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Review: Color Out of Space (2020)

Color Out of Space (2020)

Directed by: Richard Stanley

Premise: An adaptation of the story by H.P. Lovecraft. A meteor lands on a farmer’s property and strange phenomena affect his family and farm animals.

What Works: H.P. Lovecraft’s story “Colour Out of Space” has been adapted to the screen several times including 1965’s Die, Monster, Die! and 1987’s The Curse and unofficially in the segment “The Lonesome Death of Jordy Verrill” in 1982’s Creepshow. Each film has its own style and the filmmakers of 2020’s Color Out of Space have created a distinctly new version. This is a modern retelling of Lovecraft’s story so it necessarily takes a lot of liberties with the source material. But the filmmakers retain the core ideas of Lovecraft’s story and use or reorder key details to make a picture that will play for the contemporary cinema audience. In some respects, 2020’s Color Out of Space recalls the Lovecraft adaptations of Stuart Gordon like Dagon and From Beyond with its monster effects and use of color but this film is more technically polished and even toned. Color Our of Space has some grotesque mechanical and makeup effects that visualize the way the properties of the meteor take hold of the people and the land but this is done in a mostly credible way. The performances by the central cast are overall quite good, especially Madeleine Arthur and Brendan Meyer as the two oldest children of the family. Arthur and Meyer bring a lot of reality to the movie and Color Out of Space achieves an effective atmosphere of dread in part because we’re made to fear for these young people and their family. Color Out of Space is outstanding as a Lovecraft adaptation because it retains two key ingredients of his storytelling: a growing feeling of doom but it also a sense of wonder. Doom and wonder exist in tandem in this movie and they come together in the ending. Color Out of Space is beautifully made and the last thirty minutes delivers an extraordinary climax.

What Doesn’t: The weakest element of Color Out of Space is Nicolas Cage’s performance. Cage is known for getting loony and turning his performances up to eleven; in some films that works but in Color Out of Space Cage comes across out of sync with the tone of the rest of the movie. Cage’s character is supposed to gradually lose his grip on reality but his transition is very sudden and plays cartoonish. Cage sometimes comes across like he’s in a different movie from everyone else.

DVD extras: Featurette, deleted and extended scenes, and an image gallery.

Bottom Line: Color Out of Space is a skillfully executed horror picture and one of the better film adaptations of H.P. Lovecraft’s work. Nicolas Cage’s performance notwithstanding, this film is a serious work that captures Lovecraft’s tone and worldview while also adapting the material for a contemporary audience.  

Episode: #822 (October 18, 2020)