Courtesy of RLJE Films
What do you get when you have iconic genre filmmaker Richard Stanley (“Hardware” and “Dust Devil”) back in the directing chair, one crafty and visually alluring premise from H.P Lovecraft, and a whacked-out Nicolas Cage as an alpaca farmer who goes insane? You get something that looks like “Color Out of Space.”
Everything is off the rails in the adaptation of Lovecraft's short story, and that’s what makes the ride so enthralling. Once a mega movie star in the ‘90s who ushered in an era of grungy and gritty action flicks a-la “Con-Air,” “The Rock,” and “Face-Off,” Oscar winner Nicolas Cage seems content as the punching bag of online memes and whose marquee status can get financiers behind low-budget projects akin to his most recent flicks “A Score to Settle” or “Primal.” But for every ten pieces of trash he puts out, one or two usually stick and he struck gold with the bonkers “Mandy” a few years back.
“Color Out of Space” seems destined as another Nicholas Cage midnight feature that will find an audience and live on as a gooey cult favorite for years to come. What’s not to love about Nicolas Cage as an alpaca farmer who screams absurdities and is driven into madness because of intoxicating colors in the sky?
As much as I wish “Color out of Space” was about the quiet life of Nicholas Cage living out his days trying to raise furry alpacas, the premise of the film, if you can believe it, gets much weirder. Cage is Nathan Gardner and he’s just recently moved his family from the city to the countryside to start fresh. His wife (Joely Richardson) and three children (Madeleine Arthur, Brendan Mayer, and Julian Hilliard) seem to make the best of their situation. Nate even allows Ezra, a hermit who calls his shack the “G-spot” to live on his land for free, and the role is obviously played by Tommy Chong.
But the story kicks into gear when a meteor falls from the heavens and lands in the Gardner’s backyard, which is located just outside Arkham, a fictional Massachusetts town that’s a prominent stable in Lovecraft stories. This shiny rock begins emitting and oozing strange spectrum's of colors that bleed into the farmland and infects the farms surroundings, mutating all sense of biology ranging from the garden, insects, and, gasp, the alpacas.
Days begin to morph into weeks, new bugs and plants begin to appear, and crops grow rotten. Stanley and co know exactly the type of film their making and are clearly not afraid to embrace the wackiness of it all. Whether that’s the daughter gallivanting her horse through ancient New England forests decked out in Satanic tattoos or Cage screaming about milking his alpacas at a below-the-line water surveyor, “Color Out of Space” feels like a classic ‘80s fantasy film you’d find on VHS in the back of Blockbuster.
The horror imagery is sharply crafted and Stanley’s special effects makeup crew go above the ranks for practical creations over CGI and it’s a refreshing blend of cuckoo and straight up insanity. Seeing Cage drive the crazy train through the trippy and incoherent finale is a caffeinated highlight and the filmmakers’ amp up the mood lighting and Colin Stetson’s synthesizer score to perfect levels and boost the crazed performances and our psychedelic senses in the process. For better or worse, “Color out of Space” is a film that won’t easily be forgotten.
COLOR OUT OF SPACE opens January 31st at The Michigan Theater in Ann Arbor and is currently playing at The Main Art in Royal Oak.