Meat the Gardners.
Hydrologist Ward (Elliot Knight) interrupts Lavinia Gardner (Madeleine Arthur) attempting some light lakeside witchcraft as he surveys for a water basin project, leading to an eventual meeting with the rest of young lady’s New England countryside family: dad Nathan (Nicolas Cage), mother Theresa (Joely Richardson), younger brother Jack (Julian Hilliard), and older pothead brother Benny (Brendan Meyer) who gets his stash from local squatter Ezra (Tommy Chong). After bathing the area in an unearthly light moments before a soft impact, a meteor lands next to the water well in their front yard and begins to sink out of sight. Over the next few days, everything nearby reacts, from unusual plant growth to animal mutations… and the Gardners are not immune.
Directed by Richard Stanley from a Scarlett Amaris screenplay based upon the H.P. Lovecraft story “The Color Out of Space,” this eldritch tale seems ready-made for a Nic Cage vehicle, up to and including stealing the color palette from his previous movie Mandy. Made for a scant $6 million, it looks like so much more, akin to what you’d see from a summer tent-pole flick; think the Natalie Portman’s 2018 film Annihilation which was made for ten times more. While not the first Lovecraft-adapted production and likely not to be the last, will this alien tale of human insignificance and madness become the new standard others will be compared to?
From the opening frames, the clarity and color depth of the film is instantly evident, establishing that viewers should pay close attention to everything they see, whether it’s daytime or night. Ward appears brandishing a Miskatonic University t-shirt as the Lovecraft mythos starts namedropping, but when creatures worthy of John Carpenter’s The Thing begin crawling out of dark places, nothing and no one is safe. While not as lonesome as Creepshow’s “Death of Jordy Verrill,” the production paints a beautiful picture of a descent into madness, an acceptance of inevitability, and a family truly brought together as none have before.
A thriller, yes, but secondary to actual horror. Genre fans will be both hesitant and eager to see what bizarre things start to appear, from passive subtle foliage to things chasing victims down and everything in between. The characters are kept interesting by switching up the points of view; when one character is “spacing out,” another character notices until time starts to run out. Nic Cage is often the most interesting when weirding out but not entirely the sole focus; there is a literal thread of a family coming together in a crisis on top of all the mind’s eye crystal-healing multi-dimensional stuff, an existential re-imagining of the 1985 film Lifeforce at its core… and in a good way.
The director had reportedly been sitting on this idea while scrounging for financing for close to a decade, but it’s a tribute to both modern filmmaking tools and working within a budget to turn out something this unique and entertaining on such an insignificant bankroll. Stanley also is said to have a trilogy in mind here, and if the sequels are anything like this, here’s wishing all the best to future alumni from Miskatonic U. — Go ‘Pods!
Color Out of Space is unrated, but seriously, man: do not drink the water.
Four skull recommendation out of four
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