Director Richard Stanley seemed to have a bright future ahead of him. During the early 1990s he released a pair of small budget science fiction movies that became cult favorites. This led to him being offered the chance to direct The Island of Dr. Moreau. This effectively derailed his career. (The 2014 documentary Lost Soul: The Doomed Journey of Richard Stanley’s Island of Dr. Moreau is a fascinating look at the ordeal.)
Stanley has mostly stayed away from the limelight since Dr. Moreau. After years of documentaries and short films, the director has returned with Color Out of Space starring Nicholas Cage. The movie is an adaptation of a H.P. Lovecraft story about a meteorite that crashes onto a family’s farm. But is it really the cause of the strange occurrences that follow?
Color Out of Space certainly lives up to its title. Even before the mysterious space rock crashes, the movie is very bright. Lavinia Gardner has a streak of dyed purple hair that stands out while the farm is lush and green. The lighting is part of the reason the film looks so good. Quite simply, everything is very bright. Nighttime scenes are shot under a star filled sky. When the Gardners mention they have left the city for a less busy life, it is easy to see why. All this exquisiteness also succeeds in making the horrors that follow that much worse.
Once the titular Color comes to the farm, scenes take on a more dreamlike quality. Strands of lavender fill the air. The grass becomes fuller and the crops are plentiful. The audience is almost attacked by all the color on the screen. It is a visual overload that those watching will quickly come to accept. This is a rare case of a movie correctly using too much.
With the added color comes more confusion. The audience constantly thinks they have the answer before asking themselves again what is exactly going on. Color Out of Space does a good job of throwing red herrings at the audience. It is hard to tell until near the end whether each experience is singular or whether they are actually happening. Stanley does an excellent job of telling the story without showing his hand.
Nicholas Cage has always been a good actor. It is something of a shame that somewhere along the line he became know for over the top performances.. Those looking for a Cage rage may be disappointed. Color Out of Space has those moments and they are as awesome as expected. However, this is not Mandy. Cage shows more of the versatility of his early career.
And this is not a bad thing! Since he dials things back a little, when he does go all out, it has a greater impact. Cage plays the loving father and husband perfectly. He he obviously still adjusting to his new quieter life. He also does a wonderful job of playing the overwhelmed supposed head of the household who tries to take on everything. And when he is not making new memes for the internet, his entire performance is still uniquely Nicholas Cage.
The rest of the cast does an equally great job. Cage will get the lion’s share of the attention, but in the actual film, he never overshadows his co stars. This is partially due to a strong script that makes everyone equally important, but the majority is because of the tremendous acting. The cast is not just playing off of Cage, either. These are strong characters that can stand on their own two feet. It is the performances that make everything come together.
Color Out of Space is as disgusting as it is beautiful. In the second half of the movie, there is a shocking amount of body horror. Stanley once again shows his deft touch. Nothing is ever just thrown at the audience. Each reveal takes time, which provides maximum impact. Plus, the design here is fantastic as the monstrous figures are both hideous and pitiful. For some this will be the highlight of the movie.
Richard Stanley return as a feature film director is tremendous. Color Out of Space shows his immense talent while also delivering a great story. The entire cast helps to further elevate the movie while the special effects are eye catching. It is also refreshing to see classic sci fi horror. In a year of noteworthy scary movies, Color Out of Space stands out.