As one of the most beloved horror/science writers of all time, H.P. Lovecraft stories have been adapted for the big screen since the early days of cinema. The author’s special brand of high concept, wonderfully visceral storytelling practically begs to be told visually, and the trippy short story The Colour Out Of Space is certainly no exception. Though the short story has been adapted in the past, the latest rendition, simply called COLOR OUT OF SPACE is helmed by genre stalwart Richard Stanley and is sure to delight Lovecraft fans and newbies alike.
For those not familiar, the story revolves around the Gardners, a family of five who have retreated from city life to take over their inherited farm. With a full hour drive to the closest town, the clan would be completely isolated if not for the friendly neighborhood squatter plus a handsome hydrologist surveying the local water table. Soon, however, their idyllic life is violently disrupted when a meteor lands in their front yard unleashing a mysterious force that begins to creep over all flora and fauna. Before long, the once average family is thrust into unimaginable horror as they battle through the dark cosmic reckoning.
A hallmark of the unwanted visitor is a vibrant pink/purple hue that at first only subtly tints its surroundings. As the infection begins to pervade the family, triggering irrational behaviors and exacerbating fairly typical drama, the color and vibe of the invader begins to overpower the palate as well as the minds of the unwitting Gardeners.
COLOR OUT OF SPACE is a terrific little creature feature that takes its sweet time while avoiding slow burn territory. As the otherworldly menace slowly infiltrates the family and the property, Stanley doesn't hold back the fantastical fun for the end. Instead, he reveals the horrific takeover bit by bit, gradually escalating the full breadth of the invasion up to its stunning crescendo.
Stanley and his team incorporate a nice blend of CG and practical effects (even some stop motion!) that are as dazzling as they are disturbing. Obviously I don’t want to spoil the fun, but when the body horror and creature work hit full tilt, I dare you to try keep your jaw closed.
The performances in the twisted film not only balance the otherworldly-ness, but definitely amp the disturbing factor when needed. Joely Richardson's portrayal of the family's matriarch is low key and just unhinged enough to make her later, ahem, predicament all the more horrific. As the angsty, witchcraft dabbling teenager Lavinia, Madeline Arthur ably captures peak adolescent frustration as she becomes the unwitting hero of her struggling clan. And then there's Nicolas Cage as Nathan Gardner. It seems almost unnecessary at this point to go on about about another epic go from the Oscar winning artist, but oh my god it's like he was born to play these roles. Cage's performance as the ah-shucks, dad-joke telling family man perfectly contrasts his eventual descent into utter madness while trying to protect his family from the relentless intruders. If loving the legend going "full-Cage" is wrong, then I don't want to be right. And in a story like this, Cage's unique brand of mania is wonderfully appropriate and satisfying.
THE COLOR OUT OF SPACE is a visual and auditory trip into a fantastic universe of what-ifs. The glowing, undulating spectacle is just as much a feast for the senses as the sensibilities. I highly recommend checking out the film when it opens in theaters next year.
aka Annette Kellerman