Nicolas Cage is a goddamned national treasure! (See what I did there?) But seriously, who else has purchased a dinosaur skull stolen from Mongolia, been bailed out of jail by Dog the Bounty Hunter, tripped on shrooms with his cat, and married Michael Jackson’s ex-wife?
Aside from all of that, he has made some pretty awesome films across four decades, including a recent string of genre films that have really knocked it out of the park. Sure, some of the 18 flicks he appeared in between 2017 and 2019 are less than stellar, but that run also includes Mom and Dad (2017), Mandy (2018), and Spider-Man: Into the Spiderverse (2018). He capped off all of that with the flick that brings us together today, Richard Stanley’s Color Out of Space (2019).
Color Out of Cage
Color Out of Space is what you get when you mix John Carpenter’s The Thing, M. Night Shyamalan’s The Happening, a head full of high-quality acid, and that special ingredient that is Nic Cage. Based on H.P. Lovecraft’s 1927 short story The Colour Out of Space, this adaptation is definitely an experience and a must-see if you dig Lovecraftian horror.
What we have is a family that has escaped the hustle and bustle of the city and settled on a quiet spread of land on the outskirts of Arkham. You have Nathan Gardner (Cage), the alpaca-raising, veggie-growing dad; Theresa (Joely Richardson), the mother who is perpetually annoyed by the shitty internet connection; and their brood of children: witchy Lavinia (Madeline Arthur), older brother Benny (Brendan Meyer), and youngest child Jack (Julian Gardner). Outside of ornery alpacas and bland French cuisine, life is pretty chill for the Gardners. That is until a giant fucking meteorite crashes in their yard in the middle of the night. That’s when shit starts going sideways.
Lovecraft wanted to create an alien presence that was not the familiar humanoid that was popular in fiction and boy did he succeed. However, translating that vision to the screen is a big task. This alien can’t be portrayed by a dude in a cheap rubber suit or by clever use of light and shadow. No, the alien in this tale is the Color, specifically a neat shade of magenta, and the Color is more insidious than even the most gnarly STD. It effects humans mentally and physically, and even has an effect on vegetation and space-time reality. Only a hippie squatter named Ezra (Tommy Chong) seems to have an idea of what is really going down.
Color Out of Space marks the first directorial effort from South African Richard Stanley since the fiasco that saw him fired as the director on The Island of Dr. Moreau (1996). Stanley had previously written and directed the cult film Hardware (1990) and Dust Devil (1992) before the Dr. Moreau fracas. He started prepping for Color way back in 2013, and in 2015 Spectrevision came on board to produce. Spectrevision is Elijah Wood’s production company he runs with partners Daniel Noah and Josh Waller (who appears in this movie as Sheriff Pierce). So far, they have put out some pretty solid flicks including A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night (2014), The Greasy Strangler (2016), Mandy, and Daniel Isn’t Real (2019) among others. So along with some of his recent acting roles, it seems that ol’ Frodo sure has grown up.
Nic Out of Space
Now on to the performances. Obviously, we have Nic Cage doing Nic Cage things. Sure, he starts off similar to a certain mild-mannered reporter he almost played, but lemme tell you, by the end of our story, dude’s got it cranked to eleven. The way I see it is you either enjoy the hell out of what Cage has been doing these past few years or it just isn’t your thing. Personally, I’m always down for anything he does, especially if it’s genre-related.
There’s also Tommy Chong, and I’m not really sure how much acting he’s doing in this role as a spaced-out hippie living off the grid with a cat named G-Spot. Either way, the few scenes he’s in are a lot of fun. And finally, worth mentioning is Madeline Arthur, the Wiccan daughter who goes from moody teenager to the one left trying to hold things together while literal out-of-this world shit is going on all around the farm. She’s been in a Tim Burton film and has done some TV, but hopefully she does more genre stuff in the future because she was really great in this one.
In Living Color
Color Out of Space isn’t exactly a thrill-a-minute flick, but it is a good slow burn. We have some finger-choppin’, a mutant feline, burnt alpaca casserole, and some mother-son bonding that results in quite the horrific abomination unto the Lord. Stanley really pulls off a tough task in bringing Lovecraft’s vision to the screen.
This movie is a visual smorgasbord, as the color palette is essentially not only a character, but the actual monster. The progression of the effects of the “meteor” from innocuous, brightly colored flowers to mutations, psychoses and the warping of the very fabric of the space-time continuum is fun to watch. Plus, there are plenty of familiar Lovecraftian Easter Eggs such as the hydrologist from Miskatonic University named Ward Phillips (as in Howard Phillips Lovecraft), and the setting of Arkham and some of the surrounding towns.
Stanley has said that he intends for this movie to be the first of a Lovecraft trilogy, with The Dunwich Horror being planned as the next chapter. Hopefully, we don’t have to wait another 20-plus years for Stanley’s next effort.
There are lots of things I really enjoyed about Color Out of Space. Cage gives another awesome cuckoo-loco performance, some of the monsters that emerge are the type of things I love (think The Thing and The Mist), and the element of nature being weaponized is pulled off worlds better than it was in The Happening.
Color Out of Space begins streaming exclusively on Shudder on Sept. 1.