Color Out of Space (Richard Stanley, 2019) 3 out of 4 stars.
Based on the acclaimed H.P. Lovecraft short story of the same name, director Richard Stanley’s Color Out of Space is a unique, unsettling, and at times brutal sci-fi horror/thriller that has just enough tension and an interesting enough backstory to overcome some overly bonkers aspects and over-the-top acting. The Lovecraft story centers around a strange meteorite that lands on Earth and brings with it numerous side effects. Richard Stanley’s film adaptation of Lovecraft’s story isn’t the first, however. A 2010 German film called Die Farbe was also an adaptation of Lovecraft’s work, featuring a son looking for his lost father in Germany, only to find a strange town where the meteorite had landed. Stanley’s version is quite different, however, as he centers around a family on a farm that witnesses the meteorite incident firsthand.
The film follows the Gardners, who have moved to a large farm in rural New England to escape the busy, stressful urban life of the 21stcentury. Nicolas Cage (National Treasure) stars as the patriarch of the family, Nathan Gardner. Along with his wife, two sons, and daughter, he witnesses a meteorite crash into the yard one night. There is little damage, and the meteorite somehow disappears. However, all is not well, as soon Nathan’s wife, Theresa (Joely Richardson, FX’s Nip/Tuck), starts to feel ill, and her mental health deteriorates, as well. The farm animals also begin to act strangely, and strange new crops, flowers, and weeds spring up out of nowhere. The one thing that connects all the madness is a single color: a pinkish, yet indescribable color that was never seen before, that the whole family sees in everything now. The Gardners must now try to adapt to their constantly changing surroundings, but soon find that adaptation is becoming more and more dangerous and difficult.
This film surprised me in many ways. What I thought would be a fun, intriguing and mysterious fantasy tale turns out to be a horrifying sci-fi thriller. As a horror fan, I welcomed this surprise. It begins as a slow-burn type of mystery, but soon turns to madness and terror. The film was a lot scarier than I expected, perhaps because in watching the trailers I didn’t really take it for a horror movie. It delivered some of the best sci-fi horror chills and scares that I’ve seen in quite some time, though; the movie is filled with so much tension. The whole maddening situation leaves every character to question reality and get frustrated with each other over things they cannot understand. It is deeply saddening and unsettling to watch this rural family be torn apart by an unseen force, knowing that no one is truly right or wrong in their actions because no one is really in their right state of mind.
The movie does have quite a few flaws, however. Nicolas Cage once again gives us a few scenes of cringeworthy overacting, specifically any time he is angry or yells … it is often difficult to take him seriously. He’s fine in most other scenes, though, especially when he’s eerily quiet or talking in an exhausted, more subdued tone, and the other performances are fine, too, but nothing really noteworthy. Some of the characters make very questionable decisions, some borderline stupid, but I suppose that can be attributed to their declining mental health. My final issue with the film is that it gets a bit too crazy at times, even for a sci-fi horror film, with some shockingly grotesque imagery that just completely comes out of left field.
Overall, I really enjoyed Color Out of Space, despite its few flaws. Even though it’s based off a short story, it’s a unique film compared to most other horror or sci-fi films out there today, and takes the best elements from both genres. Just don’t go into it expecting a magical, whimsical tale about something from space landing in someone’s backyard. Make no mistake, this is most definitely a horror film with sci-fi elements.