An asteroid hits the farm of Nathan Gardner (Nicolas Cage) and begins to emit a strange colour that seems to be corrupting the nature around the farm. It’s also having a strange effect on Gardner’s family and maybe even himself. The family find themselves besieged by frightening visions, strange creatures and a mysterious, unknowable colour.
Director Richard Stanley has been absent from the horror genre since the disastrous production of his adaptation of The Island of Doctor Moreau. The director brings a fair amount of his style to the work, especially in the creature design and grisly body horror which also recalls Stuart Gordon’s adaptations of Lovecraft in the 80s. A new trick learned since his horror hayday, however is the use of CGI to create an alien environment around the farmhouse. It’s difficult to adapt a story about an incomprehensible colour, but Stanley finds unique ways to make the image uncanny.
The film features several alarming jumpscares that effectively startle the audience, but the atmospheric horror is lacking somewhat. There’s a gorgeously vile piece of body horror at the centre of the film, but it’s soon replaced with another large CGI monster. At the point the film should be growing more eerie and compounding the madness, it instead proves only capable of growing louder. The film is unable to top the grisly reveal made at the midpoint, and so the climax plays out cacophonously to diminished effect.
The nature of the horror itself (the incomprehensible monstrosity) is suitably mysterious but a little inconsistent in it’s effect. Several characters are seen seemingly destroyed by the light only to be affected differently. Lovecraft dealt in the unknowable and the inexplicable, but he always set rules and stuck to them. He also knew the importance of a good POV character. Character’s are alternately the straight person/audience surrogate or the raving loon. This brings us on to Cage.
Nicholas Cage provides first on of his more naturalistic and good-natured performances before going on to channel Jack Nicholson from The Shining, landing quite neatly on his character from Vampire’s Kiss. A strange accent emerges when he is required to be manic and his signature bizarre physicality comes into play. This is, of course, not without effect. Cage is one of the singular performers of our time and watching him play unhinged is always compelling. He’s a frightening presence here, as well as an absurd one. His performance here lacks the depth of Mandy but it’s camp in all the ways perhaps the film should have been.
Colour out of Space is an entertaining but disappointingly conventional horror film from Richard Stanley. Not only does it fail to live up to the director’s previous works but it leaves the unimaginable depths of despair and madness Lovecraft dealt in, rather unplumbed. It is however a frightening horror film with some visual flair.