Colour Out Of Space Review – A kaleidoscopic, intimate family nightmare

South African director Richard Stanley returns to cinema screens 28 years after his last film, Dust Devil was released. This time, he’s armed with a barrel of neon bloated skylines, a herd of naughty alpacas, invasive bacteria and Nicolas Cage channelling one of his whackiest performances to date. This time, Richard Stanley is back with an adaptation of HP Lovecraft’s cosmic horror story, Colour Out Of Space.

Cinematic adaptations of the early twentieth century horror writer Howard Phillips Lovecraft have proven to be some of the weirdest movies throughout history. The likes of From Beyond and Re-Animator have creeped and grossed audiences out before, but with Colour Out Of Space, Stanley has crafted a beautiful, intoxicating movie that transports the viewer to a timeless world. His world frighteningly reflects modern reality.

Colour centres around the Gardner family, who’s farm is suddenly struck by a strange meteorite that glows the most glorious shade of purple. The consequences of this odd phenomena soon turn sour as the galactic rock proves to do more damage than just rip up a few daisies.

We are dropped in to the world when Elliot Knight’s Ward, a hydrologist, stumbles across Madeleine Arthur’s Lavinia Gardner performing Wicca rituals in the middle of the countryside. Ward acts as an anchor of reality, whilst bizarre, life changing events spiral out of control around him.

Elliot Knight as Ward – credit StudioCanal

The film is set in a world that could be ours, or it could be some magical place from another realm. There’s no gauge, nothing that gives this mysterious space an identity. It’s something that feels wholly intentional on Stanley’s part.

If the story isn’t strange enough, Nicolas Cage’s performance ramps the dial up to 11. One moment he’s a caring, organised family man. The next he’s putting on his best Donald Trump impression and becoming enraged at Lavinia and his son Benny for not attending to his herd of alpacas. Throw a shotgun in the mix and every possible box of crazy is ticked.

Cage is highly effective in roles such as this. He brings an intensity to the film that not many other actors could. As well as that, he offers comic timing that smoothly merges the trippy horror elements of the film with much needed relief. Cage is given license to run wild with the character of Nathan Gardner as the cosmic horror from above destabilises his secure family unit. 

There is good support from the rest of the cast, including strong performances from Knight and Arthur, as well as a welcome addition to the genre in Joely Richardson, who gives a hurt and troubled performance as Nathan’s wife, Theresa.

Joely Richardson and Nicolas Cage as the Gardners – credit StudioCanal

Once the heat begins increasing, Colour introduces some of the finest scenes of body horror in recent years. Moulded by Stanley’s own personal tragedy, Colour does not shy away from the gross out elements often included in Lovecraft’s work. The invasiveness of his monsters is shown in full, body mutating glory that harks back to the days of David Cronenberg or Clive Barker. 

However, it is not just the concoction of grunge and gore that Colour throws in the viewer’s face. It whole heartedly examines the American family unit, and what happens when they are threatened with annihilation. The film takes raw human emotions and sets them on fire. It plucks at the heart and makes no excuses for it, grounding much of its emotion in reality. That really is the scary part.

Colour Out Of Space is a combination of eighties pulp and masterful, technical film making with an emotional punch at its core. Its characters are grounded in reality even when the horror isn’t. Its threats are symbols for the destruction the world may face if we aren’t careful. It is an otherworldly story that is set right in the comfort of our homes. It is also a much welcome return to the director’s chair for Richard Stanley. 

VERDICT: Chilling, relevant and otherworldly. Wildly fun with a kaleidoscopic, trippy visual style. Fans of Mandy will rejoice.

4/5

Colour Out Of Space will be released in cinemas on Friday 28th February. You can read an interview with Richard Stanley here.

Featured image credit – StudioCanal