however CGI does occur in a very special manner. The narrative layers itself in a mix of characters and uses off-beat humor to break tension and misdirection. Some might see the performances as uneven however, this likely is another element of the constant variations of the alien influence, if one takes the time to reflect about other alien invasion movies, not everyone succumbs to the same rational at the same time; such as in Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1956) or (1978) those characters each battle to various degrees. Otherwise the limited budget was money well-spent for the impact on the screen.
As a Lovecraft adaptation, Color Out of Space is quite fine, the success of this unreleased theatrical movie, has been shocking, as the movie generated new lines of merchandise including both a DVD and Blu-ray release, movie posters and soundtracks available on the common CD format and the rarer 180-gram vinyl. It shows the passion for Lovecraft horror when done with class and understanding one can make the audience crave it immensely, the film has graced numerous horror magazine covers and countless websites, 180-reviews all of it reinforces Richard Stanley’s abilities and Cage’s phenomenal talents as an actor. This isn’t by any means a Stuart Gordon or Full Moon production, this film makes sure to obliterate the lines and draw a formless creature, that unleashes bleak horror in vivid color displays, it’s a creature with primal survivability needs, like us the human race often not fighting in global methodically rather just a close quarters interest, home, family, and self, and for Lovecraftian cosmic horrors that’s no contest. Simply not everyone will find enjoyment, the slow start transforming in multiple directions and descend as an arthouse flick.
IMDb Rating: 6.2/10
Baron’s Rating: 6.5/10