Based on one of the lesser known short stories of H.P. Lovecraft, Color Out of Space, directed by Richard Stanley and starring Nicolas Cage, is a well produced, modern adaptation. The story follows the Gardner family who has recently moved to the country side of Arkham Massachusetts (a town infamous in many Lovecraft works), escaping the big city. Nathan, the father (Cage), has taken up alpaca and crop farming on their land while his wife, Theresa, continues to work from home in a fast-paced, demanding job. The family is rounded out with the oldest son Benny, the daughter Lavinia and younger son Jack.
At the film's opening, the family appears to be living an ordinary life with perhaps the exception of Lavina who is a practicing Wiccan (or is that the "in thing" these days for teen girls?). It's hinted that some of her rituals are to ward of cancer that her mother is battling. Benny is presented as a typical teenager, dabbling in pot and clearly interested in outer space. The young boy Jack is a typical young boy, fascinated with dinosaurs and a bit of a "mommy's boy."
In the opening scene we are also introduced to Ward Phillips, a hydrologist sporting a Miskatonic University t-shirt (nice touch!) who walks up on Lavinia performing one of her rituals. After a brief introduction, he explains he is in the area to survey the land's water tables for research. Later that evening we see Nathan serve a questionable french casserole to his family for dinner while Theresa works in her home office, stationed in the farmhouse's attic, working tirelessly with clients over the phone.
That evening, a purple hue forms in the clear sky followed by a meteor that crashes into the Gardners' front yard. Each of the family members reacts differently upon its entry. Nathan and Theresa, having an intimate moment, do not notice the meteor's approach until impact. Benny, however, falls into a vegetative state, Jack becomes paralyzed in fear and Lavinia sleeps soundly.
Strange events soon follow as the meteor has brought something to earth with it. As the story unfolds, each family member (as well as Ezra, an off-the-grid squatter on the Gardner property) becomes affected in their own way. Lavinia finds herself physically ill, Benny is losing time and memory and Jack claims to communicate with "friends" near the meteor impact sight that no one else can see. As each day passes, the land and its inhabitants become more and more severely incapacitated. Wild flowers of unnatural neon pink and purple grow all over the land; crops grow large and plump but are ultimately rotten. Ward, the hydrologist, discovers that the meteor has begun to affect the water, therefore anything that consumes the water is ultimately adversely affected. By the end, the family suffers an incredible onslaught of physical and metal effects brought on by forces from another realm, which of course is the heart of Lovecraftian mythos.
I must say that the movie is quite unique. Although the "color" referenced in the story is to be somewhat indescribable, the movie utilizes bright and vivid pinks and purples that pop unnaturally in the rural setting. The ambiance wavers from beautiful to terrifying with surging intensity as the movie progresses from curious - to quite strange - to shockingly horrid (in a good way).
Through the first half of the movie, I found myself asking why Nicolas Cage was cast in this movie. His character could seemingly be played by just about anyone as Nathan Gardner is a typical husband and father trying to live a low-key life while taking care of his family. However, as the madness grows within him, that familiar Nicolas Cage "freakout" feels right in place. I'd also commend the performance by Madeleine Arthur who plays Lavinia. Her performance resonated the most, in my opinion throughout the movie. The effects the meteor has on her family are best felt through Lavinia as if we would be witnessing these events most closely from her perspective.
I REALLY liked this movie. It was produced well, had some great acting and just about all the effects were sharp and visually appealing. There's a brief view of the "other world" which didn't have as good of a production quality as the rest of the film, but it's fine - it was a very quick glimpse. Another detail I appreciated was that the first paragraph of the story is narrated at the beginning of the film and the second-to-last paragraph is narrated at the end. I thought this was a great way to recognize the brilliant origin of this story. I hope Color Out of Space is well received by a larger audience with the streaming / bluray release. There are rumors this could spawn a few more new Lovecraft films so the long-term success of this movie would help make that a certainty. Highly recommended!
And remember, Ph'nglui mglw'nafh Cthulhu R'lyeh wgah'nagl fhtagn.