If all you seek out of your movie-going experiences is a freaky technicolor narrative that features Nicolas Cage going full-tilt unhinged along the way, allow me to direct you toward Color Out of Space, the latest from eclectic writer/director Richard Stanley based on a story by H.P. Lovecraft. A weird, wild ride dressed up as a mainstream horror flick gone awry, Color Out of Space (Scarlett Amaris is also credited as a writer) is as head-scratchingly disjointed as it is curiously and unexpectedly entertaining. You won’t always know what’s going on or why, but you won’t be able to look away, either.
Cage is Nathan Gardner, a husband and father who’s moved his family—wife Theresa (Joely Richardson), daughter Lavinia (Madeleine Arthur) and sons Benny (Brendan Meyer) and Jack (Julian Hilliard)—back to his family’s farm…for some reason? Ostensibly to get away from the things people leave the city to get away from, though Theresa hasn’t given up her high-stakes job as a trader, working remotely from the farmhouse’s poorly lit attic. The oldest of the siblings, Lavinia spends her time channeling spells to cure her mother of breast cancer, while middle son Benny tends to the family’s prized alpacas (yes, alpacas) with his beloved dog Sam, and youngest boy Jack explores the house and property, including a cool old stone well out front. Oh, and there’s also a hydrologist named Ward (Elliot Knight) who stumbles on Lavinia mid-spell and gives her a heads up about the research he’s doing into the local water table.
After the film’s overly exhaustive exposition gets us that far, the family settles into their new home for a quiet night of their new normal…until. Until an unexplained force, all purple-pink glowy and loud, comes barreling towards them from outer space, literally crash-landing as a meteor on their front lawn and, apparently, infecting at least little Jack along the way. He’s not well, but the nearest hospital is over an hour away (because of course it is) and the family is too shaken up to think clearly about any of it anyway. When the sheriff and the mayor show up the next morning, a local news crew (because apparently there’s local news, just not a local hospital) isn’t far behind, everyone clamoring to understand what just happened on the Gardner farm. But there really isn’t an explanation for those vibrant fuchsia flowers popping up on the lawn or Theresa’s absent-mindedness while chopping vegetables for dinner.
Nor is there much of an explanation for anything in the film, as the possessed meteor and the creepy-crawlies inside it begin wreaking havoc on the Gardners in full force and Lavinia, Ward and…an off-the-grid hippie named Ezra (played by none other than Tommy Chong)…try to figure out what the hell is going on. In the end, it’s best not to seek logic or reason here and instead just revel in the sort of fully committed crazy only Cage can deliver. And deliver he does, becoming a blood-splattered, rifle-toting maniac who can’t decide if he’s trying to save his family or embrace the aliens among them. Amidst it all, the film ramps up visual and special effects that are actually quite impressive to behold, those fuchsia flowers propagating wildly across the lawn and the meteor’s monsters a mess of mucus and blood.
There are certainly horror films that manage their scares alongside something important to say about class differences, gender inequalities, you name it. Color Out of Space is not that kind of horror film. If anything, it makes a case for the complete opposite, a film that’s so messy and uneven that at a certain point, the best thing to do is to just stop looking for more and go along for the experience. It’s not exactly a “bad” movie, per se…but I wouldn’t be the one to argue that it’s any good, either.
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