Saturday, 14 November 2020

Color Out of Space (2019) - Horror Film Review

H.P Lovecraft is the only horror author who has ever been able to genuinely scare me with his writings. His many stories managed to tap into something that makes it feel like you are losing a part of your soul reading them, I find them all to be terrifying. Adapting any of his work always loses the essence of what made them so effective. I have seen many film adaptations over the years and while many have been decent, they haven't been scary. Such is the case with Richard Stanley's (The Island of Dr. Moreau, Dust Devil) Color Out of Space, a modern day reimagining of the 1927 classic short story.

Nathan Gardner (Nicolas Cage - Mandy) lives with his wife, Theresa (Joely Richardson - Event Horizon) and their three children, Lavinia (Madeleine Arthur - Snowpiercer), Benny (Fear the Walking Dead: Flight 462) and Jack (Julian Hilliard - The Haunting of Hill House) out in the country. One night a meteorite crashes near their property. The meteorite brings change to the land, mutating the animals, changing the landscape, and slowly turning the Gardner family insane. Meanwhile, a young hydrologist, Ward (Elliot Knight - American Gothic) discovers that since the strike, the water in the area has been displaying bizarre readings.

This wasn't an easy film to follow, yet a hell of a lot easier than Mandy was (this comes from the producers of that one). To begin with it felt fresh seeing Cage playing a more down to earth role, but this eccentric actor gets to ramp up his performance as the movie plays out. Cracks begin to show with his frequent tantrums, and by the third act he has gone pretty crazy, something that Cage excels at portraying. The story is so weird and it has many moving parts to it. The key concept for all the horror that unfolds is the strange 'color out of space' which is able to affect reality in a whole host of abstract ways. It has the ability to bend time, changing day to night almost instantly, it can affect radio waves and cause people to behave erratically. It also brought with it an unexpected feeling of John Carpenter's The Thing, was a joy to see several monsters that looked they had walked off the set of that film. It includes a small herd of alpacas who get fused together in some sort of painful looking mess, leading to one of the more nightmarish moments.

Due to events a few of the characters get side lined early on. Out of all the characters it was Lavinia who was the most captivating, and was almost more of a protagonist than Nathan was. She also had the most iconic look, having carved runes into her flesh (most notably her forehead) early into the film's second act. The erratic behaviour of the characters meant it was hard to ever get a feel for what was going on. They give set goals, such as Lavinia and Benny wanting to escape the property, but then due to the effects of the color out of space they sleepwalk their way into a host of minor subplots. No characters really got much of a deep development to them so it was good that the film was so visually interesting.

Magenta is the colour used to represent the color, and frequently the entire film gets bathed in it. In general the more crazy a scene is getting the more bathed in this colour it is. Despite this the film was never as trippy as it felt it could be, it avoids becoming abstract even if its story being told is really 'out there' and confusing. The story was never meant to be easy to understand but it did feel a little like it was lacking a clear way forward. The special effects are good for the most part and the filmmaking in general was very good.

Color Out of Space was a film I appreciated more than enjoyed. I loved watching it, and I found it to be a great adaptation, but story wise it felt slightly aimless. I do love that it exists though, anything H.P Lovecraft related is always going to appeal. By the time the credits rolled rather than dwelling on what I had just watched I found myself instead thinking I really need to go read some Lovecraft.


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