Monday, January 20, 2020

COLOR OUT OF SPACE (2019) Movie Review

Color Out of Space (2019) d. Richard Stanley (USA) (111 min)

Living with his family on their small and isolated farm, Nathan Gardner (Nicolas Cage) enjoys a laid-back existence, eking out a meager existence milking alpacas and cultivating tomatoes while his online stock-trader wife Theresa (Joley Richardson) does daily battle with their sketchy internet bringing home the proverbial bacon. Their kids are a relatively well-adjusted if offbeat brood, with older brother Benny (Brendan Meyer) holding down the level-headed fort between bong hits, aspiring spiritualist Lavinia (Madeleine Arthur) trading time between healing spells to repress her mom’s cancer and complaining about living out in the boonies, and young dreamer Jack (Julian Hilliard) drawing and tinkering his home-schooled days away. Of course, all that changes one night when a strange purple glowing meteorite crashes down in their front yard and proceeds to slowly influence everyone and everything around it.

Despite his legendary literary status among genre fans, H.P. Lovecraft has proven repeatedly difficult to adapt to the big (or small) screen, with the most popular efforts arriving courtesy of Stuart Gordon with versions of Re-Animator, From Beyond, and Dagon. The author’s short story “The Colour Out of Space” has already provided the basis for several features, including 1965’s Boris Karloff vehicle Die Monster Die and 1987’s The Curse, but Stanley (Dust Devil, Hardware) and Scarlett Amaris have delivered possibly the most faithful of adaptations in terms of capturing the author’s elusive, uncanny, and bizarre brand of cosmic horror.

For better or worse, I personally find Cage more of a distraction than an asset these days (as expressed when reviewing Panos Cosmatos’ cult hit Mandy last year) and I’m doubling down on that sentiment once again. Whether he’s pretending to be “just a regular guy” or indulging in the patented over-the-top tirades that have spawned scores of YouTube clips, his quirky artifice is constantly at odds with a viewer’s investment in the given circumstances; we’re constantly waiting and watching to see what Crazy Ol’ Nic will do next. Sadly, he’s already shown us pretty much his entire bag of tricks, so watching him lose his mind has become as commonplace as spying a Starbucks on every corner, and about as stimulating. (Full disclosure: I understand other people dig his shtick, so your mileage may vary.)

That said, the fact that it’s less of a showcase for our fallen Oscar winner and more of an ensemble piece serves the film well, allowing Richardson, Meyer, and Arthur ample screen time to display their own altered realities imposed by the galactic granite. Richardson is especially potent, her edgy and brittle exterior flexing and snapping before our very eyes. Another pleasant surprise comes in the form of Tommy Chong’s brief supporting turn as a conspiracy theorist living on the outskirts of the family’s property; rather than playing up his stoner poster boy reputation, he delivers an impressively grounded performance that posits him as potentially the sanest resident in the valley.

Stanley explores his visual and aural landscapes to their fullest, but also has the good sense to utilize a healthy measure of restraint, following Lovecraft’s lead in presenting “unspeakable horror.” In an effort to satisfy the masses, he occasionally puts his monsters front and center (such as an alpaca scene that cannot help but draw comparisons to John Carpenter’s The Thing) to lesser effect, but more often than not he gives us the briefest of glimpses and lets our imaginations do the rest. (The scene with Richardson and Hilliard’s “family bonding” is especially vivid and haunting; the resulting creation is even more terrifying after it becomes ambulatory.) The extraterrestrial stone’s violet glow eventually grows omnipresent, consistently shading the inhabitants and their once-docile home, and the vivid musical score by Colin Stetson (Hereditary) builds to a satisfying crescendo by the final reel, evoking that elusive sense of intangible existential dread.

In conclusion, there is an awful lot to like in Stanley’s return to feature filmmaking, following his soul-crushing experience on 1996’s The Island of Dr. Moreau (as documented in David Gregory’s brilliant documentary Lost Soul; in related news, Gregory also serves as co-producer here). While I’ll always wonder how much more resonant this adaptation might have been without Cage mucking up the joint, the final result should appeal to hardcore Lovecraft fans and casual horror viewers alike, which is no small feat.

Color Out of Space will be released theatrically by RLJE Films on January 24, 2020. The trailer can be seen HERE:


No comments:

Post a Comment