I have a saying: “Any movie that features blood-soaked Nicholas Cage going nuts, an incoherent Tommy Chong smoking weed, and an Alpaca getting milked deserves my hard-earned cash.” That’s right, America, we need to support strange cinema. We need out-there art for stoners, outcasts and the unwashed masses. Art for people like you! Thankfully Richard Stanley is back from the dead to deliver the goods.
A quick note about filmmaker Richard Stanley. For the uninitiated, Stanley is a beloved South African cult film figure who made a few under-the-radar flicks (“Hardware,” “Dust Devil”), that are popular with the cult crowd. Back in 1996 he was hired to direct a remake of “The Island of Dr. Moreau,” featuring insane Marlon Brando, where he was subsequently fired. His career and mental state crumbled. You can learn all of those gory details in the very entertaining documentary, “Lost Soul: The Doomed Journey of Richard Stanley’s Island of Dr. Moreau.” So, this dude has a history.
With “Color Out of Space,” Stanley rages back with an adaption of an HP Lovecraft story.
A quick note about HP Lovecraft. Despite a lifetime of horror movie fandom, I never knew much about HP Lovecraft. But my intensive Wikipedia research indicates that he was a popular writer with racist tendencies. Not cool at all. This doesn’t mean I can’t enjoy this film, but it does put a cloud over the whole proceeding.
Now, back to the film! Nicholas Cage plays the father of three children, living in a beautiful old wooden house in the middle of the woods in the middle of nowhere in Connecticut. His wife, the wonderful Joely Richardson, has some kind of finance/tech job. We know she’s got an important job because she keeps complaining about “the slow internet speeds” and asks Nic Cage to get up on the roof of “fix the dish.” Nic assures her he will get right on that, after he enjoys another drink and thinks about the joys of owning a herd/tribe/group? of Alpacas. Meanwhile the couple’s teenage kids cast spells, smoke weed and connect with the Alpacas. I’m not sure why there are Alpacas in this movie. I skipped the “meaning of animals” film course. Buy they are cute. Tommy Chong is pretty cute, too as Ezra the squatter that lives in a sweet little house on their property. Those rich people on the East Coast all have to have their own personal squatter.
Life is turned upside down for this quirky family when a meteor (or something) lands in their backyard in a big jolt of bright colors. A color that that Nicholas Cage says “wasn’t like any color I’ve ever seen before.” From there things go haywire for this family that seems like they were already halfway to haywire to start.
One of the great things about this movie is that it never gets serious about explaining what the hell is happening. I get the impression that that was Lovecraft’s intention. One of the characters is a scientist of some kind who attempts to “understand” what’s happening. But towards the end of the film after major mayhem and spectacular anarchy, he explains that all of this happened “because of a color from out of space.” That’s as good an explanation as any.
I mentioned to someone at work that I’d watched this movie and she said she’d watched the trailer and it looked like it might be kind of bad. That put me in a tough spot because I guess by “normal” levels of analysis it is kind of bad. The dialogue clanks along, Nic Cage being romantic: “A dream you dream alone is just a dream, a dream you dream together is reality.” Nic Cage covered in blood “If I could just a get a little support around here it would be greatly appreciated.” Nic Cage explaining his predicament “We’ve been having a hard time, the car, the telephone, the wifi, I guess that’s’ life in the sticks”
Characters act in irrational and unexpected ways for no real reason. So sure, it’s bad. But its also so good. Exciting and strange, gorgeous to look at and funny and Nicholas Cage going off the rails.
I’m give it 18 out of 22.