Released: 6th February
Seen: 11th February
The Colour Out Of Space is a 1927 story by H.P. Lovecraft about the events that happen after a meteorite crashes to earth. If I were to boil the entire idea down to one sentence, it’s basically about a light of sentient evil colour from outer space that sends people crazy and then kills them. It’s an insanely weird idea for a story, so naturally we need to get this to star Nicholas Cage and get the original director of the 1996 version of The Island of Dr Moreau (yes, the weird Marlon Brando version that was such an infamous flop that there’s a documentary dedicated to explaining what the hell went wrong) to helm it. Surely this is going to go splendidly and won’t at all be a big weird mess that pales in comparison to another film involving Nicholas Cage and extreme amounts of primary colours.
Calling this an acid trip of a film would be something of an understatement. It’s a visual nightmare in the best possible way, with extreme body horror and gore that are just casually slipped in between the glorious flowing unnatural colour. No matter what else you can say about the film, it’s goddamn pretty. With a little help from Adobe Premiere’s Replace Colour tool, shots of the grass and trees that glow with an unnatural red where green used to be are visual delights. The use of the bright garish colours grows in intensity throughout the film, to the point where it’s so bright and colourful that the physical frame of the film just can’t handle it anymore and it constantly threatens to break free from the screen.
Also threatening to break off the screen? Nicholas Cage when he gets on a roll. Cage is nutty at the best of times, it’s kind of why we love him, and he brought all the nuts to this party. In every scene he does something outrageous and over the top and I don’t know if I hate it or love it. It’s almost like he was just let loose to make a completely different character in every scene and it ends up somehow working out. It reminds me of his performance in Mandy, another film where the colour palette was “Everything”, where he would be gleefully chewing up the scenery one minute and then disturbingly calm the next. There are some moments when he chooses to be restrained when it would be a great time for him to just go nuts and it does stand out a little as a bad choice.
What helps anchor his performance is the stellar supporting cast, all of whom are here to basically play the straight man for Nicholas to bounce off of (he’s so nuts that he needs half a dozen straight men just for balance). With such a small cast, everyone needs to bring their best and, lucky for us, everyone delivers. From Joely Richardson’s kindly matriarch to Madeleine Arthur’s rebellious gothic girl to Brendan Meyers layabout son, all of them create this complete weird little family who we end up genuinely caring about, so much so that we root for them to escape the deadly purple that’s floating around everywhere. Also, huge props to Elliot Knight and Tommy Chong who both have to be the ones to fill us in on everything going on, never an easy job but they do it with style… and I’m always just happy whenever I see Tommy Chong in something.
I do have to do my usual schtick and point out that there are some moments where the lights do that irritating strobing thing, flickering with colour. It’s minor enough that I don’t think it’ll set someone off but it’s still borderline enough that I, a person who will always bitch about that kind of visual, needed to point it out. While I’m also in the negative portion of the review, I do have to point out that this film isn’t quite as controlled as it could be. I almost wish they’d tightened things up and given the movie more life. The bright colours can only do so much and while I did like how they were careful to hide the more intense body horror moments, including a particularly nasty creature in the barn that seems to have scared the alpacas, I also wish we could’ve seen more of what they had clearly worked hard on. We’re talking The Thing levels of work that I would’ve enjoyed seeing.
Color Out of Space is not only a good time but a welcome return for Richard Stanley. Apparently, this is the start of a brand new trilogy of Lovecraft adaptations and if they’re all as nutty as this, I’m in. Loaded with some effective moments of horror, captivating performances and more than a little bit of mood lighting, it’s worth looking into and giving it a chance. It might not be as good as Mandy was, but it’s a welcome bit of weirdness that this genre desperately needs.