My love of Mandy is no secret. In fact, I just recently bought yet another official Mandy t-shirt, making my number now up to 3 Mandy shirts. And if I had the money to spend on the $400 battle axe replica of The Beast, the battle axe used in the film, I’d buy it in a heartbeat. Thankfully I’m still slightly responsible with my money. Though if anyone was looking to get me an early birthday present… well, you know what to get.
If you asked me what film I was most excited to see in 2019, I’d have to say Once Upon a Time in Hollywood. My second was Color Out of Space, the new cosmic horror film starring Nic Cage. Now this honestly makes maybe the 10th film of his to come out in a year, so the appeal of having your film star Nic Cage has long lost its luster. However, this film has two more things going for it.
One, it’s from the producers of Mandy, who I think they just mean Elijah Wood. And two, it’s directed by Richard Stanley, who hasn’t directed a feature since going crazy and living out in the jungle when trying to make The Island of Dr. Moreau.
To get ready for Color Out of Space, I rewatched Dust Devil. Or should say I watched a better cut of the film, as when I first saw this movie, it was the Work Print, which features unfinished scenes and storyboards. At the time I didn’t know what a work print was, so I found this cut of the film almost unwatchable, especially if you’ve never seen the original cut or really any other cut of the film.
So I watched the Final Cut, thinking that should be better and… My conclusion is it doesn’t matter what cut of Dust Devil you watch, they all suck.
Realizing that this director’s only other film aside from Hardware kind of sucked, I was a bit worried maybe I wouldn’t like Color Out of Space either, so when it came time to actually watch the movie, my expectations were a bit low. I knew this wasn’t going to be as balls to the wall insanity as Mandy, but the reviews were saying there’s some pretty crazy stuff in it, so my hype levels were on the rise again.
Did the film disappoint? No! There’s a lot to love about this retelling of an H.P. Lovecraft classic. But also, it does have some issues, which I want to address first.
A film like this, it is almost imperative that your creature effects look good. And at times, they really do. But other times… it’s all very uneven, with some pretty shotty CGI SFX. And it’s weird, because at times the CGI work wasn’t bad.
We see this mantis and scorpion with wings hybrid early on in the film and it looks pretty good. Then later we see a mutated cat and it looks like a bad cartoon. The film shines when it uses practical effects instead of just relying on CGI to get the job done. I don’t want to get into spoilers so early on in the review but when talking about some of the more impressive SFX, I unfortunately do have to dive deep into spoiler territory.
The more impressive effects involve a fusion of the mother character and their youngest son. They get engulfed in the color out of space, fusing them into one being. It’s pretty horrific, not just visually but also with added moans and child cries of suffering, it all equals for a very uncomfortable time for everyone. A wonderful bit of body horror that I think can take its place next to something you’d see in the film Society. Very reminiscent of The Fly.
I think the complaint about Lovecraftian horror is they usually aren’t very good, at least the ones adapted into films. I think the only ones to ever really pull it off is Stuart Gordon and Brian Yuzna with films like Re-Animator, From Beyond and Dagon.
Color Out of Space has also been adapted a few times for the screen as well, with Die, Monster, Die! And The Curse in 1987. The Curse seems to be the adaptation with the most in common with the 2019 Nic Cage one. For all I know it’s a remake of that film.
Speaking of, let’s dive into this film face first.
This rendition of Color Out of Space stars Nic Cage, just coming off the success and critical acclaim of Mandy. Sure a hundred films starring Nic Cage have been released since Mandy, but Mandy is the only one that really counts.
In Color Out of Space, Nic Cage plays Nathan Gardner, an alpaca farmer. He and his family live out in the middle of nowhere, far from any other living person aside from the drugged out hippy they have living on the woods, played by Tommy Chong.
Also a part of the Gardner family are their three children, Lavinia, their oldest daughter, who practices witchcraft. Their eldest son Benny, who is obsessed with outer space. And then there is the youngest Jack, who seems to just want a friend. Also a part of the family is Nathan’s wife Theresa, who is battling a losing fight with breast cancer.
When out in the woods using her witchcraft to pray for her mom to recover, Lavinia runs into Ward, an official looking around the county at the water for the town’s new power plant.
One complaint about Mandy I hear a lot is that some found it too slow. It took too long for anything to start happening. For a revenge film like Mandy, I felt a slow start was almost necessary. A slow build into madness, and I expected the same for Color Out of Space. But it really doesn’t take long into the plot to get the meteorite falling on their front lawn.
In a haze of neon pinks and purples, the meteorite glows, leaving different members of the Gardner family affected. Jack seems to be the first to feel the effects, left almost in a daze.
Nathan however can’t stop smelling a putrid smell that no one seems to be able to smell.
The family isn’t the only ones harmed by the meteorite, as the plants and the vegetable garden also looks to have mutated. We also learn that their drinking water, which they get from a well, has also been contaminated, furthering the side effects to livestock equaling a horrific result but also maybe the best scene in the film of Nic Cage blowing the heads off a mutated blob of alpacas.
As the family gets more and more dosed with the color out of space, the madness sets in. Jack starts talking to the person whistling to him in the well. Theresa cuts her fingers off. And Lavinia falls deeper into darker black magic practices.
The color out of space gets inside you, changes you and explodes out of you, usually with horrific results, hence what happens to Theresa and Jack when they try to investigate what is happening in the barn. The two of them are engulfed in the hazy pink light, fusing the two into one puddle of a person.
After seeing the horror show that his alpacas have become, Nathan knows he must end his wife and youngest son the same way, shotgun to the head.
But not having the courage to put them out of their misery, he instead traps Lavinia in with them. To her surprise finds that they have mutated into a giant freakish monster, hungry for human flesh.
Ward shows up with the local sheriff, convincing Nathan to let them try to help his wife and son puddles. But seeing what they have finally become, he executes them like one of his hideous alpacas.
While checking on Tommy Chong’s character Ezra, they discover he has long been dead and that the trees in the forest are now alive, also hungry for human flesh, killing the sheriff.
But not before he puts a bullet in Nathan when it seems like he’s about to kill Lavinia. At this point, Lavinia has also lost her sanity and is about to burst with the color out of space.
The ending was slightly confusing or at least I think could be interpreted in a couple of different ways. The color monsters living in the well either go back into space or they out lived their life cycle, either option basically meant it leaves a colorless crater around the surrounding area miles along the Gardner property.
It’s HP. Lovecraft, so a happy ending I figured wouldn’t be in the cards, but I still found the ending satisfying. In the end, was it as good as Mandy? For my liking, no. However, if you are a fan of cosmic horror or Lovecraftian horror films or it has been a while since you’ve seen some body horror, the Color Out of Space is a must see.
And that is why I give it a SEE IT rating.