Color Out of Space

2020

Color Out of Space

Critics Consensus

A welcome return for director Richard Stanley, Color Out of Space mixes tart B-movie pulp with visually alluring Lovecraftian horror and a dash of gonzo Nicolas Cage.

84%

TOMATOMETER

Total Count: 122

80%

Audience Score

Verified Ratings: 46
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Movie Info

After a meteorite lands in the front yard of their farm, Nathan Gardner (Nicolas Cage) and his family find themselves battling a mutant extraterrestrial organism as it infects their minds and bodies, transforming their quiet rural life into a technicolor nightmare.

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Critic Reviews for Color Out of Space

All Critics (122) | Top Critics (17) | Fresh (103) | Rotten (19)

Audience Reviews for Color Out of Space

  • 2d ago
    Color Out of Space is based on one of the short stories by famous horror author H.P. Lovecraft, but what's even more noteworthy is that this is the first feature film from director Richard Stanley in 24 years. Stanley made a name for himself with early 90s gory cult movies Hardware and Dust Devil. Hollywood came calling and he was given directing duties on 1996's The Island of Doctor Moreau, a production so plagued with troubles that Stanley was fired, replaced with John Frankenheimer, and then Stanley disguised himself and snuck onto the set again as one of the animal-human hybrids. There's a fascinating documentary about the whole disastrous clash called Lost Soul that's well worth watching for any fan of behind-the-scenes exposes (it would make a great double-feature with 2002's Lost in La Mancha). Stanley has never been a man to put on airs about the material he gravitates to. He likes weird genre stories, and as a lover of weird genre stories, I'm glad to see that the man has broken from his sabbatical. Color Out of Space is a mostly successful, eerie, and occasionally stomach-churning little horror movie, and hopefully its release will make it that much easier for Stanley to deliver the next one. A strange meteor crashes into the family estate of the Gardners. The parents, Nathan (Nicolas Cage) and Theresa (Joely Richardson), are struggling to make life "in the sticks" work with their family. Mom is trying to advise stock portfolio clients. Dad is tending to their prized alpacas. A land surveyor (Elliot Knight) is testing the drinking water and its safety after the meteor hits. Strange things begin to happen almost immediately. Young son Jack (Julian Hillard) is hearing voices and talking to an entity living in the well. Bright explosions of pink color come and go, followed by an oppressive cloud of static. And the animals are behaving differently, gaining pink glows in their eyes, and becoming more violent and deranged and dangerous. This is the kind of movie that you want to be weird, unpredictable, and terrifying, and Color Out of Space achieves these desires with a florid, downright Cronenbergian relish. There are several kinds of horror movies here mashed together, which don't fully gel as a whole but it does exacerbate the overall effect of how screwed these characters are. There's the cosmic invasion/outbreak angle with small weird changes going around the environment, from pink-hued flowers spreading to the bizarre effect it has on the wildlife. There's a descent into insanity angle as the parental figures seem most affected and are tearing away the security of the kids. Cage's character seems to be mentally slipping into his grandfather's snitty persona, either implying mental illness, some degree of ghostly resurrection, or just general creeping madness. There's the alien nature of being able to trust your own senses and body, as characters will lose hours of time in the blink of an eye and not be fully cognizant of their own actions. There's the isolation of the invading force shutting down escape routes, blocking telephone calls (anyone want to try texting?), and trapping the family inside this hot zone. And then there's the body horror as creatures begin physically merging together in nauseating displays that conjure the best/worst of the nightmares from John Carpenter's The Thing. Stanley elects to build the horror and then dwell on it. There's a scary development with a specific pair of characters, and Stanley lets the unknown of what will happen, as long as the dread of what seems to be happening, make it worse. He punctuates this moment with some gut-churning cries of anguish that run on a loop, to the point that you might be thinking yourself whether a merciful death was advisable. To the film's credit, it switches back and forth between these different threats and alternating styles of horror. It allows a movie with a limited plot (meteor hits, bad things happen) to feel bigger. A draw for any lower budget indie horror movie starring middle-aged Nicolas Cage is the desire to see the gonzo actor unleashed. You get tiny glimpses early, with his off-key line deliveries that might incite a few giggles. It's halfway through where he starts to crack, breaking into an effete British accent, gesticulating more wildly and theatrically with his hands, and then breaking into protracted screaming fits. His references to the alpacas got some genuine goofy laughs out of me, as does passing moments where it feels like he's channeling John Travolta in his performance style. The cult of Crazy Cage that found much to love with 2018's moody Mandy should find extra enjoyment levels with Color Out of Space. These Cage-isms don't detract from the movie or rip you out of the reality because it's all about disintegration, mental and physical, so deploying Nicolas Cage losing it actually better serves the film's cracked tone. Being a Lovecraftian horror adaptation, there is some leeway to be had for its incoherence. We're dealing with a life form that defies our understanding by its inter-dimensional nature. Some of this will be mitigated simply by having to transpose Lovecraft's more ethereal concepts into a functional visual medium. Characters call the strange incidents a "color, it's only a color" but it's not really just a color when you turn that literal concept into a movie. On the page, you can get away with something more obscure and abstract, but movies require a visualization, and so the "monster" of the film isn't "just a color" but essentially a sentient neon energy cloud. I was reminded frequently of 2018's Annihilation, a movie I admired but was indifferent to, just like its intended lesson about nature's relationship to man's existence. It's a takeover that defies explanation because our puny human brains aren't capable of perceiving what is happening. Therefore, when weird nonsense happens, we don't need a tidy explanation. The breakdown of the family unit, both figuratively and literally, is enough to anchor our attention. We might not know why these things are happening but they are destroying this family slowly like an infection, and we're watching them break down one-by-one, and that's what matters. As the movie started picking up momentum and getting weirder and grosser, I wondered what possible ending could even be presented that might work. I think Stanley finds a workable solution that mostly suffices. Nobody wants to be in the business of explaining too much and damaging the reality of the movie (see: Us) but you still want to provide some set of rules, even if the larger picture is an incomprehensible design. Color Out of Space keeps things relatively vague but keeps to the few clues it offers, which at least makes the overall production feel forgivably vague. There are elements I wish Stanley had fleshed out further or curtailed more. The supporting authority figures are mostly empty suits, including the willfully ignorant mayor running for re-election played by Q'orianka Kilcher, if you're curious what she's been up to since playing Pocahontas in 2005's The New World. They don't even qualify as "characters here just to be killed gruesomely later." Then there are interesting personal aspects to the Gardners that deserved more integration into the story, like the teen daughter's (Madeleine Arthur) interest in Wiccan spells and unorthodox spiritual practices. What does she fully believe? She's trying to tap into something elemental to spare her mother, who is a recent cancer survivor who lost both breasts to the disease. When her husband begins to get physically intimate, she pauses, expressing that she doesn't know if she still feels like herself, or desirable, after her surgery and recuperation. This is meant to serve as a launching pad for the body horror that will arrive later, with the mother already feeling violated by an entity, but it feels like something that should be more integral to the demonstration of the character than her angry demands to get the wi-fi fixed. Tommy Chong appears very briefly as an aged hippie living on the Gardner estate, and I wish that the movie had more to do for him besides slotting him as more or less Neighbor #1. For fans of Lovecraft, indie horror, body horror, Nicolas Cage, practical effects, atmosphere, and even Stanley's past titles from long ago, there's something to enjoy with Color Out of Space. It's a movie that can get under your skin on its own terms, even if I wanted it to go deeper at points. It's the right kind of airy atmosphere, switching styles and horror threats to keep things interesting, as well as not overstaying its welcome. It uses confusion and curiosity to its sneaky advantage and Stanley finds new ways to make old genre tropes still feel spooky. It's nothing revelatory but Color Out of Space is a fitting visual translation of Lovecraft's elemental nightmares and madness-inducing chaos. I don't think it will take Stanley another 24 years before another production decides to take a chance on his next directing effort. Nate's Grade: B
    Nate Z Super Reviewer
  • 3d ago
    If you can't tell by my pseudonymous namesake, the short stories of Howard Phillips Lovecraft had a substantial impact on my literary youth. Of all the fantasy/horror/sci-fi fiction I perused, no one sent chills up my spine quite the way H.P. did it. At this point his influence on subsequent writers, artists, and filmmakers has nearly escaped his reputation and become an essential and fundamental characteristic of the modern undercurrents of what creeps us out. This has relegated any one-to-one screen adaptations of his works somewhat redundant and unnecessary. From John Carpenter's THE THING to Robert Eggers' THE LIGHTHOUSE, Lovecraft's concepts have been better served as inspirations rather than adaptable illustrated narratives. Enter infamous cult director Richard Stanley who had the audacity to take us back to the source material of cosmic horror with his screen adaptation of COLOR OUT OF SPACE. Stanley has, until now, been somewhat of a "one hit wonder" in terms of feature length narrative filmmaking with his underground dystopian classic HARDWARE (a.k.a. MARK 13). Following it up with the nearly unwatchable DUST DEVIL and an aborted attempt at adapting THE ISLAND OF DR. MOREAU that not even gothic goddess Fairuza Balk could save, the director's 30 year career has been sparsely populated with music videos and documentaries. It would be inaccurate to call COLOR OUT OF SPACE a "return to form" as he never really established himself with a clear voice. While taking many liberties with the original story, Stanley infuses modern sensibilities into the framework of the core narrative of Lovecraft's antiquated (but nevertheless resonant) writing. Thankfully the stylings of SpectreVision, the production team behind phantasmagorical horror MANDY created the perfect storm for Stanley to proudly display his knack for science fiction madness. And speaking of madness, many will probably be wondering about Nicolas Cage's role after his bat-shit turns over the last few years in MANDY and MOM AND DAD. Playing a family man whose psyche is subsumed by an extraterrestrial force, Cage briefly holds back as a pudgy dad before flying off the handle, at the risk of derailing the film's tone and disbelief. He digs deep and plays it up, evoking his ridiculous performance from VAMPIRE'S KISS, replete with that voice he makes through his nose that borders on a "South Park" character. He almost sabotages the film while remaining the most entertaining aspect of the film, so fans of his performances both good and bad will enjoy this regardless. Cage has a good deal to work off of with great performances from Joely Richardson and Madeleine Arthur who both strike the right balance of mother/daughter dynamics amidst a reality-melting epidemic. There are plenty of easter eggs for Lovecraft afficianados and horror/gore connoiseurs. The setpieces could be seen as Stanley's literature review for all of his 70s and 80s horror influences from Argento to Hooper, and the visual effects are very beautiful, at times bringing to mind more recent films like ANNIHILATION and at worst evoking a really good episode of "The X-Files". There's body horror and fun practical gore amidst some outright surreal sequences (mostly involving alpacas). Sure it drags a bit in the third act, but considering it takes about as long to read the story as it does to watch the movie, pacing will always be an issue with any feature length Lovecraft adaptation. And for a little insider baseball, at the Q and A session with Stanley after the screening, the director mentioned he was interested in making a Lovecraft out of this, namely "The Dunwich Horror" being next on the docket. I'm all in, but you wouldn't have to melt my arm into an eldrich abomination to get me on board that spaceship.
    Steve L Super Reviewer

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