REVIEW: Richard Stanley’s COLOR OUT OF SPACE is an engrossing and immersive journey into the heart of madness.


Solid performances and exemplary editing and cinematography elevate Stanley’s mid-budget film into a unique and artistic exploration of H.P. Lovecraft, albeit one with shades of films we’ve seen before.

Much has been made of the legend of director Richard Stanley and his return to directing after an odyssey of 20 years following the disaster of the making of The Island of Doctor Moreau that sank the promising star of the director of the underground cult hit Hardware. The documentary Lost Soul tracked the ups and downs of Stanley’s directorial tenure and the machinations of stars Val Kilmer and Marlon Brando that drove him off the film and into seeming madness. Stanley channels some of that otherworldly madness here into his work on his long-gestating passion project adaptation of the H.P. Lovecraft short story “Colour Out of Space,” one that distributors SpectreVision signed off on after Stanley’s return to the genre scene following the success of Lost Soul. Stanley’s Color Out of Space, traces the Gardiner family, one that has moved to the rural forest life west of Lovecraft’s Arkham, Massachusetts. Daughter Lavinia (Madeleine Arthur of Syfy’s The Magicians) longs to escape the drudgery of rural life and looks to supernatural escapism and her pagan roots as a possible escape. Meanwhile, her father Nathan (Nicholas Cage) looks to the best in this new destination in his life’s journey, styling himself an Urban Barefoot Contessa keeping the family taken care of while his wife Theresa (Joely Richardson) works from home, recovering from cancer. Lavinia’s brothers Jack-Jack (Julian Hillard) and Benny (Brendan Meyer) likewise struggle in this rural life, losing themselves in playing with their dog and the family’s collection of alpacas when not shut away from the family in computers or their own little world. It’s in this moment of their life that a meteorite crashes onto their property blinding them in a shrieking, ultraviolet light that not only begins to change their day to day life but who they are on a fundamental level.

It’s here that the cinematography of D.P. Steve Annis and the veteran editing of Brett Bachman, who also cut Panos Cosmatos’ Mandy, really elevate Stanley’s work. The script does a good job of pacing and introducing the Gardiner family, very reminiscent of Tobe Hooper’s work on Poltergeist or Spielberg’s work on Close Encounters of The Third Kind. Annis photographs the changing world around the Gardiners in periphery; as it slowly creeps and changes around them, from green to blooms of blacks and neon pinks slowly consuming the frame. Bachman lets these shots breathe and then hits dissolves to show you how this creeping dread is inescapable. The one failing here is mainly in Stanley’s homages to other films which tend to overshadow the original work he’s doing. There’s a sequence in the latter half that’s a fairly shot for shot recreation of a similar sequence in John Carpenter’s The Thing. The body horror in this film is largely done well, from the dread of losing appendages to more surreal and in your face setpieces that also work due to great sound direction.

Unfortunately, while much of the film is very cool and the performances great throughout, especially Cage and Elliot Knight’s narrator Ward, along with a great understated cameo by Tommy Chong; the film suffers a bit from coming after Alex Garland’s very similar 2018 science fiction body horror film Annihilation, down to a plot of land that mutates everything within it with an otherworldly shimmer. Annihilation’s body horror is stronger than Color’s and most of the unique things Color does have been done better in Garland’s film. These things happen sometimes in film; a certain synchronicity in projects, but it is hard to not draw parallels between the two films. That being said, Cage’s character work is always an extra draw and his character’s relationship with Arthur’s Lavinia is a strong suite to play off of in this film’s favor. However, Stanely’s film is also a bit overlong and tends to run out of steam about a half-hour before it ends, it all comes down to pacing and the finale has some issues with that.

Ultimately, Color Out of Space is a fun watch and worth a visit; its the rare film that embraces cosmic horror and does it well, much more so than films like The Void. That being said, it also draws comparison to many other genre films and that doesn’t help in giving it a unique voice that’ll draw future viewing in time to come.