2020 | Unrated (R equivalent) | starring Nicholas Cage, Joely Richardson, Madeleine Arthur, Elliott Knight, Tommy Chong | directed by Richard Stanley | 1 hr 51 mins |
Richard Stanley is a director more famous for not making The Island of Dr. Moreau (having been fired after production frustrations drove Stanley up a tree where he refused to come down for 3 days), then anything he has directed (Hardware). Stanley returns after 25 years of exile with audacious HP Lovecraft adaptation, Color Out of Space – and it is glorious. A mad-capped, visually stunning and ghastly cosmic horror movie; part old-fashioned creature feature, part 70s paranoid sci-fi thriller and another work of high-pitched, level-10 hysteria by indiscriminate and prolific thespian Nicholas Cage.
When a meteorite crashes in the front yard of the Gardner family, the alien parasites inside invade the water, the electronics and the minds of the family: father Nathan (Cage), closely guarding his investment in Alpacas, wife Theresa (Joely Richardson, Nip/Tuck), whose remote therapy business is upended, daughter Lavinia (Madeline Arthur), who turns to Wiccan spells to rid the family of disease and son Benny (Brendon Meyer), who can’t keep the Alpacas in the barn. A local surveyor, Ward (Elliott Knight), befriends Lavinia and tries to figure out what is in the water while the local sheriff, mayor and a news reporter leave the Gardner’s alone to lose their sanity with the escalating paranoia of a god-like lifeforce in their house.
Color Out of Space is a terrific fusion of filmmaker, star and material. A movie that could only be made this way from the mad mind of Richard Stanley who both has the talent, eye, imagination and boundless ego to tackle an unfilmable story and adapt it to a tangible horror film that presents us with the visuals but equally feels just out of reach of our logic. Like last year’s terrific Mandy, Color harnesses the manic energy that Nicholas Cage has turned into a brand and applies it perfectly to appropriately campy and insane material. Cage is at a 10 no matter what, direct to video trash or gutsy, visionary studio release. I’m not clear if he can even read a script and tell if it’s good anymore. He’s just like a missile that you point in a direction and watch it go Boom on the other end. In this case, Stanley knows exactly what he’s doing with Cage.
The movie is audacious and impressive from top to bottom. It is firstly a delicious visual feast, which Stanley rejects the normal horror movie visuals to set everything in the shadows, instead dialing up the picture with pinks, magenta and fuchia colors. Stanley tracks each member of the Gardner’s through their own journey with the virus, each becoming more monstrous, either mentally or physically, as they respond to the alien microb in their own way. At the center of it, Stanley has a doozy of a body horror sequence out of a Chronenberg film. A ghastly, disturbing fate brought to life with practical effects. The performances are excellent all around. I love a horror movie that really puts the actors through the paces, forces them to grapple with horror and come out beaten and brutalized at the end, if they get out at all. Madeline Arthur comes out as the film’s standout as Lavinia, the teenage wiccan who steps up to try to rid the house of their curse.
Color is less a story and more of a ride. A wild ride, more fun than frightening, managing to be both cringing and satisfying. Stylish and beautiful work with a campy 50s monster movie core. A wonderful cocktail of genres and influences blended into something unique that sits just outside of a handful of genres. It is absolutely great. In a crazy year where most of our big tent-pole movies were cancelled, it’s allowed these smaller films to rise to the surface. Richard Stanley’s triumphant return is one of the most unique visions of the year. He needs to be handed the reigns of more Lovecraft as soon as possible.