Color Out of Space
- Nikki Baughan
- 24 February 2020
Richard Stanley returns with a bombastic, Nicolas Cage-fronted take on the HP Lovecraft short story
Chaotic, creepy and undeniably entertaining, Color Out of Space is a cacophony of sound and vision. In updating the 1927 HP Lovecraft alien invasion short story for the modern day, writer-director Richard Stanley creates moments of effective tension and genuine horror, interspersed with deliberately outlandish sequences that the narrative struggles to contain.
Family man Nathan Gardner (Nicolas Cage, displaying his trademark gonzo style) has relocated to small-town Massachusetts with his wife Theresa (a surprising turn from Joely Richardson), witchcraft – and Lovecraft – obsessed daughter Lavinia (Madeleine Arthur), pot-smoking son Benny (Brendan Meyer), and their youngest, Jack (Julian Hilliard). The family is already under strain thanks to Theresa's struggle with cancer, and is shaken again by the explosive arrival of a colourful meteor, which ushers in a series of strange events. At first, it's things like mobile and TV interference, but soon all the members of the family are acting increasingly unhinged.
This is a bombastic return for South African director Stanley, whose last narrative feature was 1992's Dust Devil and is perhaps most famous for being kicked off The Island of Dr Moreau. He's clearly relishing the opportunity to bring this story to the screen, and has crammed the film with every possible genre trope, from aliens to body horror. Influences, from The Amityville Horror and Poltergeist to The Thing, are clear, although the work of Lovecraft has had such an impact on genre cinema that such homage is expected.
Ultimately, Color Out of Space is a film to be experienced, rather than studied, and is crying out for a tighter edit. And while it may be the story of a family losing their minds, and each other, Stanley chooses to eschew any pathos and focus on gore and guffaws, with running jokes about alpacas, and Cage chewing on his deadpan delivery. Yet cinematographer Steve Annis and composer Colin Stetson create an impressive intensity, and the effects and otherworldly beauty are quite something to behold.
Limited release from Fri 28 Feb.