The new film from Richard Stanley, his first since being fired as the director in the middle of production of the awful Island of Dr. Moreau film with Val Kilmer and Marlon Brando in the mid 90s, COLOR OUT OF SPACE is masterful in its atmospheric tension, cinematography (the word color is in the title, duh), and probably the best body horror I have ever seen since John Carpenter’s remake of The Thing and some of David Cronenberg’s best work. Unfortunately, the acting and dialogue get in the way from it being a true masterpiece of sci-fi horror based off a H.P. Lovecraft story. When you hire Nic Cage, you are really taking a major gamble. Is he going to go full Nic Cage and deliver an weird, yet beautiful performance like he did in the recent revenge film Mandy or Leaving Las Vegas (for which he won an Oscar), is he going to just show up and read the dialogue for a paycheck like he does in more than half of his direct to video films nowadays, or is he going not quite go full Nic Cage, for an uneven yet fascinating performance? Thankfully, it was not option two, but unfortunately, it is option three. But I’m not necessarily blaming Nic Cage for this. I blame the script and I also read that Stanley asked Cage to basically do his performance from Vampire’s Kiss. Yeah…don’t do that. Let Cage be Cage. You either go full Cage or you don’t. Sometimes you can get a happy medium like the National Treasure films, but mostly you are clamoring for more Castor Troy on acid.
Color Out Of Space is about a family that lives out on a rural farm after the wife has a mastectomy, and one night a giant meteor hits their land. This is no ordinary meteor as it glows a very bright and ominous pink/purplish shade and then the next day it is gone after being struck several times by lightning. Then strange shit starts to happen. Body horror type proportion of shit. The second half of the film is much better than the first, with visuals and amazing horror elements to tell the story and less of the hackneyed dialogue and strange acting that plagued the first half. If you like David Cronenberg body horror films like The Fly, or crave some of that awesome body horror practical effect work like in John Carpenter’s remake of The Thing, then this film is certainly right up your alley. Whether you like this or not is if you can appreciate all the weird stuff in it. For example, if you liked the really weird ending to Alex Garland’s Annihilation with Natalie Portman and still love that film as I do, then you’ll really like this film, and only the human acting and dialogue is going to maybe keep you from thinking it is a true class act in horror. There are some gorgeous shots in this movie, especially when everything gets all light pink/purplish. But the main thing to devour is the body horror. There is some really fucked up shit in this film, NO CHARACTER YOUNG OR OLD IS SAFE, so if you are looking for something with a Hollywood ending, look elsewhere.
I would love to see director Richard Stanley direct a 100% solid screenplay, one that he didn’t have a hand in writing except for maybe atmospheric descriptions. Get him away from dialogue, because the more you hear the word alpacas in this movie, the more you’ll cringe. We do get several brilliant displays of Nic Cage going full Cage in this movie, but it isn’t FULL Cage, which was somewhat disappointing. And you can’t blame Cage for this let down this time, blame Stanley, who asked Cage to basically copy mannerism by mannerism of his performance in the cult classic Vampire’s Kiss. And I think the story was supposed to have his father character be somewhat sane and relatable at the beginning of the film before shit hits the fan, but Cage’s weird acting doesn’t make any of that transition quite clear. When we first see Cage, we notice something is off. If Stanley would’ve told Cage to be just National Treasure normal at first or family man loving wise like his performance in…well, The Family Man, and then go full Cage once shit went down, it could’ve been one hell of a show. Unfortunately, the dial is always set at 9 in this film, when it needed to be a 1 or 2, and then straight to Spinal Tap 11.
There are other people in this movie to, and they do an okay job, its just that the realistic dialogue in this is incredibly lacking. But then again Richard Stanley got to do his entire uninterrupted vision for once with this film, and that always has to be commended. If any of what I described to you sounds….well…strange, I can guarantee you that this film isn’t for you. This film is for movie geeks and freaks like me, that study shit like this over and over again to see what went incredibly wrong or what went incredibly right. This film stayed somewhere in the middle of that spectrum, and when the visuals did the talking, it hit the incredibly right end of it several times, especially the body horror shit, that I can’t get out of my mind and will likely have nightmares about in the future.