Color Out of Space spirals cosmic horror into a horrifying family affair.
Color Out of Space is a weird fiction cosmic horror tale that is the love child of Lovecraft’s cosmic tale and 80’s body horror. It’s a great adaptation that captures the true mysterious horror and body horror told in the original story but placed in a modern setting.
It manages to revive the hundred year old feel of the story, and mixes it with practical gruesome body horror effects, resulting in a modern horror story for a new generation. It is beautifully shot, the color is amazingly wondrous, almost serene-like, which is an even bigger contrast with the gruesome terrifying horror. It’s a film that turns a simple story into a devastating journey into madness and mesmerizing frenzy.
Nathan Gardner and his wife Theresa live with their children at a rural farm, his childhood home, after she is recovering from cancer. Lavinia is into witchcraft which she hopes can help her mother, while Benny is into astronomy and little Jack is the youngest son who loves dinosaurs.
After the arrival of Ward Philips, a hydrologist who has to survey the water table for plans of a hydroelectric dam, something from outer space crashes into their front yard. The meteor spreads a strange pinkish light. The next morning the meteor seems to have vanished, only to have hidden itself in the well, which is the water supply for the Gardner family, their dog Sam, horse Comet and the four alpaca’s.
When Ward finds out that the water from the well is contaminated, it might be already too late for the Gardners, who slowly are descending into madness.
Why you should watch it
Color Out of Space feels fresh and true to the original story at the same time. The story slowly builds up, introducing the Gardner family. It is a very loving family. Nathan is a loving although a bit goofy husband and father. Theresa is coping well. Lavinia is the typical teenage daughter sometimes acting out, Benny is the quiet one and Jack is still a kid. It’s a very warm family which makes the doom that falls upon them even more devastating and horrible.
While it only affects them, and their well, the madness spreads only amongst them and the recluse Ezra and his cat G-Spot who live in a trailer on the premises. You know it’s not going to end well and that their fate is going to be a horrible one. That makes this film all the more gruesome and hard to watch.
When the water hits its mark, especially Nathan seems the most affected, turning into a harsh mean man and hardly resembles his loving and kind character. It creeps up slowly creating more horrifying events. Each member of the family reacts differently to the infected water. Hypnotizing them, making them aggressive, and losing time before losing themselves.
This is shot in a spellbinding way. Almost in silence but always with the color present, in the tv, near the well, it lingers in the sky. It’s an invisible presence except for the color, that is a sentient being with an unknown motivation that makes it even more terrible and terrifying for the family. It’s invasive and threatening, and disturbing.
Yet, the color is amazingly beautiful and manages to hypnotize, with its otherworldly beauty. New flowers bloom, new species like a praying mantis with butterfly wings are brought into existence, the peaches grow fast and big, but they taste horrible. Beautiful on the outside but bad on the inside, which reflects the misleading beauty of the deadly color.
The color itself is indeed mesmerizing and reminds of the 80’s special effects. The electricity it emits looks for example like One Dark Night (1982). And the practical effects are a true ode to the 80’s boy horror, like The Thing (1982). Although not that explicitly present in the original story that centers around the mystery and madness, the body horror that is used fits extremely well into the story and treats the audience to an unexpected surprise. The body horror is an extreme effect of what the color or what it actually is, is trying to do, feed of all that lives.
The mix between the body horror, the psychological horror that is done to the family, the cosmic horror, is so well-crafted into a fresh new take as if it has always been this story.
It does make it more gruesome and horrible. Especially what happened to Theresa and Jack. And the alpaca’s. It is gut-wrenching and hard to watch, all the more while it is shot with realism and without any form of comic relief. Without any form of relief, actually. It’s brutal, it’s relentless with now way out. It’s pure terror and dread.
My favorite part
Even if you do know the original story by heart, it still has a way to surprise you. I did not see coming what happened to Theresa and Jack. It was absolutely terrible and devastating. It’s very hard to watch and even more so because it keeps us a while in the dark what had happened to them. But when you do get a tiny glimpse, you feel immediately sickened. Not only the way they keep moaning, which is an awful sound, you wish they would stop, but it also happened to the most vulnerable members of the family. The way the others react is so well-done you immediately feel for them, thinking what must be done or can be done.
That makes this film a true horror, that is outstandingly combined with cosmic horror that leaves you in awe. Ultimately leaving you with devastation and despair. Another example is the way Nathan handles the alpaca’s. In his state it’s a combination of an appalling feeling, mercy and anger that makes it more real and also horrible to watch. There’s no real physical enemy to battle. Instead it’s his own family that turns into a monster. And that is the true horror.
Surreal factor: ★★★★★
Gruesome factor: ★★★★★
Originality factor: ★★★★★
Read more about Color Out of Space:
Cast and crew
Color Out of Space is based on the story The Colour Out of Space written by H.P. Lovecraft in 1927. It is directed and written by Richard Stanley and cowritten by Scarlett Amaris. It stars Nicolas Cage (Nathan), Joely Richardson (Theresa), Madeleine Arthur (Lavinia), Brendan Meyer (Benny), Julian Hilliard (Jack), Elliot Knight (Ward), Tommy Chong (Ezra) and Josh C. Waller (sheriff Pierce).
Duration: 111 minutes. Music: Colin Stetson. Cinematography: Steve Annis. Edited by: Brett W. Bachman. Produced by: Daniel Noah, Josh C. Waller, Elijah Wood, Lisa Whalen. Production company: SpectreVision. Distributed by: RLJE Films.