The 400-Word Review: Color Out of Space

Nicolas Cage milks alpacas and eventually loses his mind in this bizarre scifi flick.


There’s a bland name for a recent category of genre fiction: “The New Weird.” The name is meant to distinguish a certain breed of contemporary horror and science fiction (the film “Annihilation” is the most prominent example) from its forebearers.

The writer H.P. Lovecraft, then, is the “old weird.” Lovecraft’s works of cosmic, bizarre horror and sci-fi are enormously influential; they do not, however, necessarily hold up for modern audiences.

“Color Out of Space,” then, is a risky prospect: It’s an adaptation of a Lovecraft story done, pretty directly, in the style of “Annihilation.” Sometimes telling an old story in modern terms can work. In this case … well, it would be inaccurate to say that it works, but it certainly does something.

At least the fifth big-screen adaptation of the story, “Color Out of Space” concerns a quirky but loving rural family, the Gardners, whose hardscrabble existence is disrupted one night by a meteorite crash. In short order, the extraterrestrial rock begins having unusual effects on the family — and the squatter that lives on their property has deep concerns.

Yes, a squatter lives on the family’s property. He is played by Tommy Chong.

Things get very weird from there. The headline uncanniness comes from the performance of Nicolas Cage, playing patriarch Nathan; in a movie such as this, it is a very good idea to ask Nic Cage to loudly go bananas. The nominal protagonist is teen daughter Lavinia (Madeleine Arthur), but the camera can’t stay away from Cage’s overcooked ham.

“Color Out of Space” neither leans into its persistent madness nor shies away from it. At a certain point, it dons absurdity as if putting on an oversized coat, then promptly forgets about it; the movie just continues, wearing a coat made of madness, until it reaches a logical conclusion.

I would not actually call “Color Out of Space” a good movie. (The director is Richard Stanley, best known for getting booted off the set of his 1996 “Island of Dr. Moreau” adaptation after only one week of shooting.) It’s a mess and an oddly ambivalent mess at that.

I have to softly recommend it, yet, on the basis of … well, pure wackiness. It’s not deliberately bizarre like many midnight features, but that in and of itself is interesting. “Color Out of Space” is completely off the wall without seeming to have noticed how odd it is.

My Rating: 5/10

“Color Out of Space” makes its local premiere at the Harris Theater through Thursday, Jan. 30.

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