Richard Stanley is a name many mainstream moviegoers may not be aware of, but for certain genre fans, it’s a name that brings great joy. The director behind Hardware and Dust Devil hasn’t made a feature-length movie since his ill-fated adaptation of The Island of Doctor Moreau in 1996. Until now that is. Stanley is back and, this time, he’s tackling an H.P. Lovecraft adaptation in the form of Color Out of Space. Just for good measure, he’s brought Nicolas Cage along for the ride. The end result is a decidedly weird, uncompromising Lovecraftian technicolor nightmare.
Color Out of Space centers on the Gardner family who is living the quiet life far removed from the city. After a meteorite lands in the front yard of their farm, Nathan Gardner (Nicolas Cage) and his family find that there may be more to this space rock than previously thought. Following a series of strange occurrences, the family finds themselves battling an extraterrestrial organism that can infect their minds and bodies, which completely upends their little slice of rural paradise.
Right off the bat, this movie probably isn’t for your mainstream moviegoer. It’s not polluted with jump scares. It’s not all laid out in a 2 + 2 = 4 kind of way. It’s a deeply strange movie and Richard Stanley did this thing his way. Even at it’s most normal it has a heavy surrealistic vibe. It’s also something of a slow burn. For my money, that burn is just a bit too slow, but the fuze ultimately leads to such a bizarre and bananas powder keg that I have a hard time holding that against it too much. Strange though it may be, this is not some standard, schlocky Nicolas Cage adventure. This is an auteur taking the world of H.P. Lovecraft and applying it to the modern world.
To that point, I’m not a Lovecraft completist. I haven’t read the story this movie is based on, so I am talking about this strictly as a movie. That said, I do feel, based on what Lovecraft I have come into contact with, that Stanley did a damn fine job of capturing the vibe, but in a modern context, in his own way.
Visually, Color Out of Space is hard to argue against. So much of the slow burn has to do with the fact that Richard Stanley just lets things marinate. There aren’t many quick cuts. Everything breathes. It adds to the vibe of being so far-removed from larger civilization. Things move more slowly when life isn’t coming out you 1,000 miles a minute. But then when things get terrifying, it’s a slow crawl as well. These horrors must be confronted at very unnerving, casual pace. And it’s hauntingly beautiful at times. Some of the design choices and color pallette choices make for some of the more memorable visuals I’ve seen in some time.
One of the most impressive things here is Nicolas Cage. He’s been on something of a comeback tour lately, with movies like Mandy showing that he can do more than direct-to-DVD trash. Most amazingly, Cage actually stays on the rails for much of the movie, and he plays a convincingly great father. Yet, when the movie goes off the rails, Cage goes with it and it’s easy to see why he was cast. Cage’s singular, hammy performance fits the situation beautifully and It’s a new, different level of wacky Cage. The support cast all does a fine job as well. Specifically Joely Richardson and Madeleine Arthur. Also, Tommy Chong has a very fitting role in Color Out of Space. It is a supporting role that arrives as quite a nice surprise.
In some ways, this movie has all of the elements a genre fan could want. Creepy kids, mysterious space stuff, the crazy old man who actually might not be crazy, lots of blood, occult business, strange creatures. It’s all there. The question of whether or not those disparate pieces make for a satisfying whole will depend largely on the individual viewer’s personal sensibilities. But there are unquestionably excellent visuals and strong The Thing vibes going at points. I won’t pretend to fully understand what I witnessed, but I find myself continually thinking about it, and I always think that counts for something. I’m in for whatever Richard Stanley decides to do next, that much is certain. Color Out of Space is in theaters now from RLJE Films.