Witnessing the birth of a cult classic tends to be a rarity, but with the release of “Color Out of Space,” a new addition to the cult genre has been born. Premiering Jan. 24, this film gives new meaning to fear of the unknown.
After the Gardner family moves to a farm they inherited from the family’s patriarch, their life is thrown into madness after a meteorite crashes carrying a color, not of this world. When the meteor begins to manifest itself into the land surrounding the farm, the family’s mental state begins to spiral as the world around them bends into a cosmic nightmare.
A stellar comeback from director Richard Stanley (“Hardware,” ‘’Dust Devil”), “Color Out of Space” is one of the greatest adaptations of the great cosmic horror writer H.P. Lovecraft’s work. The aforementioned writer is one of the most influential horror writers of all time, marking the transition from gothic horror to cosmic horror in the 20th century. Sadly however, he has been plagued with horrible film adaptations since his works began, until now.
Ben: Elder God
The essence of Lovecraft is to defy comprehension, and many adaptations of his work have failed to capture this feeling. When the best of the lot is “Re-Animator,” a movie involving severed-head cunnulingus, there’s definitely a problem. “Color Out of Space” defies this tradition of poor adaptations by delivering genuinely mystifying and mind-bending horror.
Every aspect of this film is seemingly set up to subvert the audience’s expectations, and not in a cheap “Last Jedi” kind of way. Altering the quality of the filmmaking to further this goal, the beginning of the film is comically average and typical, which serves to lull the viewer into a false sense of security. This state of normality quickly deteriorates and the filmmaking becomes more innovative and disturbing.
The plot follows the same general path, beginning as an average family drama and ending up a twisted mess in which no one is ever sure of the truth. Starting from a rather weak point, the 35-page-long short story the film is based on has very little plot. The film manages to give a gripping story from this bare starting point. The family’s relationships are driven to extremes by the otherworldly forces, both pushing them apart and forcing them together in gruesome ways.
The easiest example of this aforementioned technique is the use of color and light. The first act of the film has a dull color palette that ranges all the way from pale green to generic brown, which leaves everything feeling lifeless and awkward. However, once the second act begins and the meteorite lands, color begins to seep its way into the world and brings the whole film to life. Using heavy contrast in color, the director separates the things corrupted by the color and the natural world, leading to some breathtaking shots the characters surrounded by corrupted nature as it slowly creeps towards them from the ground.
This specific Lovecraft tale seems to be the hardest to adapt to the screen given the nature of a color no one has ever seen is impossible to actually show. In lieu of an actual new color, the mysterious color is represented by a violet/pink mixture that feels utterly divorced from reality. By placing this color upon normal things like grass and insects, this earthly color and the corrupted things seems completely alien. The standout shot of the film comes at the very end when the vibrant color palette and photostobic effects truly looks like a color from out of space.
Sam: Outer God
“Color Out of Space” is one of the strangest movies to come out in a long while, story-wise and in how the movie itself is structured. It’s hard to tell if the flaws of the film are on purpose or just regular movie goofs. The central family portrays their characters in awkward and unnatural ways, but only during the first act of the film. The daughter (Madeleine Arthur) seems like a caricature of the rebellious I-hate-this-family character, while the son (Brendan Meyer) is the stoner-who-doesn’t think-straight stereotype. As the film progresses, most of these characters begin to improve their performances.
The acting isn’t the only bad part about the first act of the film, as the first 30 minutes is difficult to sit through in general. During the beginning of the movie, almost everything seemed bland and stale, from the acting to the story itself. At first it seems like a dull movie about a family who inherited a farm — with bad acting. It’s a trudge to get past and even though it gets infinitely better when the meteor hits, there’s no way of redeeming the previous parts in the film.
Even after the strange events start to occur, the computer-generated creatures aren’t believable. Whether it’s strange insects or flourishing nature, the effects are low in quality. However, these effects increase in quality with the later acts as well. Overall, it’s unclear if these flaws were an intentional decision in part of the director or regular screw ups, making it hard to say if these cons are truly cons. Either way, the first act is a pain to get through, but when the action hits, it hits hard.
“Color Out of Space” bends reality not only through its story but through the meta qualities of the film itself. All this comes together to create an utterly bizarre experience that captures the essence of Lovecraft better than any film before it. While the first act may be a bit hard to stomach, it only makes the latter two all the more disturbing.
“Color Out of Space,” rated R, is showing at Arclight Cinema (1500 N. Clybourn Ave.) and The Music Box Theatre (3733 N. Southport Ave.).