Color Out of Space Review: Stanley delivers visually stunning body horror at its best
Adapting the works of iconic horror author H.P. Lovecraft is no easy task. From the strangeness of his characters, creatures, and stories to the carefully crafted themes of his stories, Lovecraftian horror isn’t like most other kinds of horror. However, writer/director Richard Stanley pulls it off in incredible fashion with his adaptation of the Lovecraft short story, of a similar name, Color Out of Space.
The film follows the Gardner family, a strange but simple family living on a rural farm and living off the land in Arkham, Massachusetts. One night, their land is struck by a meteorite that emits a bright and vibrant color that’s incredibly entrancing and has unique effects on each family member. As each day and night passes, the meteorite causes the environment to change and has drastic affects on the Gardners after it infects their drinking water. The family begins to experience hallucinatory horrors and have to fend against otherworldly forces that threaten to tear them apart.
When you’re adapting something as strange and weird as Lovecraft, you want to lean into the weirdness as much as you can – and Stanley shows he has no problem with that. From the strange obsession that the family patriarch, Nathan (Nicolas Cage), with his alpacas to Lavinia’s (Madeleine Arthur) interest in the occult, there’re already plenty of interesting and strange quirks to the Gardners that are heightened when the meteorite crashes in their front yard. Between all the horrors, the film has a great sense of humor and heart that stems from the solid performances from the entire cast. The dynamic and chemistry of the family is believable, it’s easy to become invested into the family’s struggles both before and after things change, and if you love all the weird that comes from Cage’s performance and line-delivery, you’ll adore him here. Honestly, even just seeing Tommy Chong on-screen was an absolute treat and they all come together to create a humorous chemistry that fits nicely between all of the glorious horror that Stanley carefully crafts.
Color Out of Space offers a strong variety of horror that will please any kind of horror fan and gore that feels right at home with Lovecraft. The entire sequence of meteorite coming in great as it not only gives viewers a glimpse of entrancing color palette but provides horrifying visuals as we see how its entry affects each member of the family. I really appreciate the patience Stanley has in building up the batshit horrors he has in-store for the film’s finale and he builds some solid sequences of suspense. They’re the kind of sequences where you could see the horrifying end result coming, but it slowly builds so you can only writhe in being unable to stop it. The same can be said about the meteorite’s effects on the land as we see how it becomes more and more embedded into the environment. From the way it sprouts strange plants to the purple haze that begins to cover the area, it really feels as if a new world is sprouting and becoming more dominant as each day passes.
Stanley also utilizes some incredible body horror moments to give viewers goosebumps and evoke the kind of gory good time that’ll please any gore hound. The creepy concoctions that Stanley brings to life are incredibly creepy and feel very inspired by John Carpenter’s adaptation of The Thing. From grotesquely conjoined people to the strange energy from the meteorite turning the alpacas into a monstrosity, Stanley uses a solid mix of practical and digital effects to create creatures perfectly fitting for a Lovecraftian story. Admittedly, the digital effects can be very noticeably cheap looking, which can detract from certain scenes, but there’s a part of me that kind of liked it as it made them feel a little more otherworldly and like they didn’t belong.
What’s most appreciated about Stanley’s adaptation, though, is the simplicity and slow-building narrative that he and co-writer Scarlett Amaris bring. Like I said before, the film does a great job setting up each family member’s issues that the strange new force exploits at every turn and I actually liked the side plot of Ward (Elliot Knight), a hydrologist investigating the area, finding new information about the meteorite’s effects on the land. Stanley displays a disciplined patience in unleashing all of insaneness and horror that comes in the film’s second and third act and it leads to a story about a family’s demise that’s very interesting to watch. There’re some cliché horror moments where characters make strange decision that feel driven for plot purposes and conflict with the way characters have been built. However, seeing everything come together, and apart, in the final act is very enthralling and does evoke some emotion because of how well the family dynamic and chemistry hits. Not to mention, Stanley’s use of color in the film’s final moments are just perfect and very effective in the film final shots.
Color Out of Space is a welcomed return for Stanley as a director and puts viewers on a Lovecraftian journey that can’t be missed. It boasts a fun and wild performance from Cage and displays a style of horror that’s just rarely seen anymore. Stanley delivers everything that horror fans could want and it makes Color Out of Space the first must-see horror experience of the decade.