Colour Out of Space

When a meteor lands in the front yard of the Gardner farm, a seemingly innocuous mountain range town in Massachusetts begins to experience the bizarre and unnatural in Richard Stanley’s modern imagining of H.P. Lovecraft’s seminal short The Colour Out of Space.

Uprooting their family from a life in the city to one of almost complete seclusion in the “sticks” of Arkham, Massachusetts, Nathan and Theresa Gardner (played with genuine hilarity and heart by Nicolas Cage and Joely Richardson) are completely ill-equipped for farm life. Recovering from cancer, Theresa spends her days battling a bad internet connection while her goofy husband tries to raise alpacas (yes, alpacas), while lamenting over the unachievable standards set by his late father. Their children, Wiccan and heavy metal enthusiast Lavinia, stoner Benny, and youngest Jack are each left to adjust in their own ways. On the whole we are presented with an offbeat but lovable family that clearly have nothing but deep affection for each other, even when they’re throwing verbal barbs.

When the meteor first lands on their property, the phenomenon draws a small crowd. Law enforcement, the town Mayor, and a handsome young hydrologist named Ward (the story’s key narrator) all make their appearance at the Gardner farm to spectate. The meteor then soon disappears in a freak lightning storm, but not before leaving behind a growing evil that begins to toy with those living on the property. Strange flowers bloom, produce begins to taste foul, livestock behave strangely, and electronics falter. The water, as determined by Ward, the handsome hydrologist, has been poisoned.

Jack (played by young Julian Hilliard who first made his mark on the genre in Netflix series The Haunting of Hill House) is the first to show noticeable signs of infection by something unknown, as he starts spending hours speaking with his “friends” in the well. Quickly and without much warning, the crazy on the Gardner farm begins to escalate; Nathan’s personality makes dramatic shifts between sweet dad and a bizarre Donald Trump caricature that is equal parts gut-bustingly funny and terrifying as hell, Benny begins to lose time (and himself) on the property and Lavinia becomes violently ill at the drop of a hat.

Even as we watch all of this unfold, we never once see the culprit as anything more than “The Colour”. It’s hard to imagine a colour could ever be capable of causing audiences to feel unsettled, however DP Steve Annis magically finds a way. His choice of a vivid fuschia pink to represent the looming terror on the Gardner farm effectively creates an internal contrast between the visually beautiful and internally haunting that leaves the characters (and viewers) wary while simultaneously drawing them into its depths.

Propelled by deliberately over-the-top special effects that in any other film would simply look ridiculous, Stanley took a truly valiant stab at Lovecraft’s most popular piece (even including references to his other works like Lavinia’s copy of History of the Necronomicon) and produces a body of work that is incredibly entertaining, funny, and tense in equal measure that requires the audience to use their imagination up until the very last moment when the true extent of the horror on the Gardner farm is revealed. Cage shines in his role as the fumbling father, and young Madeleine Arthur is a delight as the vocally dissident and quietly caring daughter of the house. A great foray into the splice of horror/sci-fi, Stanley’s Colour Out of Space adaptation is a great time for lovers of either genre.

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