Title: Color Out of Space
Describe This Movie In One 1999 Quote:
PRINCE: The sky was all purple, there were people running everywhere
Brief Plot Synopsis: Meteor lands on family homestead, unleashes full Nicolas Cage.
Rating Using Random Objects Relevant To The Film: 4 possessed hair transplants out of 5.
Better Tagline: "How you gonna keep 'em down on the farm after they've seen Yog-Sothoth?"
Not So Brief Plot Synopsis: Nathan Gardner (Nicolas Cage) probably thought giving up the big city for his dad's woodland farmhouse would be good for his family. Sure, wife Theresa (Joely Richardson) struggles to operate her financial services practice with spotty WiFi, and bored kids Lavinia (Madeleine Arthur) and Benny (Brendan Meyer) are dabbling in Wicca and weed, respectively. Would things have worked themselves out if that meteor had never landed and caused all hell to break loose? We'll never know.
"Critical" Analysis: H.P. Lovecraft was as influential to horror as Philip K. Dick was to science-fiction, inspiring generations of writers and filmmakers. And like PKD, Lovecraft's work presents unique challenges when it comes to adapting them for the big screen. In Dick's case, his esoteric concepts often lead to the jettisoning of all but the larger themes in favor of capital-A Action movies (Total Recall, Minority Report). Whereas with Lovecraft, the problem lies in figuring out how to film what the author describes, period.
If there's anybody up to the task, it's Richard Stanley. He hasn't directed a major motion picture since 1996, when he was fired from The Island of Doctor Moreau, a shitshow so spectacular it might as well have been dubbed The Trump Administration: The Movie. Returning with something as ambitious as a Lovecraft adaptation is a ballsy move, but Stanley is just the kind of weirdo to make it work.
Balancing horror with looming dread, Color Out of Space successfully brings Lovecraft's mythos into the 21st century while jettisoning his virulent racism (Q'orianka Kilcher briefly plays the local mayor and Elliot Knight portrays the Miskatonic U. hydrologist Lavinia falls for). Steve Annis's haunting cinematography makes for a menacing atmosphere, as does an ominous score from composer Colin Stetson.
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It also doesn't hurt that the Gardners are a little weird to begin with. Nathan is a wannabe rancher who doesn't appear to know you don't usually milk alpacas and Lavinia attempts to cast spells (with a copy of the "Necronomicon" no less), Meanwhile, youngest son Jack is curious and sweet. So you know he's doomed.
COOS still falls victim to a trope or two. Whether plagued by poltergeist, vengeful doll, or alien from dimensions beyond the understanding of man, people take a while to get the hint. Suffice it to say, as soon as your kid starts drawing purple shoggoths or your skin begins to mysteriously calcify, it's time to Audi 5000.
But it's no easy feat bringing Lovecraft to life. At best, the creatures and setting he described are ... well, indescribable. "Non-linear" geometry is impossible to render, for obvious reasons, and a color that doesn't reside on any visible spectrum ends up pretty much just purple. Surprisingly, none of this is a detriment. It's Cage that distracts the most: not that his descent into insanity isn't believable, it's that we've seen it all before (for a real study in Cage Mania, check out Mandy).
Annis and Lester get around all this with some interesting (and disturbing) visual FX. The meteor's effect on the Gardners and the surrounding landscape brings to mind everything from Creepshow's "The Lonesome Death of Jordy Verrill" to From Beyond to John Carpenter's The Thing, each of which were themselves inspired by HPL. Stanley brings a real grasp of the look and sound of burgeoning madness to the table, which nicely complements the visual horror.