Combustible Celluloid
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With: Nicolas Cage, Joely Richardson, Madeleine Arthur, Elliot Knight, Tommy Chong, Brendan Meyer, Julian Hilliard, Josh C. Waller, Q'orianka Kilcher
Written by: Scarlett Amaris, Richard Stanley, based on a story by H.P. Lovecraft
Directed by: Richard Stanley
MPAA Rating: NR
Running Time: 111
Date: 01/24/2020

Color Out of Space (2020)

3 1/2 Stars (out of 4)

Dark Meteor

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

A clever, potent adaptation of a story by H.P. Lovecraft, this sci-fi shocker includes a little humor and some effective visual FX, but still somehow captures the original's unique, unnamable enigma.

In Color Out of Space, Nathan Gardner (Nicolas Cage) and his family, wife Theresa (Joely Richardson), daughter Lavinia (Madeleine Arthur), elder son Benny (Brendan Meyer), and youngest son Jack (Julian Hilliard), have given up life in the city to work Nathan's father's farm, near Arkham, raising alpacas.

A hydrologist, Ward Phillips (Elliot Knight) comes by to study the water in the area, just before a glowing meteor crashes into the Gardner's front yard. Everything begins to go haywire. Not only does Ward find that the water has been tainted, but Jack becomes sick, large, inedible fruits and vegetables grow, the animals begin to mutate, and everyone starts acting quite crazy, as odd colors begin to radiate everywhere.

Writer and director Richard Stanley (of the 1990 cult classic Hardware) and co-writer Scarlett Amaris bring Lovecraft's 1927 story up to the present day — and also discard the story's flashback structure — and yet manage to keep the original's moods and ideas intact. The evil is never explained or seen in Color Out of Space, except in the form of ethereal patterns of poisonous, seeping colors or in the shocking mutations of living things. It's constantly intriguing, and unsettling. (A great, insidious score by Hereditary's Colin Stetson helps.)

Cage's performance isn't quite as consistent as in the terrific horror film Mandy (2018) — when he gets unhinged here, it's inadvertently funny — but things balance out before the final act. Cage also provides some intentional humor, as when he watches himself being interviewed on TV about possible aliens, and Tommy Chong is likewise terrific as a freaky old hermit in the woods.

Q'orianka Kilcher co-stars as the mayor of Arkham, and it seems as if there might once have been more to her character; her appearances don't amount to much. But otherwise, the characters in Color Out of Space are vivid and dimensional, and their warm humanity lies in direct contrast to the horrors in the woods.

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