The Color Out of Space, while not exactly following the plot of Lovecraft’s short story, definitely follows the spirit of the tale. Taking what was considered to really be Lovecraft’s most “unfilmable” work and putting it on the big screen is something I never thought I’d see – nor see it done well.
But I did.
While other adaptations – such as Reanimator – are considered B-movie classics, it wasn’t until the silent Call of Cthulhu film came along that we really got a faithful direct adaptation of Lovecraft’s work. But unlike that film, Color Out of Space updates things to the modern day while keeping the essentials alive.
It also differs in another big way: It spends the entire first act focusing on how normal the Gardners are. While they’re going through a rough time as a family, there’s nothing supernatural going on. Even Lavinia’s adoption of Wicca is pretty mundane. The only things to fear are the common fears we all have: Loneliness, feeling trapped, our eventual death.
And then the color appears.
There is no explanation. Not “how”, definitely not “why”. But this meteorite thing begins to warp and unravel everything around it… including the Gardners.
This is where the first act pays off. It gives the audience time and ways to really connect with the characters. We know quite a bit about who they are and how they react to things. And that’s where the cosmic horror kicks in.
This family has no idea what is going on. They have no idea why it is happening to them. As reality is further and further distorted, they reach a point where, when Lavinia asks if he finally believes her, Nathan can only reply “I don’t know what I believe.”
We also get to see the Gardners all lose their grip on sanity. Due to our time with them earlier, we see their personalities shift and unravel in actions both large and small. (If you had any doubts about Nicholas Cage’s performance, he hits both milquetoast and insane equally well. )
As the film progresses, there’s some effective body horror, but those scenes contain minimal gore and do not linger on the most gross aspects. While some scenes get a bit gruesome, they are not gore for the sake of gore. Thankfully, there are NO jump scares, though if “children in peril” is problematic for you… well, children are in peril.
Definitely recommended for fans of the original story, and a good modernization and adaptation to film. Recommended!