Color Out of Space

by Toby Woollaston

coosVerdict: A trippy tale of cosmic horror that occasionally rises above its B-horror roots.

You might think that a loopy Nicholas Cage, a herd of alpacas, and a half-baked woodland hippie might resemble some sort of comedy, but you couldn’t be further from the truth. Color Out of Space, the latest in many adaptions of H.P Lovecraft’s literary work, is a story of cosmic horror that picks at the raw nerve of our deepest existential fears. 

Lovecraft was indeed ahead of his time, his stories inspiring a wave of celluloid horror many years after they were written. Unfortunately, few are any good. Alex Garland’s recent masterpiece, Annihilation, being a notable exception (actually adapted from Jeff VanderMeer’s book, but with remarkable similarities that capture the cosmic horror Lovecraft was aiming for), but most trip and fall into a mad scientist’s vat of cheap B-grade excess. 

Is this any different?  Well … kinda. It is relatively faithful to the source material, narratively speaking. But that’s not saying much as it has a very simple plot: When a strange meteor falls into the Gardner family’s front yard it contaminates the water supply, turning the flora and fauna into a wondrously indescribable hue. Yep, there’s something in the water alright (last week’s reviewed Dark Waters and this would make a terrifying double bill) and things from here begin to get pretty trippy for the Gardner family, giving way to a wild-eyed alpaca blood soaked dad that only Nicholas Cage could pull off. Even Tommy Chong (of dope-smoking duo Cheech and Chong fame) turns up. Again, no, this isn’t a comedy.

There are some exceptionally thrilling moments within Color’s psychedelia and director Richard Stanley (returning after a long hiatus) has wrangled a tsunami of sight and sound into some very experiential and mind-blowing sequences. Beyond that, unfortunately, the film rather predictably surrenders to the genre-revelling schlock of its cinematic forebears and never fully captures Lovecraft’s intended cosmic horror. Color just can’t seem to decide what kind of movie it wants to be; a high-end sci-fi, or B-grade ham. It’s the lovechild of Alex Garland and Ed Wood and a very frustrating experience to boot. I loved it, and I hated it.

See my reviews for the NZ Herald here and for Witchdoctor here.