One of the bigger puzzle pieces making up the current Nic Cage renaissance, next to Mandy and this year’s Pig, Color Out of Space is a trippy Lovecraft adaptation by director Richard Stanley that’s currently streaming on Shudder.
Before I get to the movie itself, let’s take a moment to appreciate how singular the trajectory of Nicolas Cage’s career has been. He went from “acclaimed character actor” in the 80’s and early 90’s, to ” blockbuster action star” in the late 90’s, then after a brief detour back into acclaimed character actor mode, fell into a rather long “DTV action junk” slump to help pay off his rather sizable financial debts. He became a meme at this point, and a handful of eccentric indie filmmakers figured out how to utilize his unique brand of mega-acting to tell some funky stories.
Color Out of Space is just that kind of funky. Not as aggressively Weird as Mandy, mind you, but pretty strange nonetheless, as one should expect with a Lovecraft adaptation. The story is actually quite similar to the Lonesome Death of Jordy Verrill short from the original Creepshow: An alien meteor crash lands near a remote farmhouse and starts mutating the life around it in disturbing ways. Instead of a lone, mugging Stephen King battling viral plant life, it’s Cage, his wife and kids, and his prized alpacas against an alien entity that transforms both plant and animal life and creates acid-trip hallucinations (or are they?).
The Color of the title is a magenta-purple similar to the one that washed over much of Mandy. It starts out as a pure feast for the eyes, inspiring awe and curiosity in the characters before it starts inspiring terror. The centerpiece sequence sees two characters grotesquely fused together by the color, reminiscent of The Thing. Everything starts unraveling dramatically, not just for the family but for many of the residents of the small town being engulfed by the Color.
Fans of cosmic (or Weird) horror don’t get that many notable films to hang onto, so I’m guessing if that describes you, you’re already familiar with this movie. But it’s still accessible enough for any horror fan that’s able to tolerate some body horror and psychedelic visuals in their movies. Of course, Nic Cage gets to have some epic freakouts. Early in the film, shortly after the Color has landed, his behavior towards his family oscillates randomly between warmth and anger, sometimes in a single conversation. I attempted to look up whether the director instructed Cage to play the scene differently from take to take, then edited the different takes together to create this bi-polar performance, but I couldn’t confirm it.
I find myself becoming more drawn to bizarre horror movies lately, like this and The Lighthouse. Mandy was too weird for me, but this one was just right. I don’t see it becoming a repeat watcher, but I’m glad to have seen it.