Fantastic Fest Movie Reviews Movies

Fantastic Fest 2019: “Color Out of Space” Film Review

If you know anything about cosmic horror, you know it’s not easy to adapt, especially going from page to screen. What director Richard Stanley has done with H.P. Lovecraft’s short story “The Colour Out of Space” is all the more impressive because of that. The film’s narrative keeps you enraptured, while the visuals toggle back and forth between beauty that will leave in awe and horror that will disgust you.

The trailer is out as of November 6, and while I can’t recommend that you watch it — this is a movie best seen with little knowledge of it — you can choose to watch it below. It also has a release date of January 24, 2020, so you don’t have too long to wait!

The movie’s focus is the Gardner family: dad Nathan (Nicolas Cage), mom Theresa (Joely Richardson), son Benny (Brendan Meyer), daughter Lavinia (Madeleine Arthur) and son Jack (Julian Hilliard). A hydrologist named Ward (Elliott Knight) plays a pretty significant role in investigating the goings-on in the story, and the Gardners have a squatter on their property named Ezra (Tommy Chong), who seems to be more in tune with things than people might think.

Joely Richardson and Nicolas Cage in “Color Out of Space”

When a glowing meteorite hits the Gardners’ property, things begin to get strange quickly, and it becomes clear that this was no ordinary space rock. The behavior of each family member changes, first in short bursts, then more dramatically. There are also plenty of transformations in the flora and fauna of their property, signalling something biological — but not of this world.

Fans of Lovecraft’s story shouldn’t be expecting a line-by-line adaptation with this one. For one, there’s (thankfully) none of the racism that the author loved to include in everything he did; there are no references to “foreigners.” But perhaps the largest change is to the narrative structure. Instead of the Gardners’ story being told by a neighbor in the aftermath, everyone is experiencing it together; there is no folklore aspect to it. Of course, some characters and plot details are changed too, but that’s to be expected with most film adaptations.

The cast is excellent. Fans of Nic Cage won’t be disappointed, as he is able to play both a low-key husband and father and an over-the-top madman. His performance is strong, but I felt that the movie was carried by Madeleine Arthur, as teenage Lavinia. She captured the angst and frustration of being a teen who was uprooted from the city to a rural area. But she also feels like a hero, never shying away from being the one to take responsibility when she sees that her family is in danger. That actress is definitely one to watch.

While the movie is both terrifying and dramatic, it’s often funny too. The typical back-and-forth between parents and teens lends a real-world comic aspect to the dialogue. But don’t worry — the laughs never take away from the scares, which you almost never quite see coming.

Director Richard Stanley at Fantastic Fest | Photo credit: Waytao Shing

Now for the most striking aspect of the movie: the visuals. With the help of director of photography Steve Annis, Stanley’s direction showcases all the beauty and pain that take place in the world of the story. There are sweeping shots of the land, and close-ups of the creatures spawned from the meteorite — both equally stunning (though sometimes the latter are more grotesque). The special effects run the gamut from good CGI creatures to mind-blowing interpretations of time and space. And the color is something to behold. Sometimes grand and sometimes subtle, it brings a sheen to the whole film.

This is Stanley’s first feature film since 1996, and it seems like this is the movie he was just waiting to make. If you’ve enjoyed recent ‘weird horror’ movies like “Annihilation” and “They Remain,” then you’re in for a treat. “Color Out of Space” will likely go down as the quintessential cosmic horror film.

You can catch Fantastic Fest’s second screening of “Color Out of Space” on Monday, September 23, at 11:30 p.m.

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