COLOR OUT OF SPACE | CERT: 15 | DIRECTOR: RICHARD STANLEY | SCREENPLAY: SCARLETT AMARIS | STARRING: NICOLAS CAGE, Q'ORIANKA KILCHER, JOELY RICHARDSON | RELEASE DATE: FEBRUARY 28TH
When it was announced that Nicolas Cage was teaming up with Richard Stanley to adapt a story by H.P. Lovecraft, a certain subset of pop-culture geekdom lost its collective mind.
Cage’s fans know the drill by now. Whereas Samuel L. Jackson famously takes a 'one for you, one for me' approach towards picking projects - attempting to find a healthy balance between artistic endeavour and paying the bills - Nicolas Cage takes more of a 'nine for you, one for me' approach, whereby he churns out a huge number of movies each year and we, the audience, are left to pan for gold and figure out which movie is the one he actually cared about that year. In 2017, it was Mom and Dad, last year, it was Mandy and, in 2019, it seems like it was Color Out of Space. This film is the Cagiest that Cage has been in years – and that’s, very much, a good thing.
Stanley’s fans, on the other hand, don’t really know the drill by now. Color Out of Space marks the first scripted feature from him since his infamous firing from cinematic disasterpiece The Island of Dr. Moreau, over 20 years ago. Digital aesthetic aside, there’s little to set this film apart from the body of work Stanley was producing back then. It fits right in.
Lovecraft fans, on the proverbial third hand, thought they knew the drill by now, but it turns out they were trying to use a masonry bit instead of a flat-spade bit to bore a hole into a piece of plywood (in other words: they didn’t know the drill at all). Lovecraft’s work is known for being difficult to adapt to screen and most attempts to do so are known for being failures.
Now, however, between the likes of this film, the H.P.-inspired angst of The Lighthouse and Elijah Wood and Daniel Noah’s plans to create an entire Lovecraft cinematic universe, perhaps the tide is turning. Perhaps we’re on the cusp on a wave of filmmakers suddenly understanding what makes Lovecraft stories work as movies, just as has happened to Stephen King over the last few years.
Color Out of Space is a strange film in that you always feel somewhat disconnected from it. The plot – a meteorite crashes close to a family home and begins to infect the life around it in strange, alien ways – offers nothing you haven’t seen before (and, frankly, nothing you haven’t seen done better) elsewhere. There’s an argument to be made that there’s no real justification for this film to exist in the same world as John Carpenter’s The Thing.
That said, the film taps into a truly dreamlike quality - sliding from transient and eerily peaceful to utterly nightmarish at the drop of a hat. It’s genuinely disturbing in some places and, when combined with its sly sense of humour and ample amounts of Nicolas Cage action (at one point, he has a tantrum that involves shouting “slam dunk” while throwing vegetables in the bin), you get a very satisfying film that leaves you excited to see what else the production company, SpectreVision, has in store.