Color Out Of Space (2019) isn’t the ideal review to start a year with. It’s a morbidly bad adaptation of H.P. Lovecraft – one that pays no respect to its source material, and even the conjoint effort of alpacas and Nicolas Cage could not save it.
The word “Lovecraftian” has been thrown around quite extensively lately. But indeed, the prose of H.P. Lovecraft has influenced a fair deal of recent horrorfests and sci-fis. The art of scaring with the unknowable, or monsters of unnatural anatomy and origin, attracts more than just die-hard genre fans. Lovecraft’s premise reaches supernatural dramas and films far more ambitious than B-list sci-fis. With films like The Lighthouse (2019), a capably dreadful love letter to Lovecraft, this trend is on the rise.
However, not everyone succeed. Telling a compelling story that keeps its monstrosities blurry or unseen is difficult though. And quite lamentably, Richard Stanley’s Color Out Of Space (2019) proves so.
What is Color Out Of Space (2019) about?
The plot follows a happy family of five – Nathan (Nicolas Cage), Theresa (Joely Richardson), Lavinia (Madeleine Arthur), Benny (Brendan Meyer) and Jack (Julian Hiliard). One day, their farm is hit by a meteorite. Soon after the incident, the extraterrestrial rock begins to fiddle with the DNA of almost everything around. Grass and trees turn purple, and beaming rays of force pierce through living forms.
Cage enjoys it, me – not too much
Before Color Out Of Space (2019) reaches a point of untamed visuals and true horror, Richard Stanley needs to meticulously construct the build-up. Hence, we begin the film with a cute picture: a family dinner, Nic Cage tending to alpacas, and Lavinia’s weird rituals by the lake. A regular family business as to say.
It’s quite obvious that the unfathomable affection for Nicolas Cage required certain qualities from Color Out Of Space (2019). Throwing tantrums and over-the-top everything is his daily bread, and Cage is seriously in his elements here. He understands the looney world of the source material with most absurd and unprecedented phenomena – like Annihilation (2018) did. Nathan’s almost a classic Cage – over-the-top father, who shuffles sad jokes and makes most awkward comments possible. Delicious spectacle.
However, Cage rarely carries any film on his shoulders, maybe with the exception of grotesquely charming Mandy (2018).
Herein lies the first major problem. Nathan’s family is plain, just derivative on every level, and they’re no match for what and who surrounds them. I couldn’t really connect with either of them, and they’re all as arresting as Walter White’s wife in season one of Breaking Bad. But even Anne Gunn’s depressing blandness blossomed eventually. In the case of Color Out Of Space (2019), it’s only Nic.
Color Out Of Space (2019) exhibits an uneven pacing and no real sense of direction
The first half of Color Out Of Space (2019) is stuffed with loosely connected scenes, all gathered under the umbrella of its general notion of “something is wrong“. However, nobody really knows what. And that would be totally fine, because many riveting stories benefit from a cloak of mystery. Duh, the entire career of M. Night Shyamalan stands on that fundamental belief that the audience needs no clarity until the final twist.
Bu in the case of Color Out Of Space (2019), a little hint here and there wouldn’t hurt. Stanley seems too desperate to keep the mystery afloat. This, in return, discourages from following characters whose arches are barely sketched, therefore boring.
Stanley’s ideas to scare and bamboozle the audience aren’t innovative either, as they seem to revisit the old spots. Once again, it’s Alex Garland’s highly ambitious Annihilation (2018) that flickers in my mind, with its gorgeous aesthetic and that unforgettable bear scene. It’s funny that Stanley too, as he looks for shock value, he loses track of the narrative in a similar way Garland did. As an example, one particular scene – a quasi homage to Brian Yuzna’s The Society (1989) – could be done in a million ways, yet the director pushes the boundary too far and makes it straight-out baffling.
Eventually, when the film finally finds its own strange rhythm, it’s far too late to bother. Some might still see Lovecraft through the blazing purple colors that flood the screen. But for me, even blood-thirsty alpacas couldn’t make amends for this mess. And if alpacas amounted to nothing, it would take a bunch of killer shrews to bring Color Out Of Space (2019) to a cult classic level.
Color Out Of Space (2019) – Culturally Hated or Loved?
A tediously ineffective attempt at adapting H.P. Lovecraft’s novel, Color Out Of Space (2019) pushes the envelope too hard and in many wrong directions, although its visuals are a treat.
Color Out Of Space (2019)
Dir. Richard Stanley
Hate Grade: 7/10