At the Movies with Alan Gekko: Color Out of Space “2019”

MPAA Rating: R/ Genre: Sci-Fi Lovecraft Horror/Stars: Nicolas Cage, Joely Richardson, Madeleine Arthur, Brendan Meyer, Julian Hilliard, Elliot Knight, Tommy Chong, Josh C. Waller, Q’orianka Kilcher/ Runtime: 110 minutes

I would just like to start this review off by giving you, the reader a list of about three names. Those names, in no particular order, are H.P. Lovecraft, Richard Stanley, and Nicolas Cage or as I like to call them: The Horror Maestro, the Disgraced yet Talented Director, and the Wonderfully Gonzo Actor respectively. Suffice it to say therefore that to certain people out there in the universe hearing one of these names is exciting as it is, but to get all three of these names together on a project is just one of those delightful unions that seems like a match made in sci-fi horror heaven. To those people I am pleased then to say the following: don’t pass go, and don’t collect 200 dollars (unless you’re willing to list it on your taxes). Just stop what you are doing and check out 2019’s Lovecraft sci-fi horror adaptation Color Out Of Space. Heck just while you are at it, just stop reading this review and don’t proceed any further since if that trinity is enough to pique your interests then there really isn’t that much more you ought to know about this film going into it. I mean however you thought a take on a tale from H.P. Lovecraft would look in film form with iconic film helmer Richard Stanley at the helm and legendary actor Nic Cage in the lead role, trust me when I say that this slice of cinema will most assuredly not disappoint you in the least. Indeed you know that pleasantly satisfied feeling you get when you enjoy a slice of cinema even more than you thought you would, even though you had a sneaking suspicion this would be the case since this film for all intents and purposes was very much in your movie going wheel house to begin with? I ask not only because that is a truly magical cinematic feeling unlike any other, but because it is this feeling that is exactly how you will feel after seeing this slice of cinema. Yes it’s gonzo, yes it’s crazy with a capital C-R-A-Z-Y, but it’s also fairly intriguing, the narrative is really engaging, the cast all does a great job in their respective roles, the helmsmanship is solid, and the effects are truly (pardon the pun) out of this world thus making for an incredible slice of cinematic magic unlike many if any others.

The plot is as follows: An adaptation of one of the more widely regarded tales given to us by H.P. Lovecraft, to say nothing of one that Lovecraft was known for having a rather distinct fondness for, this slice of cinema is one that regales us with the narrative of a family known as the Gardners. Headed up by father Nathan, we see that the Gardners which include family matriarch Theresa and trinity of children consisting of Benny, Lavinia, and Jack have for an undetermined period of time before the start of our saga been residing in peace and exile on Nathan’s dearly departed dad’s isolated farmhouse estate in the woods…oh and to grow delicious tomatoes and raise a pack of alpacas for milking purposes. You know typical day to day farm life…..or at least it would be if this family was one that could adjust to living life on the farm. As a result, we see that the family is going through varying degrees of anxiety, frustration, and strain which as a result sees us witness as Theresa struggles to get her professional life up and running again in the face of a recent cancer scare, Nathan desperately trying to get used to life on the farm as well as struggling to be intimate with his wife due to her inner doubt that he still loves her as much as he did before her recent medical issues, and the kids having varying degrees of unease and unhappiness about their new locale thus resulting in only daughter Lavinia engaging in Wiccan religious practices in the hope it will help her mom make a full recovery, oldest son Benny sneaking away every chance he gets to smoke pot with nearby squatter (and local eccentric) Ezra, and youngest son Jack becoming highly withdrawn and mostly interacting with the much-loved family dog. Yet in the middle of all of this turmoil, we see things go from bad to worse when, following a visit from a kindly and insightful hydrologist to their land, a meteor from outer space makes impact in their lawn. A meteor that contains an illuminated and lit up yet also unknown item and which is aglow in a color that is not known on this planet and which is the catalyst for a collection of eerie occurrences to begin unfolding. Yet before the meteor can be looked into further it mysteriously vanishes. Now normally this would be the end of this particular narrative. Unfortunately this is not the end; rather for this family and you, the viewer it is tragically only the beginning…..

Now as someone who has held an immense love and appreciation for the writer behind the story to this distinct slice of cinema since I was a kid in the Boy Scouts and the older boys in his troop perhaps shared stories around the camp fire at summer camp that were perhaps a bit too adult for a lot of the younger boys, myself definitely maybe being included in that group, I can honestly say that there are very few film helmers that I as a movie goer would trust to bring an adaptation of this scribe’s work to life in a way that was both unique yet respectful to the source material. Yet having said that, I also feel it should be said that iconic film helmer Richard Stanley would definitely be on that list. Not just because the man is the helmer responsible for helming a movie called Hardware that happens to also be incidentally one of my favorite underrated sci-fi films from the 90s, but also because this is a helmer who utilized the six years that came and went since he revealed he would be helming this film to properly construct this slice of cinema’s narrative in such a manner that it would not only be a faithful adaptation, but it would also make updates to the material that would startle and surprise even those who have long loved this genre and who probably think that they have seen it all by this point in time. In that respect, it should be noted that the atmosphere that this slice of cinema plays with is one that is able to consistently stay quite creepy, ominous, and on point at both unfurling the mystery at a steady rate whilst also leaving us tiny clues as to the true nature of what is happening whilst also keeping its focus front and center on the ever-rising degrees of madness the family starts undergoing in a variety of different ways. Perhaps one of the better updates to the story that this slice of cinema chooses to engage in is through a fair bit of the chaotic metamorphosis caused by the meteorite in the aftermath of its impact on our planet. Metamorphosis that even an avid lover of horror cinema such as myself might see as some of the most astonishing and downright chilling visual effects work I have seen in this genre in a while. Indeed they might be terrifying whilst also downright distorted, but it is done in a way that is appropriate to the narrative being told. Suffice it to say that this slice of cinema’s helmer and his immensely talented crew for their skilled utilization of both practical effects whilst also showing us as little as possible in chilling us to our spines and taking us down roads we never knew existed in the realm of horror to begin with.

Now since I have come to the section of the review that deals with the wonderful work done in this slice of cinema by the cast, I guess I should take note of the Nic Cage in the film and in this film he gives a wonderful performance that is actually quite unique. By that I mean this performance is one that the film treats as a gauge for everything that goes on in the film. Indeed the character of Nathan is one that is equal parts wonderfully flawed, a decent and typically goofy dad, and yet also the one who is perhaps the most in denial about everything going on. No he doesn’t ever descend completely into madness, but there are moments where he starts to sound a little bit more….well cagey if you’ll pardon the expression. Indeed it’s almost like you are viewing Nic Cage hang the possibility of seeing him go into full-outburst mode, for which he is fairly famous for be it in film or in meme, over your head as a reason to be scared for everyone else in film only to keep it in check and go back to being a doting husband and father. Indeed it’s intriguing, but more than that it’s also an insidiously sneaky twist on what you might be expecting since he never really overwhelms the film with his patented acting style. Instead, the longer he keeps himself in check, the more unnerving it becomes since you’re left thinking “ok sooner or later this guy has to snap right? I mean he IS played by Nic Cage”. I also think it should be said that despite what a lot of the marketing might have you thinking, Cage is not actually the main character in this. Instead, this is more or less an ensemble type film and everyone else in the cast manages to give wonderful performances as well including Joely Richardson who starts off as a wonderful mix of exasperated business woman yet also loving and slightly insecure mother and wife only to get directly impacted by the creepy occurrences going on in ways I won’t spoil here, Elliot Knight who in his role of the hydrologist who comes to test the water nearby brings a decency and humanity to the proceedings, and Madeleine Arthur, Brendan Meyer and Julian Hilliard who all provide terrific performances in their respective roles as the three kids in the Gardner family. Yet perhaps the biggest surprise in the cast is Tommy Chong (as in Cheech and Chong’s Tommy Chong) who in his extended cameo of sorts as local eccentric/ user of certain substances Ezra actually gives a fairly enjoyable and well-acted performance that the only negative thing I can say about is that we tragically only get about 20-25 minutes of him tops in the movie, but what a glorious 20-25 minutes it is!

All in all I am not gonna lie to you dear reader: flaws with this slice of cinema aside, I most assuredly loved this movie. Indeed as a fan of H.P. Lovecraft’s work, even if distinct parts of it might be a degree worrisome in the world around us nowadays, I can honestly say that film helmer Richard Stanley and his immensely talented cast and crew really did manage to once more make me feel like a kid around the camp fire feeling those chills of terror go down his spine as he was regaled with stories about terror that, unbeknownst to all the others, would keep him up late into the night yet always eager to hear more. Suffice it to say this slice of cinema and the cast and crew attached to it have done more than just give us another fine example of movie magic. Rather they have also managed to bring celebrated author H.P. Lovecraft to life for a whole new generation to shiver in delightful terror over and for that this self-confessed fan is quite ecstatic to see if we get any further adaptations of his work, but immensely grateful all the same for the fact that we got one like this that is done with this much heart and this much passion by everyone involved. On a scale of 1-5 I give Color Out of Space “2019” a solid 4 out of 5.