Directed and co-written by Richard Stanley
Color Out of Space tells the story of the Gardner family who have recently moved from the city to a country farm outside the town of Arkham. The mother Theresa (Joely Richardson) is recovering from a mastectomy and the father Nathan (Nicolas Cage) sees it as a way to begin again for the whole family. One night a meteorite lands in the family yard in a flash of noise and color. From there things begin to change. Strange plants appear. Animals change or disappear. And even some new ones show up.
All this is accompanied by a strange and unearthly color that infects everything. We watch as reality for the family begins to break down and this light is revealed to be an intelligence from the stars that corrupts and alters anything it can touch.
The film is one of several adaptions of a story by HP Lovecraft. My knowledge of that author is very limited, so I went into this film with no expectations and I was pleasantly surprised by what I saw. It delivered plenty of creep along with a very well told story. From what I understand the original story was an attempt to create something truly unearthly coming to earth. This movie accomplishes that. This creature is unique among movie aliens. It’s a living light, but it is not some evolved creature of superior morality as living lights creatures are usually portrayed. It’s as much of an intelligent predator as it is anything else.
The film is billed as a horror film but it’s not scary. There’s maybe one jump scare in its whole runtime but nothing else. It has a tense atmosphere more than anything. Over the course of the film you watch the influence of the color grow on the family. You watch how it infects them and everything else and warps and destroys their minds and occasionally even their bodies. What happens to the mother and youngest son is just gross. I still shiver thinking about it.
Each family member has a unique reaction to the color. The youngest son Jack (Julian Hilliard) is the first to be affected. He’s rendered briefly catatonic after the crash and the accompanying light. Not too unusual of a reaction but in a movie like this every reaction is an unusual reaction. Right after the crash you see small changes in the personalities of the family. The father becomes a little angrier and a little less caring about his family. They’re raising alpacas and he begins to place a great deal more importance on the animals that he had previously.
The mother becomes quicker to anger and even takes jabs at her family. The oldest son Benny (Brendan Meyer) is a lot less relaxed and grows more nervous and tense. Lavinia (Madeleine Arthur) who is the first character we see is slowly becoming ill. And what the light is doing is personified in the vegetables that the father is growing. Beautiful tomatoes are completely inedible.
For a low budget film the cast is surprisingly good which is important since this film is focused on the characters They are all very talented. That includes the lesser known individuals among the cast. Joely Richardson is very good in her role. She’s serviceable enough as a mother but much more effective as a career minded individual whose drive to succeed and feelings about her situation and family is twisted by the color into madness.
Nicolas Cage plays the father Nathan Gardner. He does a more muted version of his usual thing for most of the movie and it works very well here. He is great as a father slowly falling apart. It’s not until the very end at the climax when he goes full out Nicolas Cage. There his unusual style helps to highlight the weirdness of the ending.
Tommy Chong makes what amounts to be a cameo in this movie but it’s such a good cameo. He plays a character named Ezra that lives on the family’s property. How this came to be is never really explained but that’s not important. Ezra is a former electrician and current stoner who smokes pot with the oldest son. His character fulfills the role of the person that knows what’s really going on from the beginning. When it’s obvious that something is wrong Ezra’s lines though delivered pleasantly take on some menace. The recording that he delivers at the end sent chills up and down my spine because it was just so freaky. I didn’t think Chong would work in this movie, but he was just so very good.
Madeleine Arthur shows some real ability as Lavinia. Lavinia is a practicing Wiccan in an attempt to keep her mother cancer free. The character clearly takes it seriously. I didn’t expect too much from the cast being that this is a low budget film, but she turned in a very good performance. Of the younger members of the cast she was the most effective. And she was especially creepy in the films climax. Definitely very disturbing and she didn’t even do that much. It was all the way she carried herself.
The tension builds ever so slow slowly but steadily up to the climax. And it really pays off. The visuals at the end of the movie are unlike anything else I’ve seen before. They accomplished something visually satisfying on a small budget. They created an effect that looked at times like smearing paint on a canvas. It was surreal and frightening and drove home the unearthly nature of it all.
This is a much better movie than I thought it would be. I expected to be mildly entertaining, but I honestly was very thrilled with it. It’s a low budget film that really delivers. This is definitely something to add to your horror collection. If you find it, get it and watch it. It is visually impressive and has a great story supported by wonderful performances. When you watch this you won’t be disappointed.