Based on a 1927 science fiction/horror story by H. P. Lovecraft, “Color Out of Space” is a strange film starring everyone’s favorite purveyor of strange performances, Nicolas “Dad’s been acting weird” Cage.
Cage is Nathan Gardner, a former artist living on his late father’s remote farm near the fictional town of Arkham, one of Lovecraft’s favorite settings. His family, Wiccan practitioner Lavinia (Madeleine Arthur), weed aficionado Benny and youngster Jack (Brendan Meyer and Julian Hilliard) and mother Theresa (Joely Richardson), leads a quiet if unconventional life until late one night when a meteorite crash lands on their front lawn. Unsure of what it is, Nathan calls the police. “I’m sorry about the smell,” he says. “Can you smell it? It’s like somebody lit a dog on fire.”
The smell will turn out to be the least of his problems.
The meteorite disappears over time but the effects of the crash landing linger. The Gardeners and their animals—they raise alpacas—begin acting strangely. Mom cuts her own fingers off as psychedelic hallucinations shroud the family’s thoughts. Hydrologist Ward (Elliot Knight), in the area surveying for a future dam project, thinks the water is poisoned but the real answer is a little more out there, as in outer space alien brain, out there.
Directed by Richard Stanley, who hasn’t made a feature since infamously being fired from 1996’s “The Island of Dr. Moreau,” “Color Out of Space” is a trippy, darkly humorous descent into madness. Lovecraft has proven tricky to adapt to the screen but Stanley does a good job here, building a sense of unease with a clever mix of CGI and practical special effects that build upon the natural disorienting nature of the story. Add to that body horror and cosmic terror, each heightened by the committed—read unhinged—performances from the leads and you have a movie that keeps the viewer as off-kilter as the characters they are watching.
“Color Out of Space” is a little uneven, cramming too many ideas into the mix, but the mix of two gonzo artists like Cage and Stanley offers up a movie that amps up the cinematic anxiety in unpredictable ways.