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film review

In Color out of Space, a town is struck by a meteorite and the fallout is catastrophic.Courtesy of VVS

  • Color out of Space
  • Director: Richard Stanley
  • Writers: Scarlett Amaris, H.P. Lovecraft, Richard Stanley
  • Cast: Nicolas Cage, Joely Richardson, Madeleine Arthur, Brendan Meyer, Tommy Chong
  • Classification: 18A, 111 mins.


3.5 out of 4 stars

The plot revolves around a disconnected family unit who’ve moved into woodsy middle of nowhere.Courtesy of VVS

One of my favourite genres has always been “Nicolas Cage ranting insanely about animals.” Joining a legendary canon that includes The Wicker Man (“Not the bees!”) and Werner Herzog’s Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans (“What are these iguanas doing on my coffee table?!”) is a worthy new contender. Color Out of Space predominantly features Nicolas Cage ranting insanely about his pack of prestige alpacas who are slowly becoming poisoned by an extraterrestrial life force. And if you’re looking for a film during the slow theatrical death march of late January, you could do far worse.

Arriving in theatres this weekend: The Gentlemen, Color out of Space and The Last Full Measure

This is a crazed alien invasion horror movie that puts up a brave front as a family drama, faithfully adapted from a 1927 short story by H.P. Lovecraft. It represents a comeback for filmmaker Richard Stanley, whose last feature effort was a failed 1996 attempt to adapt his dream project, The Island of Dr. Moreau. (Stanley was sadly replaced by director John Frankenheimer half a week after shooting began. If you’re interested, the 2004 documentary Lost Soul: The Doomed Journey of Richard Stanley’s Island of Dr. Moreau tells his side of the story.) Here, you see how Stanley’s flair for finessing an over-the-top theatrical performance and creating monstrosity out of anything could’ve turned that doomed, stupid movie into radical art. Whether it’s the magenta-hued skies, pile up of alpaca corpses or a bizarro cameo by Tommy Chong, everything in Color Out of Space feels as though it’s best experienced with several tabs of acid.

The plot revolves around a disconnected family unit who’ve moved into woodsy middle of nowhere. They love animals, which the movie uses to foretell a disturbance in the force: they have a dog, a horse, those blasted alpacas. There are two angsty teens (a gothic girl, played by the compelling Madeleine Arthur and an older stoner son, played by Brendan Meyer, who barely registers) tasked with looking after their younger brother (Julian Hilliard), who is obsessed with communicating with a voice in a well only he can hear. Meanwhile, their parents (Joely Richardson and the notorious Cage) cope with light PG-13 intimacy issues, which necessitates my other favourite staple in the Nicolas Cage canon: very committed sex scenes in which he tries to seduce a disinterested wife. (See: Face/Off, Zandalee, Peggy Sue Got Married.) Stanley’s worthy contribution sees Cage repeating the phrase “You’ll always be my golden lady” ad nauseam.

There are two angsty teens tasked with looking after their younger brother, who is obsessed with communicating with a voice in a well only he can hear.Gustavo Figueiredo Photography/Courtesy of VVS

Everything goes haywire when a meteorite crash lands on the family’s property. It poisons their water, scrambles the cellular towers and turns the fauna, flora and skies into hypercolour pastel. Stanley doesn’t hold back on visionary gore, and some of his images are genuinely hypnotic. The family goes nuts: Goth daughter carves pentagrams into her chest, sexless mom cuts off her own fingers, despondent child communes with his well demon and the druggy son asks expositional questions such as, “What’s happening right now?” and “Where’s dad?” Meanwhile, Cage turns into his most evolved evil final form, which happily for me includes more nonsensical ranting as he guns down his treasured alpacas.

That’s this movie, and it sounds kind of awesome, right? Well, you have to excuse some things, such as a boring C-story about a well intentioned water inspector trying to solve a government conspiracy. Past the surface flaws of Color Out of Space, there are shiny Cage diamonds to be found, such as a scene in which the actor hovers over the lily white corpse of his wife, who struggles to breathe, having just consumed her youngest child back inside her womb. Cage feels really torn up, so he intermittently points a shotgun at her head between some very sensual open-mouthed kissing, and I guess I will never not be down for that. Sound the gong of transcendent Nicolas Cage weirdness, Color Out of Space gets 3.5 alpacas from me!

Everything in Color Out of Space feels like it’s best experienced with several tabs of acid.Gustavo Figueiredo Photography/Courtesy of VVS

Color out of Space opens in major markets on January 24 and in Waterloo, Hamilton and Kamloops on Feb 21.

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