Monday Morning Movie Review: Portly’s Top Ten Worst Films: #5: Color Out of Space (2019)

We’re really getting into the dregs with these worst movies.  This point is where it starts getting hard for me, too—it’s easy to write about any movie, but having to think about the worst ones is surprisingly difficult.

As I had to travel out of town this weekend for a late family member’s memorial service, I decided to use the tactic to which all bloggers must, at times, resort:  reusing an older post.

The film is legitimately bad, and I really would place it on this list.  So, why not kill two birds with one bad film?

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

He’d written 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.

21 thoughts on “Monday Morning Movie Review: Portly’s Top Ten Worst Films: #5: Color Out of Space (2019)

  1. This sounds like one of those wah wah, woe is me type films suffused with what The Drinker labels as ‘The Message.’ What the message is I have no idea since, thanks to your review, I have little interest in watching it.

    Cage is known for his overacting as well as starring in some truly horrible films – if his remake to The Wicker Man doesn’t make your top 4, I’ll be surprised.

    As for your description of the 18 year old hydrology expert, it reminds me of a young Asian girl in Supernatural who when treated by a superior as a lacky, responds with ‘I have 3 PhDs.’ Considering what you have to do to even move towards a PhD, she’d have been in her late 30s, 40s at best. Not that it helps her – she gets killed. So much for your fabricated training, you moron! 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

  2. My son-in-law, now in his early 50s, has been a huge Lovecraft fan since his early teen days. As I wander around the internet (or the blogosphere), if I see something Lovecraftian that I think he will be interested in, I’ll copy the link and send it to him. I don’t think I’ll be doing that today. LOL!

    Just because I’m me and you’re you – I have to mention The Walking Dead. The Livinia in your review reminds me of Laurie – Rick Grimes’ wife. I couldn’t wait til she got killed off. I’m sorry she died in childbirth – I really wanted to see her eaten. LOLOLOLOLOLOLOLOL !!! Shame on me!

    Liked by 2 people

    • Not really. She was a harlot who was in bed with Shane within months – remember, Rick Grimes was only in that hospital for a few weeks before he woke up. I have harsher language for Laurie that I can’t put up here but yes, I wanted to see that s**t eaten too! 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

      • I suppose she should get the Academy Award as she played the part so well we wanted her ‘done away with’ except I suspect she may very well be like the part she played!!!

        Liked by 2 people

  3. Andrea was another one in The Walking Dead who lasted 3 seasons too long. What with her arrogant posture and her stupid sticky out chin, I wanted her dead the moment she came on screen. We didn’t even get to see her blow her own head off with Rick’s Python! How sucky was that?! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • It really is the most misogynist program ever created. I love it, lol! All the worst parts of feminist women – even Carol, in the end. Terrible people, women.

      Liked by 1 person

      • There are a lot of scummy people in The Walking Dead. My favourites tend to be the truly repulsive, like Negan and Simon. I’m a fan of Rick and Daryl but they needed a few people around them who weren’t utter morons. Abraham was great until they turned his head from a Maris Piper into a mashed spud. I did like that bit! 🙂

        As for misogyny, I don’t go in for all that. More men get killed in those sorts of shows than women and it’s surprising how many gay people survive the apocalypse. My big beef with TWD is how little people swear or offend – it’s the post apocalypse! No one’s going to arrest you for offending someone! Like when Negan is deciding who to take out when he first meets the group. He does ‘eeney meeny miney mo’ but can’t say the ‘n’ word. I mean, come on, whose going to get on your back?! Tsst.

        Liked by 2 people

  4. But by not cussing, it’s not really realistic. In a world like that, you’d think they’d be swearing a lot more. As it is, I think the ‘f’ word is used only once, when Rick and the gang are locked up at Terminus by the cannibals and Rick says ‘they don’t know who they’re f***ing with!’

    Liked by 1 person

    • I think it makes a statement about not giving up the finer things of the previous life while having to live in an insane environment. In any event – I like it. Can’t wait til the movies come out.

      Liked by 2 people

      • I can live without swearing but I do swear too much than is good for me! 🙂

        It can be a good release sometimes and I imagine if I was in the thick of it, in the process of being imprisoned by psychotic cannibals or in the early stages of getting bitten, I’d probably turn the air blue as would anyone else.

        Yes, I’m looking forward to the film too. I hear it’ll coincide with the end of series 11. Personally, I’m hoping the triple towns are under massive threat and on the point of being killed when Rick turns up with that magnum and blasts the threat away. That’d be awesome. I think the show lost a step when Rick departed.

        Liked by 2 people

      • Sorry I didn’t dive into this TWD discussion yesterday. I’ll confess, other than reading a massive omnibus volume of the graphic novel around fourteen years ago, I’m not super familiar with the universe—I haven’t watched the show! I do remember Negan, though—most definitely!

        Liked by 1 person

      • It’s on Netflicks, up to the first half of season 11 – the last season for the show. I think the final part of season 11 is due in July sometime.

        Liked by 1 person

  5. Ahh, the pairing of H.P. Lovecraft with Nick Cage. A yuppie raising South American camelids and heirloom tomatoes while his cancer stricken wife works herself to death. How could that go wrong. I think they should have made the movie without the monster and just let Cage go berserk like Jack Torrance in the Shining.

    Liked by 2 people

    • I think your version would have played a lot better, photog!

      Also, I just now saw your e-mail from 3 June and responded. Apologies! If I don’t weed out that account daily, it gets overrun with marketing e-mails and lose track of everything.

      Like

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