COLOR OUT OF SPACE
US, Malaysia, Portugal.
Director: Richard Stanley
Cast: Nicolas Cage (Nathan), Joely Richardson (Theresa), Madeleine Arthur (Lavinia)
When your expectations are not high is when you get the best surprises. Here is the case with Color Out of Space the new production of SpectreVision. Based on the short story «The Color out of Space» by H. P. Lovecraft, director Richard Stanley delivers a delirious adaptation of the original novel with a good dose of gore and black humor.
Right out of the gate, is a big surprise to see that director Richard Stanley working again after the fiasco in The Island of Doctor Moreau 24 years ago. What happened on that film set is one of the most disastrous stories ever in the history of cinema, so much so that it even merited a documentary called Lost Soul: The doomed journey of Richard Stanley’s Island of Dr. Moreau (2014). It is not shocking to discover Stanley’s love and dedication to this project after many years of being relegated.
The Gardner family recently moved to a house in the forest to get away from city life. But one night, a projectile falls from the sky on their property with dire consequences for all.
Some good performances.
The performances throughout the film are uneven. Nicolas Cage is becoming the king of the B-movies. He plays Nathan, Gardner’s head of the family. He stubbornly tries to hold together the family with a sick optimism despite the strange events surrounding their property. There is lingering remorse for bringing his family to a remote place to raise alpacas. Cage gives us one of those performances that you love or hate. His acting is a bit exaggerated but was constant in his quirkiness, and gradually begun to enjoy it. Madeleine Arthur has a good presence as Lavinia, the daughter, a little witch on her white steed bringing arcane touch to the story. Joely Richardson is adequate though there is little to say about the others.
Technical aspects and the meaning of magenta.
The rhythm of the film is uneven because of the direction and the writing. The story drags a little bit until the third act that is when all the fireworks start non-stop. What the script succeeds in are in the choices made adapting to the original story. The changes made on characters and locations are ingenious and are an apt addition to this adaptation. Also, the cinematography of Steve Annis stands out, and the great use of the color magenta that, like a radioactive infection, is poisoning everything around it. The magenta color is very particular since it does not exist as a light wave in the visible spectrum. Our eyes can only capture it with a proper combination of red and blue. These two colors represent good and evil. And this ambiguity, deliberately used by Stanley and the creators, is precisely what the color beings embody.
Lovecraft did not like the typical haunted house horror stories and ghosts. He created a new universe of ancient evil gods and cosmic horrors for whom human beings were nothing more than mere insects. These beings are not evil per se. The Gardners just got in their way. As in the original Lovecraft story, the color entities have several powers, such as the ability to mutate bodies, time control, distort reality, energy manipulation, etc.
SFX are a homage.
The other thing to stand out is the excellent special effects. Most of the SFX are practical to create grotesque and nightmarish creatures, a homage to the John Carpenter film The Thing. The lightning special effects that pour out of the color are astonishing. This balance between practical and CGI effects is notably effective.
The Colin Stetson soundtrack is dark and timely. For much of the film, there is no use of background music, but when there is one, it emphasizes the scene and gives strength to the feelings of bewilderment and despair that the characters go through.
Lovecraft fans will enjoy the many references to his life and work throughout the film. Positive aspects far outweigh the negatives and this makes this film one of the most worthy adaptations of the author’s stories.