Color Out of Space
color out of space | richard stanley | scarlett amaris | joely richardson | nicolas cage | madeleine arthur | based on | short story | h.p. lovecraft | remake | sci fi | sci-fi | malaysia | portugal | united states | elliot knight | tommy chong | brendan meyer
Film: Color Out of Space
Director: Richard Stanley
Writer: Scarlett Amaris and Richard Stanley
Starring: Joely Richardson, Nicolas Cage, and Madeleine Arthur
Now I will admit I had seen a different adaptation of this H.P. Lovecraft story from Italy. That one had a much smaller budget and was called Colour from the Dark. I hadn’t read the source material before my first viewing and have since before this second viewing. I did watch this with Jaime and she didn’t know what to think. Regardless, this one excited me and I got the chance to catch this at the Gateway Film Center when it was in the theater for my first go. The synopsis is a town is struck by a meteorite and the fallout is catastrophic.
We start this with Lavinia (Madeleine Arthur) as she is practicing what appears to be a Wiccan ritual and this is an interesting way to show that she wants out of this small area. She lives with her family out here. Her mother had cancer that caused the family quite the scare. She is doing this by a river that attracted Ward (Elliot Knight). Before we actually see Lavinia and what she’s doing, there’s a narration showing us the woods in the area and showing its haunting beauty. It explains that this is placed in Arkham which is a fictional area in New England portion of the United States.
When he arrives, he spooks Lavinia and explains he’s a hydrologist there to study the water table. Later there’s an interesting reveal as there’s a major project to create a dam and reservoir providing drinking water to a large area hence why he’s there to test the water. Lavinia and Ward hit it off before she leaves on her horse and goes home.
It is there we meet the rest of the family. Nathan (Nicolas Cage) is the father. They’re living on the family farm that his father owned and raising alpacas. His wife is Theresa (Joely Richardson) who I’m assuming is a freelance investment banker that works out of the attic of this home. Benny (Brendan Meyer) is the eldest son and he’s a bit of a pothead. There’s finally Jack (Julian Hilliard) who is the younger son. We get a glimpse of their family dynamic over dinner.
Things take a turn that night though when a meteorite hits in the front yard. It affects the family differently. Nathan starts to smell something that reminds him of the ward his father died in. Theresa starts to lose herself, Jack is drawn to it and then the well, thinking he’s hearing someone talk to him. Ward gets involved to test the water and this brings him to encounter an off the grid hippie, Ezra (Tommy Chong). This meteorite brought a color that Nathan couldn’t describe, but it also brought more than that.
Now I wanted to introduce enough in my recap without spoiling this movie. I think that most people who are coming into this, have a rough idea of what could happen here, just maybe not necessarily how this movie is going to play out. I think through the screenplay and how things are introduced, we have a pretty deep story here that I dug.
This version of it is closer to the source material in that we see the meteorite as it crashes here. After it does, the next night has a pretty strong storm that comes through. Lavinia is getting rained on and watching it. This draws her father outside and we see that the lightning keeps striking the meteorite, as if it is drawing it. This happens over and over again to the point where it’s no longer there. We then see that it has contaminated the water in the well and from Ward discovers the whole supply.
This is a fitting time for this movie to come out with this concept as well. I don’t really want to take it political here, but it is fitting that at the time of writing this, regulations on testing water and certain precautions were lifted by the government. We briefly meet the mayor, Tooma (Q’orianka Kilcher) whose big plan for her term is to get this reservoir built. I love this apocalyptic backdrop that if what is happening isn’t contained, it will spread. At the crux of this, we have kind of a body snatcher/alien takeover, infection type film. Not so much in the sense that they’re trying to take over the world, but it is effecting all those that come in contact with it. It does change them as well.
What I did like about this movie is that it briefly establishes the ‘norm’ for the family before things change. I think that quick baseline works. I hate to say this though, the only person I didn’t really care for in this movie was Cage. I think he went too over the top too early and then he just gets weird. I do like that he’s going back and forth as what this entity is doing is messing with him, but I feel he should have been a bit more normal. Lavinia is interesting as I saw some of my childhood in her where she is gothic-ish, but likes normal things. It is legit a phase for her in my opinion, much like for myself. Theresa is an odd character as well. I like they established her sad back-story, but I don’t know if it is Richardson’s performance as just too subdued or what, but she kind of fades into the background.
Since I’ve already went into this, I did think that the rest of the acting was good. Knight is an interesting character for sure. We get a lot of fun Lovecraft references for those familiar, which includes Ward wearing a Miskatonic University sweatshirt, a Re-Animator reference. His name could reference Charles Dexter Ward and they’re also in Arkham. I like that he’s here as our investigator. I did have an issue is there’s a long stretch where he disappears where it is established early that he’s our ‘hero’. Chong was fun in his appearance as Ezra. I like to think this is Cheech & Chong character who retired to this area and he’s scared of the government while just living off the grid. Sheriff Pierce (Josh C. Waller) becomes important later in the movie, but he’s never established which I found to be odd.
Something that I hate to have to say is that after this initial viewing, I think that it runs a bit long. It gets right into introducing us to the characters and the event that changes everything happening. The movie really has a surreal feel to it and I’ll get more into that during the effects and how this shot. I just felt the film meanders for a bit during the later second act. I like where it ended up though and the ending is interesting. Even after a second viewing, I think that it runs too long. The story is interesting, but I feel that there’s just too much here that is unfocused for me.
Since I touched on this, I thought that the effects were great. We get a lot of practical stuff which I’m always down for. I was so glad that Stanley was the director here, as I’ve seen his other two films Hardware and Dust Devil. Both of them I could see led to some of the odd creatures we get here, mostly from the former. There’s a lot of CGI, but I personally thought it was used very well. We get electricity that is attacking people. We get some The Thing references with some creatures we see and the use of color is amazing. I wonder if Arthur was selected because normally she has beautiful eyes, but they’re highlighted here later in the movie as well. The cinematography is also on point with all of this and I have to give a lot of credit there. Being this is same studio that did Mandy, I don’t get a lot of those vibes. How this film looks when the entity is doing things, that’s where I would reference it only.
The last thing to cover is the soundtrack and sound design here. The big thing that struck out to me was the use of sounds for this entity. We get a scene with Ezra being on the ground claiming that he heard something talking in the night and then recorded it. It comes off as static and loud noises. What I like about this is that we are introduced to this with Jack. We take it as gibberish and nothing, but they’re relaying that it is more. Later in the movie we get some music that made me feel uncomfortable and the scenes worked very well in conjunction with it. There are also animal sounds that draw characters which also worked for me as well.
Now with that said, this is a movie that I really liked while having some slight flaws for me. I really like Stanley taking this Lovecraft story and adapting as he did. It is quite creepy the route that he took it. There are some slight issues I have which some from the acting and the pacing for a stretch of this. It does do some really good things with the concepts and social commentary. I thought the effects are on point and it is beautiful at times as well. The soundtrack and design were really good. I’ve already heard some people stating that only the pretentious will like this, but that’s fine. It is still good in my opinion. It has come down for me after the second viewing, but still one of the better films of the year in my opinion.
My Rating: 8 out of 10