In many ways, it’s kind of surprising that a movie like Color Out of Space even happened. Director Richard Stanley had been coming off of a 24 year directing hiatus, and there hadn’t really been a “mainstream” H.P. Lovecraft adaptation since Dagon almost 20 years prior.
But the stars (and other things) all aligned to produce this very strange film. One that people argue is both over and underrated. But is it possible that it could be both? Let’s find out!
Capturing the Cosmic Tone
When it comes to Lovecraft’s cosmic horror and fear of the unknown (which we can’t ignore was based on is vehement racism) the tone and mood are far more important that the narrative itself. Much like European surrealist horror, it’s mean to capture a feeling of tension, uneasiness, and at times downright terror.
So the odd choices of the father raising alpacas, or the overall underdevelopment of the characters, or the complete lack of explanation for the cosmic event are all deliberate choices. Richard Stanley’s goal was to disturb, in that respect he’s mostly successful.
Even the use of magenta for the titular color is a specific, but very effective choice. Magenta itself is known as an extra-spectral color, meaning it’s not on the regular spectrum and made by blending them. It’s a mixture of both red and blue, thus giving is a contrasting, almost other-worldly feel to it.
Then we of course have people and animals fusing together to produce creatures that look like something out of John Carpenter’s The Thing. Sure there are some moments of questionable CGI, like when the “color” is moving through the air, but for the most part, its grotesque creations are done via practical effects and they look awesomely horrifying.
Nicholas Cage At His Best
We need to talk about Nicholas Cage. No other actor can be equally awesome, hilarious, cheesy, and terrible all at the same time. Community even did an episode where Abed goes insane because Cage doesn’t fit on his spectrum of good or bad actors. Ultimately he’s undefinable and this movie is a perfect example of that.
Cage is by far at his most entertaining when he’s losing his cool and going fully insane. Stanley even told him to emulate his classic performance in 1988’s Vampire’s Kiss, one of his earliest roles where he went off the rails, so to speak.
As the situation worsens, we see Cage’s character getting more and more unhinged. It works because even when he’s spouting lines that are completely ridiculous in an over the top absurd manner, he’s committing to it 100%, and that’s the different between Nicholas Cage and most other actors.
More to Come?
Perhaps most interesting of all, Color Out of Space was merely the first of three films planned by Richard Stanley. During a Q&A event for this movie, he revealed that the next chapter in this trilogy would be an adaptation of “The Dunwich Horror”, another Lovecraft short story that deals directly with Cthulhu himself.
Given how the uncertain the industry is and the fact that Color Out of Space got a limited release, it’s not certain that this follow up will ever happen. But hopefully it does happen, because there’s a lot of places to take the story from here, including making it go global.
What do you think of Color Out of Space? What’s your favorite H.P. Lovecraft adaptation? Let us know in the comments.