Review: Color Out of Space

Director(s)Richard Stanley
Principal CastNicholas Cage as Nathan Gardner
Madeleine Arthur as Lavinia Gardner
Joely Richardson as Theresa Gardner
Elliot Knight as Ward Phillips
Release Date2019
Language(s)English
Running Time 115 minutes

If you like Lovecraft or enjoy the story this movie is based on, please do yourself a favor and watch it. The feeling, tone, and aesthetic are all distinctly Lovecraftian but feel renovated for a modern era. Stanley has done a great job directing a modern story that disorients its audience while keeping what made the original story distinctive and memorable.

The story follows the Gardeners, a family living out in the sticks, trying to forge a new life as farmers. Then one day, a meteorite crashes in their year, painting the sky in a neon pink/purple and causing the earth to quake. Soon after, the Gardner’s notice some strange happenings going with mutations in their vegetation and wildlife. The story starts off slow, but after a certain moment in the latter half of the movie, things go absolutely off the rails in the best possible way.

Light spoilers here, but the titular colored light works to zoink out the psyche and perception of those affected by it. The movie spends a decent amount of time building up characters and their orientations towards life, so the changes they go through because of the light are genuinely unnerving manifestations of their inner drives. Watching each actor/actress go from point A to point B is entertaining and believable (for the most part). Cage in particular has a standout performance as the Gardener father, Nathan. He’s asked to go to dark strange places and it can get uncomfortable. At times, certain performances seem comical but I can’t tell if that’s because of the nature of the horror or the performance proper. Needless to say, there were a lot of moments I laughed. I don’t know if black comedy is how I’d describe it – it’s more perverse than what I normally associate with that.

The special effect work done is amazing. The lighting effects really ride the line on comical and mesmerizing and the balance achieved kept me staring at the screen. However, what I’m really talking about is the creature effects. I was immediately reminded me of some of the terrifying creatures from The Thing, but slightly touched up to look more modern. There are some nightmare moments from the movie that haven’t left me since I watched it – stuff that’ll stick to your head for a good while, especially if you let the experience take you.

The nature of the movie leaves it open to a lot of interpretation. My personal take is that the movie is about humanity’s relation to nature. We seek control and compartmentalize it , as though it’s an entity that exists beneath us as opposed to being something that should be treated with some kind of reverence. Nature can at any point turn and is impartial to those it takes. Nothing can really protect you no matter how safe you think you are. I’ve read Staley’s interview and can definitely see where he was coming from (and think that he managed to naturally depict a lot of what he talked about) . A friend I was watching with had his own interpretation, so what I’m saying is this is a good thinking movie. There’s not precise or clean answers and it invites discussion.

While I appreciate the changes made to the original story, I wish Stanley would have gone a bit further. A few of the scares feel more horrifying because of how they’re tied in to the characters respective fear/personality but it doesn’t happen for all the characters. It feels like an odd choice that could’ve been ironed out. It’s especially strange given some later character choices that just scream bad idea. You know the one where the audience is screaming, “No, you idiot don’t do that.” Granted you could just chalk those up to “X is crazy because of the light” but the movie feels smarter than that.

Report Card

TLDRColor Out of Space should satisfy any fans of Lovecraftian/cosmic horror. It has splendid visuals, an absurd story, and some horrifying monstrosities that’ll haunt my nightmares for weeks to come. If you enjoyed Annihilation, give this a gander. It shares a lot of similarities but goes in a completely different direction – more horror, less sci-fi.
Rating9.3/10
GradeA

 

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