Cert – 15, Run-time – 1 hour 50 minutes, Director – Richard Stanley
When a mysterious object crashes into the garden of a family’s newly moved into countryside home the land and wildlife in the area begins to mutate
Back in 2018 the world said that Nicolas Cage couldn’t possibly get more Nicolas Cage (although we are yet to see The Unbearable Weight Of Massive Talent) when it witnessed the utter blood-soaked madness of whatever Mandy was, word’s can’t really properly describe it. And in many ways that’s the truth. So, where does Cage go after Mandy, via one or two other roles and voicing superheros in the likes of Teen Titans Go! To The Movies and Spider-Man: Into The Spider-verse? To an adaptation of an H.P. Lovecraft novel, of course!
The mad state of cosmic horror that this adaptation of Color Out Of Space almost seems to have been perfectly tailored for Cage to act as he wishes, with it still fitting in with the tone of the piece. As the ground around the quiet countryside farm of the Gardner family begins to mutate and change into an almost unnerving shade of purple everything around them, including themselves, begins to become more absurd, but more importantly fearful.
One of the interesting things about Richard Stanley and Scarlett Amaris’ screenplay, and Stanley’s direction, is that it guides the viewers through various stages over the course of the film’s acts. Instead of having everything fly off the walls in the first 20 minutes there’s a gradual build-up to the film. Dwelling on the elements of cosmic horror and the slow release of the increasing effects that the crash-landed object from space are revealed there’s a sparing feeling to the film. Something which adds to the tension and actual horror that the piece holds. This is something that at times is genuinely unnerving; especially when it comes to the lingering elements of body horror, which also never feel too much, or too abrupt. There’s a specific point that the writers and director guide the audience to throughout the film where they flick the switch and all hell breaks loose. However, there’s build-up to this point. The fact that the viewer is taken to this point helps to push the context and make it enjoyable instead of just feeling as if it’s there for the sake of having everything go insane and, as some might say, ‘pure Nicolas Cage’.
One of the ways in which this is done is by the changes in the characters. The central family who are having their lives and newly moved into home invaded begin to show two different personality types. Their normal ones, scared at the effects that the titular colour is having on them with its attack, and the one that the colour almost seems to force upon them. A harsh, angered personality, or sometimes a silent, secluded one in constant pain. As the characters begin to flick between the two personalities the conflicting behaviours lead to an increase in tension. Any personality could appear at any moment, especially with Cage’s character, who the impact is the strongest, yet most delayed, on.
When mixed with Steve Annis’ cinematography and the visual effects, showing bright purple’s and violet’s in somehow the darkest of shades, leading to a sense of mistrust and further unease. The feeling that everything isn’t right is known when this strange and mysterious object lands in the front yard of this out-of-the-way cabin. However, the idea is established when such colour schemes and ideas are played with. The visual style of the film while simple is undoubtedly effective and brings the viewer further into the film. Further into the fear and entertainment factors and simply taking them along for the ride, and it’s very much this guidance, pacing and the gradual nature of the film that make it as enjoyable, entertaining and even tense and scary as it is.
In fact Color Out Of Space may be one of the most welcome surprises of the year with just how good it is. It’s easy to just pass off a Nicolas Cage film with this kind of look – at least in the final 20 minutes, when the madness is certainly deserved and warranted – as something tacky and almost Direct-To-DVD. It’s the type of thing he seems to have become associated with. However, as the actor seems to be entering into a new stage of his career, after what we saw in Mandy, and his much discussed future slate of films (including his potential franchise return in National Treasure 3), it’s certainly time that we again reassessed our view of him. There’s a lot to like about Color Out Of Space, and indeed Cage’s performance, which isn’t to distract from the rest of the cast, which includes Joely Richardson and even Tommy Chong, who all also put in a good turn. It’s well-paced, tense, well-told and knows how to build up to the point when it flicks the switch and exactly what to do when it finally does. Not to mention the fact that it has a genuine fear factor with a number of scary and highly unnerving moments.
Director Richard Stanley, along with co-writer Scarlett Amaris, creates a finely paced cosmic horror that once it finally flicks the switch it feels warranted, deserved and a step-up from the already tense and unnerving nature of the rest of the film which even manages to hold a somewhat unsettling colour palette.