Color Out of Space – TIFF 2019 Review

With already more than three films in it’s canon, the short story The Color Out of Space is slowly becoming a once in a generation event. Just like A Star is Born, the acclaimed short story is slowly lurking through the cracks of international cinema, and managing to sink its way onto the silver screen. Previous adaptations such as Die Monster Die, The Curse, and Die Farbe are all notable entries that fit perfectly into a catalog of ghoulishly fun films. However, there’s no contention with Richard Stanley’s latest glorified outing. Returning after more than two decades, since his last feature Dust Devil, Stanley makes a theatrical grand entrance with his horrifically preposterous and WTF rendition of the aforementioned story. The result is a film that basks in the light of gonzo nonsense, where the rules of reality just simply don’t apply. 

Starring the one and only Nicholas Cage, a national treasure of celebrity talent, he once again accomplishes the impossible, with his internal pathological lunacy. Color Out of Space may just feature his most insane performance since Vampire’s Kiss; where the fact that he milks an Alpaca is by far the least bizarre aspect of his role. In equal measure, every other supporting cast member is just as unhinged as Cage, where Stanley’s direction takes a much more absurdist route this time around. A punk satanist teen, a deranged hermit, and a spiritually possessed young boy are all members of a great family of kooky characters. Yet the most remarkable added element from Lovecraft’s original story, is the strange amount of environment subliminal messaging. Clearly advocating against pollution and the act of waste dumping, the “asteroid” is used as a blunt, shallow metaphor for the fallout of climate change. It’s mystifying to watch unfold, even if the execution failed in attempting to compel it’s audience. 

The only real discernible element of quality is Colin Stetson’s score. His booming synth’s, and ground shaking eerie tones, makes for a superb needle-drop experience. Stetson further proves that his work can stand on his own two feet, especially when his project’s specifically correlate with the horror genre. Unfortunately, not much praise can be said about the rest of the film. Everything is soaked in a thick layer of irony and guilty pleasure indulgence, that it’s almost hard to view Color Out of Space on it’s own merit. It’s a film that’s specifically meant to please the lowest common denominator of Lovecraft and cult/genre cinema junkies; without it being taken too seriously. 

Color Out of Space is undeniably strange; but at what cost? Nicholas Cage reigns supreme with his regular deranged shtick, and the visual aesthetic and usage of gory practical effects is most definitely appreciated; but there’s not much here worth revisiting. It’s a roller-coaster ride that’s extremely fun at first, yet the more you think about the film, the more you feel underwhelmed by your memories of false, flat expectations.

Color Out of Space screened at this year’s Toronto International Film Festival. SpectreVision will release the film in the upcoming months.

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