One of Fantastic Fest’s most highly anticipated films was Richard Stanley’s Color Out of Space. Not only did this film promise the return of the auteur, but he would be taking on an adaptation of one of H.P. Lovecraft’s most fascinating works. And as a bonus, Nicolas Cage stars in the film. There are so many avenues for batshit insanity, and I am happy to say, it does not disappoint.
The film focuses on the Gardner family, who have recently left urban life behind in favor of running a small farm that raises alpacas (yes, that’s a thing). When a meteorite falls from the sky and lands on their property, their peaceful life is upended in ways they could never have imagined. The meteorite doesn’t seem to be an ordinary space rock; it carries with it bizarre odors, weird sounds, and most of all, a strange, undefinable color that begins to saturate the land. As soon as it lands, the family’s lives are forever altered by things they cannot even begin to comprehend.
This film is so successful largely due to the way it embraces Lovecraft’s themes and logic, and builds from them. It takes the source material and brings it into the modern era, taking the fear of the unknown and the cosmic horror that made Lovecraft’s work so unique and adapting it for 21st century audiences. Some of the turns the film takes are decidedly unexpected (and wholly terrifying), but they still fit comfortably into the ideas and themes that Lovecraft delivered in his original story.
Stanley does an amazing job of utilizing the short story’s signature characteristic: the strange color that accompanies the meteorite. It’s certainly a difficult task to take an undefinable color and bring it to a visual medium, but Stanley successfully depicts the concept and makes it an integral part of the film, which is flat-out beautiful. The weird color isn’t just illustrated, it fully inhabits the story. The otherworldliness brought to the Gardner’s farm by the meteorite is a concept that is brought to life and explored in a beautiful and terrifying way. Stanley really embraces the terror that can be found in the unknown and brings it into his film very effectively.
A lot of people have been curious about Nicolas Cage’s performance. And yes, it’s pure Cage. He embraces the insanity full on, but he also dials it in when necessary, playing a loving and slightly overwhelmed father who loses his grip on reality when faced with the full force of the Unknown. Yes, Cage goes a little crazy with it, but that’s also part of the appeal. The rest of the cast balances the film out nicely; the Gardners feel like a real family with real problems that they are trying to work through, and it is heartbreaking when we begin to understand that there is just no escaping the power that has begun to permeate their land.
Cosmic horror can be tricky to pull off, but with this film, Richard Stanley nails it. He takes the story from beautiful and mysterious into full-on grotesque places, and every moment is riveting. The size and scope of the dangers that the Gardner family faces is communicated brilliantly and adds to the overall sense of fear that the film carries. Some things cannot be fully understood or explained, and this film understands just how terrifying that can be.
Movie Score: 5/5
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