Families, especially families that have been through a trauma, often times reinvent themselves for a fresh start. That’s where we join the family at the center of this film. The patriarch, Nathan Gardner, played ever so lovingly by Nicholas Cage, has decided the best idea of reinvention is to take a step that almost feels like a midlife crisis by becoming an Alpaca farmer at his abusive father’s two-story house in the middle of a deep, wooded area outside the town of Arkham. He drags his nuclear family with him, including: his wife Theresa (Joely Richardson) who has survived breast cancer and is coming to terms with who she is post-surgery; Lavinia the Wiccan, spell-casting daughter played by Madeleine Arthur; Benny (Brendan Meyer); Lavinia’s sci-fi loving, stoner older brother; and her younger brother Jack (Jullian Hilliard) who is perfectly adorable. This film would not be half as good if it wasn’t for the great care Stanley and the cast take to create this dynamic of a family finding its footing again. The tenderness and vulnerability between Cage and Richardson is palpable. The minor ups and downs the family experiences, the glances and the miscommunications bring these characters to life not merely as individuals, but as people who have experienced a life together. Cage continues to surprise me, here turning in a performance as a normal guy who is slightly out of touch but trying his best. Watching the family sit around the table for dinner is the most affectionate display of a family unit on screen since the early days of Steven Spielberg, like Poltergeist or E.T.
Because this is H.P. Lovecraft, a great force enters their lives: in this case, a meteor that presents a color they’ve never seen and a horror their fragile minds and weakened familial connections will have a difficult time weathering. Enter a local hydrologist who is doing a survey of the water in the area played with a grounded charisma by Elliott Knight.
Stanley puts his characters and his cast through the ringer, while this unspeakable, unknowable horror slowly spins its web. He proves to be a patient storyteller and allows the ripples of madness to build into a damn tidal wave of body horror and psychological dread. Cage embodies that madness in the most riveting of ways.
Stanley employs various methods of visual trickery to keep us on our toes, jumping from digital effects, to stop motion animation, to puppetry, to intricate makeup, to simple matting that all together bring to life a visual tapestry that we never get completely used to, so we never are quite sure what to expect next. The world that is created through soundscapes alone transports you to another realm all together. You can't help but watch, fixated, every detail pulling you in a little bit at a time.
The Director of Photography, Steve Annis, brings this visual landscape to life like a film out of time. It’s rich and creeps into your very being like a film from the '80s, but it’s not built on nostalgia. It literally feels like this film was made in a different time and presented now untouched by modern cinematic horror tropes. It’s beautiful to behold.
#StoriesMatter because they have, even in the darkest of subject matters, a way of inspiring us. Color Out of Space inspires me. It’s a genuine experience at the cinemas which I haven’t felt for a long time. I not only look forward to the next part in this H.P. Lovecraft cinematic world, but also to seeing this movie a third time!