Beauty, Madness and Nic Cage: A Review of “Color Out of Space”

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I need to start with a disclaimer: unlike some of the other City of Geek members, I am not a Lovecraft superfan. I understand Lovecraftian horror and its tropes. I have read some of his work, but not all. And I have not read the short story that inspired Color Out of Space. Something I am actually glad for.

The Color Out of Space is based on the HP Lovecraft short story of the same name. The film was written and directed by Richard Stanley, known to most horror fans as the guy that wrote and directed Hardware and Dust Devil as well as the guy who tried to direct The Island of Dr. Moreau.

Nicolas Cage, everyone’s favorite naturalistic actor, plays Nathan Gardner. His family inherited Nathan’s fathers farm fairly recently. They’ve taken to raising alpacas (if you need a drinking game to go with this film, take a drink every time the word “alpaca” is said.) His wife, Theresa Gardner. played by the underrated Joely Richardson, is recently in remission from breast cancer and seems to be the sole person supporting their family of three kids. Lavinia (Madeleine Arthur), a budding Wicca, Benny (Brendan Meyer), an established stoner, and the youngest, Jack (Julian Hilliard), a professionally adorable child who talks at wells. Ward, a hydrologist (Elliot Knight), arrives to look into some problems with the local water supply. This leads to some particularly delightful scenes where he interviews local hermit Ezra, (a delightful Tommy Chong) as well as one where he gets a lesson on milking an alpaca. Yes. Milking an alpaca. After a meteorite crashes on their property, the families behavior transforms from dysfunctional to plum weird and alarming. Their stability deteriorates quickly, even as their home is changing around them. They start to question their own reality and what this meteorite may actually be.

Who you gonna call when you need some delightful crazy and erratic behavior? Nic Cage! Let’s face it. Nicolas Cage is not an actor who is known for his subtlety. He’s made a career out of his “Cage Rage.” Those hoping for that particular vintage of Cage will not be disappointed. This is full metal Cage. Nic Cage in all his Nic Cage glory. By now, he know what the audiences want from him and he delivers full force. Give special notice to his hand gestures, they are in rare form. Some of the best lines, and the lines that got the biggest audience reaction, come from Cage. His deadpan delivery and often just batshit remarks make seeing the movie worth it.

As a whole, the cast is strong. Arthur as Lavinia shines on camera. Hilliard, who genre fans may recognize as the young Luke in Haunting of Hill House, manages to be both darling and utterly creepy at the same time! When his tiny, adorable face says, “He’s talking to me…The man in the well.” Chills. 

I’ve been a fan of Joely Richardson’s since her days on Nip/Tuck and always find her to be a wonderful addition to a cast. She manages to blend in seamlessly, whatever genre she is in, and fully commit in a way that feels utterly natural. Her engagement on every level telegraphs nicely in the close-up moments. Tommy Chong’s Ezra is surprising breath of fresh air, delivering both exactly what you would expect from him, and yet also something unexpected. He is perfectly cast.

The visuals are stunning. Unsettling camera angles, beautiful cinematography and a color pallet drenched in every shade of pink imaginable. The production design is gorgeous and deserves to be view on the big screen to receive the full impact of the world. As the Gardner’s unravel further and further, the madness manifests in the design.

Ultimately, The Color Out of Space is a vastly entertaining look at a story that all genre fans have seen before. Though the story may be one we’ve seen before, Stanley manges to make it worthwhile.  The casting and design are impeccable. The humor hits and the visuals are opulent and epic. If you are a fan of Nicolas Cage, this movie is required viewing. If you are a fan of visual acid trips, then get thee to a theater. If you’re not sure, just go see it. I promise you may experience many things, but boredom will not be one of them.

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