Monday Morning Movie Review: Color Out of Space (2019)

My blogger buddy photog over at Orion’s Cold Fire I are both publishing our reviews of The Color Out of Space simultaneously.  You can read his screed against this cinematic butchering of the Lovecraft story here:  https://orionscoldfire.com/index.php/2021/06/14/color-out-of-space-2019-a-science-fiction-and-fantasy-movie-review/

A few weeks ago, my blogger buddy photog over at Orion’s Cold Fire wrote a brief blog post comparing Nicolas Cage to William Shatner.  In it, he announced that Nicolas Cage starred in an adaptation of an H.P. Lovecraft story, “The Colour Out of Space.”

Naturally, I immediately went to RedBox and (with a coupon code, of course) and rented The Color Out of Space on-demand.  As a fan of Lovecraft’s weird tales and Nicolas Cage’s weird acting, I had to see this film.

Unfortunately, there is too much of a good thing, and too much Cage turns bad very quickly.  Nicolas Cage is infamous for his hysterical overacting, and there isn’t a scene left unchewed in Color.  Cage’s style is typically unhinged, which one would think would work well for a film in which a failed farmer slowly goes mad as his family, livestock, and crops are overtaken by a mysterious alien force—the titular color—but he manages to go so overboard, it comes across as unrealistic and forced.

It’s like the uncanny valley:  at a certain point, robots, animatronics, etc., are so realistic, they’re unsettling.  The viewer can tell that something is off, despite the enhanced realism.  In Color, Cage gets so crazy it loses its impact; instead of creating the unsettled feeling one gets around a raving derelict at a late-night bus stop, one gets the unsettled feeling of seeing a robot trying to be life-like.  It’s an unsettling portrayal, to be sure, but not in the way the filmmakers intended.

The plot is similar to the Lovecraft story, though the characters are insufferable.  Besides Cage’s hamming it up, his on-screen daughter, Lavinia (Madeleine Arthur) is one of the least sympathetic characters ever set to film.  The film opens with her performing some kind of bogus Wiccan ritual, which includes her wishing to be far away from her idyllic New England farmhouse.  The ritual is interrupted by a hydrologist (Elliott Knight), who the film clumsily attempts to make Lavinia’s love interest.  While the hydrologist looks to be around eighteen—itself quite ludicrous, as I imagine hydrology requires some manner of four-year civil engineering degree—it’s absolutely bizarre that the scriptwriters attempt to pair him with a brooding, fifteen-year old Goth chick.

Regardless, Lavinia is excessively annoying, and while the film attempts to cast her as something of a heroine, her constant complaining about her life is so overdone and so cartoonishly teenaged, she loses whatever shred of sympathy the audience might have had for her.

Cage’s filmic wife, portrayed by Joely Richardson, is also a bit much, though she is one of the more realistic characters.  Suffering from breast cancer, she struggles to maintain a high-stakes job that involves her being online constantly.  Due to the farm’s poor Internet connection (a real problem in rural areas), she begins losing clients in droves; coupled with her husband’s ill-conceived llama raising scheme, the family’s financial strain is quite real.  The presence of an alien color on the farm doesn’t help matters.

Where the movie shines is in the gory depictions of the Color’s impact on the farm.  One of the most disturbing scenes reveals the mother fused with her youngest son (Julian Hilliard), a consequence of an irradiated blast from the Color, which is residing deep in the family’s well.  Cage’s character locks Lavinia in the attic with this horrible hybrid of wife-and-son, but Cage, the hydrologist, and the Sheriff break in to save Lavinia before her mutated, fused family members can devour her—much to the audience’s chagrin.

The second half of the film is fairly psychedelic, and even with the crazy visuals, begins to drag considerably.

I really should have enjoyed this movie, and I was quite eager to watch it.  For the $4 I spent to rent it, it was not worth the price of admission; rented on DVD with a $1.25 off coupon, however, would be worth the price of admission for a diehard Lovecraft fan.

Many reviews and commentary I’ve read claim that Lovecraft’s works are unfilmable.  I think that’s a cop-out.  I don’t doubt that his oeuvre is uniquely challenging to adapt to film, but surely a competent director could make an honest effort at it.  The visuals in Color Out of Space are quite well done; all it needs now is some improved storytelling, better acting, and more sympathetic characters.

18 thoughts on “Monday Morning Movie Review: Color Out of Space (2019)

  1. I had to laugh when I read this, “Cage’s character locks Lavinia in the attic with this horrible hybrid of wife-and-son, but Cage, the hydrologist, and the Sheriff break in to save Lavinia before her mutated, fused family members can devour her—much to the audience’s chagrin.” You may remember I’m a big fan of The Walking Dead; an early character, Lori (the lead character’s wife) was singularly annoying to me. Every episode I hoped Lori would ‘meet her Maker’ but of course, slipped by the danger and lived to annoy another day. Finally, her character was killed off due to the character having to have a caesarian section to give birth. I was simply over-joyed when she took her last gasp, lol.

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  2. Tyler, your review is much more accurate about the particulars as to why this movie is so very bad. I only hope that my visceral denunciation is as effective at warning off the unsuspecting audience. It would be nice if an honest producer did justice to the original story without the need for the Nick Cage treatment.

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      • My girlfriend and I just finished watching the two seasons of _The Mandalorian_ on Disney+, and despite some grrrrrrl power stuff, for the most part it is a return to form for _Star Wars_—a gritty space western with memorable characters, each with rich character development. I’d be curious to get your thoughts on that series.

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  3. Sorry Tyler, I’ve sworn off Star Wars. I’d rather watch Nick Cage milk that alpaca again rather than be exposed to the Force. I’m a radical anti-feminist at this point. The only episode I’d watch at this point would involve the ghost of Ben Kenobi coming back and spanking the girl Jedi with the flat of his light saber blade until she apologized for interfering in men’s work and went back to the hyper kitchen and made everyone some space reubens.

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    • I’m rolling over here, photog. Yes, the new trilogy turned SW into SJW, unfortunately. My girlfriend was watching the final film the other day, and I was blown away by how hokey and cringe-inducing it was—during the epic final battle scene! I found myself rooting for Emperor Palpatine!

      Maybe we’ll get Nicolas Cage in a standalone SW spin-off film in which he gets blue milk from a Bantha.

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      • I think you’re onto something. Nick Cage as a Sith. But a sort of lazy, cowardly and sort of down on his luck Lord of the Sith. I can see the battery on his light saber starting to give out and him making excuses for why the new Death Star is really small and not very destructive. I’d go see that.

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      • Haha, I love it. His old passion for hatred and power is fading, and now he’s just settling into middle-aged mediocrity. “Is it really worth Force-choking all these Moffs who question my authority? Let’s see what’s on the holodeck tonight….”

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