An adaptation of an H.P. Lovecraft short story that pairs Nicolas Cage and director Richard Stanley, helming his first fiction feature since being unceremoniously fired from 1996’s notorious The Island of Dr. Moreau, Color Out of Space is something like a match made in genre-cinema heaven. And while this multihued sci-fi extravaganza falls short of being an instant cult classic, it’s a trippy and grotesque vision of the real and unreal colliding in the New England wilderness, energized by memorably out-there effects and its reliably rage-y leading man.
Co-written with Scarlett Amaris, Stanley’s film (in theaters Jan. 24) retains Lovecraft’s fundamental narrative building blocks even as it shifts the tale’s setting to the present day and expands its drama. A hydrologist named Ward (Elliot Knight) arrives in the town of Arkham to survey the water, and stumbles upon the Gardner family, beginning with teen daughter Lavinia (Madeleine Arthur). She’s a practicing Wiccan whom he finds performing a riverside ritual intended to bring about her escape from this remote locale, and the fact that she’s cute, and he knows about witchcraft, produces instant sparks between the two. Before things can develop, though, she’s riding her horse back to her manor home situated deep in the forest, whose titanic trees and dense foliage are depicted by Stanley as borderline-mythical, housing ancient secrets and malevolent mysteries.
Lavinia’s dad Nathan (Cage) spends his days caring for newly purchased alpacas that, per the principle of Chekhov’s gun, are introduced early as a means of foreshadowing future madness. Nathan is a cheery, bespectacled paterfamilias, cooking up gross cassoulet for his brood while his wife Theresa (Joely Richardson) earns the family’s fortune by running a financial investment business in the attic. Teen stoner Benny (Brendan Meyer) and his younger brother Jack (Julian Hilliard) round out the Gardner unit, whose warm and bickering dynamics suggest an average clan getting used to their recent relocation to this abode, which used to be Nathan’s father’s, and which Nathan never thought he’d return to—only to discover, once there, that he’s actually quite pleased about having traded the big city’s hustle and bustle for some rural peace and quiet.