Star Rating:

Color Out of Space

Director: Richard Stanley

Actors: Nicolas Cage, Joely Richardson, Q'Orianka Kilcher, Madeleine Arthur

Release Date: Friday 28th February 2020

Genre(s): Horror, Sci-Fi

Running time: 111 minutes

While ‘Color Out of Space is a serviceable sci-fi, the horror is lacking...

On the Gardner's farmstead, a strange meteorite crashes. It soon becomes clear that it contains an entity that can alter the very fabric of reality. Soon the family find their existence blighted by the threads of reality being unpicked around them.

Considering that Lovecraft has been dead for 80 years, we are yet to see an accurate adaption of his work. Like Poe, it seems that those that are prone to adapt his work are the most likely to misunderstand the fundamental building blocks that make it function. While ‘Color Out of Space is a serviceable sci-fi, the horror is lacking.

The film's main problem is its lack of imagination. Here is a force that can bend time and space but spends most of its powers making the TV flicker. There are nods to strange passages of time but it doesn't manifest on screen. The production is limited by its budget, so surely it would have made more sense to focus on the metaphysical elements of the story than the body horror. It takes the Stuart Gordon approach to adapting Lovecraft, and while I like 'Re-Animator' as much as the next person, it just feels like a relic of the past.

It also lacks a coherent central character. That is not essential for horror to work, but the character arcs start getting in each other’s way so no one gets developed properly. It also means that Nic Cage gets underused as well, which I guess if you're lukewarm about him as an actor might be a good thing. But for Cage fans, he kind of slips in and out and you never get the real “jazz actor” you want. It certainly doesn’t feel like he is phoning it in, it's just he’s not given much to work with nor let off the leash. Tommy Chong’s character also feels underused though he does get to be involved in one of the creepier moments the film musters.

In terms of set up and pacing it suffers from being released too close to ‘Annihilation’, an adaptation that shares a lot of DNA from the source material. But then it also suffers from sharing monster design too similar to John Carpenter's version of ‘The Thing’ - another film that takes a lot of cues from Lovecraft’s short story. Admittedly that is hard to avoid within the nature of adapting such a well-loved tale, but Richard Stanley's retelling has some really strong moments. These always come from either using assets of the story that other directors scarcely touch or using the entire thing as a jumping-off point and doing something a little different.

There is plenty here to like and I hope it is the start of some fruitful collaborations. But when Lovecraft described the entity from the story as “a frightful messenger from unformed realms of infinity beyond all Nature as we know it” and the best the effects team can muster is 'Ghostbusters 2’ slime colour, it just points to a lack of uniqueness.