A water scientist, Ward (Elliot Knight) is surveying a valley in advance of flooding for a coming hydroelectric dam. On his way he discovers Lavinia (Madeleine Arthur) on the shore performing a neopagan ceremony. After a bit of banter, she sends him on his way and heads home. Her father, Nathan (Nicolas Cage) chides her for being out alone. We meet the rest of the family: the mother Theresa (Joely Richardson), the stoner older brother Benny (Brendan Meyer), and the younger brother Jack. And of course Sam the dog and a bunch of alpacas. Because of course there are alpacas. When Ward drops by to ask questions about the local water table, he learns that there is also a weird old recluse named Ezra (Tommy Chong) squatting on the property with his cat, G Spot.
Things seem nice out in the boondocks. The family is loving, the mother is recovering from cancer and conducting a finance business online, they like their relatively new life as alpaca farmers. Then comes the pink meteor, with a boom and a flash. “Like a pink light. Or actually I don’t even know what color it was, it wasn’t like any color I’d ever seen before,” says Cage, lampshading the title.
Then things start to go bad. Starting with the water.
The opening scene with Lavinia at first made me think this was going to be a spiritual successor to Wicker Man: modern-era pagans in an isolated village, Nicolas Cage doing his Nicolas Caging. But Cage stays pretty reserved and relatable for most of the film, only cranking his Caging up to 11 at the climax. Lavinia’s spirituality is not really part of the story, just part of her character.
Fans of Lovecraft will certainly recognize the story, but the original short was only the springboard from which this film leaps. See, Lovecraft never wrote about alpacas. And there was more inbreeding. and the smart outsider trying to figure things out was the protagonist, whereas here the Gardner family is center stage and the story is about their gradual descent into horror from the contagion that the asteroid brought with it from space.
A film adaptation of one of Lovecraft’s sillier concepts starring Nicolas Cage should be a dumpster fire of a film. But surprisingly, miraculously, it just … isn’t. It’s a really good film, with interesting and believable performances even from Cage, levels of depth and meaning, and adeptly handling some of Lovecraft’s tougher themes of cosmic horror combined with xenophobic body horror eliciting the response, “This should not exist” — something that both horrifies and offends.
The cinematography was the first thing that let me know I was in for something special. The setting is lush, the shots are well-crafted and the editing supports the time-stretching unreality of the place as it evolves into less and less familiar terrain.
This movie doesn’t take itself too seriously, and is genuinely funny in places, but neither is it a winking, ironic, metacommentary of the form. It plays fair and honest, even when parts are patently ridiculous.
Honestly, I am as surprised as you are.
|Color out of Space|
|Runtime:||2 hr 16 Mins.|