Color Out of Space is the story of a man, Nathan Gardner (Nicholas Cage), his alpaca farm, and a meteorite. It begins in the beautiful woods of Massachusetts, on the far outskirts of the town of Arkham. We see the primordial forest, the idyllic stream, and an attractive Wiccan girl, Lavinia Gardner (Madeleine Arthur) casting a spell. The spell is to cure her mother Theresa Gardner’s (Joely Richardson) cancer. She encounters Ward Philips (Elliot Knight), a hydrologist, who briefly flirts with her, before she rides away on her horse, Comet.
When Lavinia arrives home we’re introduced to the rest of the family: Nathan, Theresa, and their sons, little Jack (Julian Hilliard), and teen-age Benny (Brendan Meyer). They are not a happy family, with three children forced to live on an alpaca farm, a mother with a poor internet connection, and a father who is probably an alcoholic. Things go from bad to worse, when a meteorite crashes onto their property emitting a weird violet/fuchsia color transforming the world around it. It’s trippy, it’s violent, and it’s rock and roll from here on out.
There’s a bit to like about this movie. The cinematography is not bad. There are beautiful shots of forest that are so enticing you can practically smell the damp earth and feel the coolness beneath the trees, and the heat of the sun as it reflects upon a stream.
Where it begins to fall flat is where the editing and directing seem to… crash. I wasn’t on the set, nor was I in the editing bay, so I can’t tell you who made what exact decisions, but in the end, the cut falls to the director. As to that, there are small vignettes in the film that don’t seem to go anywhere. There’s a scene of self-mutilation as a means to magic, but although it seems cool, there is no magic. It’s merely an aside.
The family itself is a problem as well. The parents are not particularly likable. At one moment, Theresa treats her daughter Lavinia as if she’s a whore; Nathan seems to be there, but not really there at all, due to his drinking. Teenager Benny is so stoned, that being stoned and afraid IS his personality, and the smallest brother, Jack, is somehow obnoxious. I can’t put my finger on why I hated Jack. I can’t fault his acting, but the kid was irritating.
I rooted for Lavinia, and I rooted for Ward, and felt that almost everyone else could die. 111 minutes, and they could not make me root for most of the cast. That is an impressive amount of time for me not to care about people. Considering I watched it twice, that’s 222 minutes I will never get back in my life.
Still, there was Tommy Chong’s character, Ezra, who shockingly plays a stoner aging hippy, a role no one would ever expect of him. He is a bit of comic relief, yet the only one who really seems to know what’s going on. His dope-fueled observations move things forward in a way no one else manages.
A horror film, especially a cosmic horror film, must in some way frighten through incipient madness, and this film tries its best. Nicholas Cage over-acts the insanity, varying between unremarkable and unbelievable, but sometimes manages to be fun. When the movie can’t scare us, it goes for violence and gore. This, it does surprisingly well.
Suspense builds–strange, incongruous uneasy moments. Moments that lead to spilled blood. Theresa announces “Dinner’s ready.” With a wave of her hand, we know with certainty that things are not right, and that they’re never going to be right again.
Despite my criticism, I sometimes enjoyed myself. I did like watching the family dissolve into madness. I appreciated the choices in lighting; the way they handled the color in this movie was excellent. I do not want to ruin the moment for you, but there is a scene in which the meteorite strikes out at Theresa and Jack, and it is so vile and so bold that I was impressed with the director’s decision to do it. And it really brought the family together.
Lastly, I even learned something important. One of the most important things I learned from this movie is that there’s such a thing as alpaca milk. I mean, generally, all female mammals make milk, but I was not aware it was for human consumption.
Color Out of Space deserves to be a great film. HP Lovecraft’s work, “The Colour Out of Space” is brilliant for its time in many ways, and it deserves to be made into a brilliant film. Hopefully someday it will be. But as far as this movie goes, it’s an okay film that has okay acting, and okay special effects. I wish it were great. But it isn’t. And that’s okay.