Oh, how we’ve missed that Nic Cage. You know the one — bug-eyed and manic, screaming and profane, scary, unstable and violent.
The B-movie king is in rare form in “Color Out of Space,” a sci-fi thriller that might have been titled “How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love Magenta” had horror icon H.P. Lovecraft been born a lot later, and — you know — had a sense of humor.
It’s a sci-fi/horror tale put in the hands of Richard Stanley, a horror icon in his own right, thanks to the 1990 cult classic “Hardware.” There are images, sequences and laughs from that one-man-against-a-cyborg in a tiny, dumpy future apartment that stick with you years after you see it.
“Color” is far grimmer going, a disturbing genre piece that might have felt ahead of its time as a 1927 story, but feels like over-familiar ground now. What this one leaves you — OK, ME — with is suffering, a horror of hopelessness with no chance of catharsis.
The shrieks and screams of humans and animals are as pervasive as that “color” emanating from the meteor that arrives on a remote farm and kills or absorbs all that come in contact with it.
Teenaged Goth Lavinia (Madeline Arthur of TV’s “The Family” and “The Magicians”) likes her Lovecraft, keeping a copy of his “Necronomicon” in her farmhouse bedroom. We meet her casting a spell to save her mother (Joely Richardson of “Red Sparrow”) from cancer.
Ward (Elliot Knight of “How to Get Away with Murder”) is the outsider who comes upon her, her artist-dad Nathan (Cage), stoner science-nerd brother (Brendan Meyer) and kid-brother (Julian Hilliard) on their farm sitting on a watershed hydrologist/narrator Ward is surveying.
Nathan has brought them back to the farm to raise livestock. It’s just the sort of livestock you’d expect Nic Cage to herd.
“Now, if you don’t mind, I think it’s time to milk the alpacas!”
The Gardiners are good and stressed before the magenta blob crashes in their yard. This being Lovecraft, that triggering event doesn’t bring good news, good times or a bright future to any involved.
Tommy Chong, in another bit of on-the-nose casting, plays the elderly hippy squatter Ezra, living on the edge of the property. He’s analog in a digital world, and he’s got tapes he’s making after the crash.
“What exactly am I supposed to be listening for?” Ward wants to know.
“The people under the floor, Dude. The aliens!”
Weird things start growing, that color turns up in the light, the fog and the eyeballs of people and critters. Awful things tend to happen to the nicest people after that. And Nathan — as mentioned earlier — goes off in that special Nic Cage way.
Stanley’s career never really recovered from his participation, as writer and uncredited co-director, in “The Island of Dr. Moreau” diva-fest debacle undone by Marlon Brando and Val Kilmer. We all love a comeback, but this one is grim going and something of a drag, when all is said and done.
But it captures the essence of Lovecraft in a couple of important ways. The unpleasantness grows and grows, and logical solutions and escapes are removed, one by one. That shows that the South African filmmaker should be welcomed back out of the wilderness, perhaps with Nicolas Cage as his new muse.
MPAA Rating: unrated, graphic violence, sexual situation, profanity
Cast: Nicolas Cage, Joely Richardson, Madeleine Arthur, Elliot Knight, Brendan Meyer, Q’orianka Kilcher and Tommy Chong
Credits: Directed by Richard Stanley, script by Scarlett Amaris and Richard Stanley, based on a story by H.P. Lovecraft. An RLJE release.
Running time: 1:51