Director: Richard Stanley
Writers: Scarlett Amaris, H.P. Lovecraft (based on the short story by)
Stars: Nicolas Cage, Joely Richardson, Madeleine Arthur
COLOR OUT OF SPACE
Color Out of Space is my first new movie of 2020, and I couldn’t be more delighted! This was a great theater experience and will sit nicely alongside the Stuart Gordon adaptations of Lovecraft that I’m so fond of. It’s no RE-ANIMATOR, but perhaps this is because this really commits to how nonsensical a Lovecraft narrative can be. Gordon’s adaptations tend to have a fairly typical movie structure that makes them very digestible and, most importantly, are generally told from an omniscient point of view.
But here we are experiencing the events through the eyes of the characters who are metaphorically (and perhaps literally) having their brains melted; so the longer the movie goes on, the less it resembles any kind of narrative standard. As such, this is always threatening to fully fly off the rails. For me, it had just enough grounding in some tangible family drama to continue working even when I wasn’t fully connecting with some of the characters and their choices.
I was surprised to find director Richard Stanley so invested in the horror of Color Out of Space. I don’t know why, but I half expected this to be somewhat tame and lean more into science-fiction than horror. If you’re reading this and were getting a similar vibe from the movie, rest assured this isn’t just a horror movie but it’s the kind of horror movie I feel like I haven’t seen on the big screen in a while. It’s full of grizzly, goopy FX and otherworldly devils that haunted my dreams in the hours between seeing the film and writing this review. I found this to be genuinely unnerving and scary at times, a feeling I don’t often get watching movies anymore.
Honestly, the most interesting aspect of the movie is the character that serves as the narrator, as I’m certain the mere presence of a black character would have Lovecraft turning over in his grave, let alone giving that character so much agency over his story. There are a couple of moments where they really play with this notion of having a black man star in a Lovecraft story, and while I’m not sure I always understood the intent of those scenes, I really appreciate that they not only tackled this issue with Lovecraft’s work head-on but really tried to explore what it would mean and how it would affect one of these stories.
And of course, we need to get to the Nicolas Cage of it all. He’s honestly wonderful in Color Out of Space, turning in a very committed performance that isn’t merely weird Cage for weird Cage’s sake. The evolution of his character is fascinating and likely relatable for some. And his interpretation of what a monstrous man acts and sounds like is… well you’ll see. I found him very fun but never at the expense of the movie, which is the perfect balance for a good Cage performance.
All of his Alpaca monologues were like music to my ears. The rest of the cast is good too, including the kid from THE GUEST (Brendan Meyer) who I like so much, Tommy Chong in a surprisingly fitting and functional supporting role, Joely Richardson who I remember most from EVENT HORIZON and gets to play in a similarly trippy world here, and Madeleine Arthur who I’ve never seen in anything before but is really great here.
I was pretty taken with this movie all around. I went in hoping for another wildly moving head trip from Cage to fill out a perfect double bill with MANDY. And it’s not that this isn’t that, but what I got instead was something that would make a better double bill with ANNIHILATION, and not just because of their similar color schemes and FX work.
Stanley seems to have grafted some very personal trauma onto this Lovecraft adaptation, including fears of turning into one’s father and what black holes and cancer have in common, and I think that’s ultimately what makes Color Out of Space work as well as it does. It doesn’t have the poetry of something like MANDY, which is why my ratings on the two differ as much as they do. But this successfully blends body horror, creature features, and human tragedy into an exciting and occasionally shocking movie experience that I’d like to see again immediately.
As with MANDY, we were treated to an interview from the film’s premiere after the screening. It was Patton Oswalt attempting to interview Richard Stanley and Nicolas Cage. In a surprising twist of fate, Cage came off totally professional and normal compared to his director, who seemed to be in a continual state of re-discovering he was in the midst of an interview every 3-4 seconds. It was hilarious, charming, exactly what you’d want, and I felt very bad for Patton.