Not since the greatest Lovecraft films of Stuart Gordon (Re-Animator (1985) and From Beyond (1986)) have we encountered a more enchanting adaptation. While, like Gordon’s seminal works, not entirely faithful to the original story, The Color Out of Space is perhaps more exciting because of that fact too; also like the films of Gordon, it doesn’t strive to be steeped in precise 1920s New England history or to be entirely contemporaneous; although, perhaps, this is part of the magic H.P. Lovecraft’s work in general: a terror steeped in ancient mystery yet timeless in its relevance, begging the eternal and still unsolved question: why are we here and are there other evil entities among us?
The film opens with shots of ominous woods and freakishly tall trees in a liminal space uncorrupted by humans, bathed in a voiceover of philosophical dialogue contemplating the mysteries of existence darkly. There’s a magic ritual taking place deeper in the woods: a beautiful young girl beside a white horse, only the purple highlights in her blond hair placing her in a time, Wiccan and occult symbols on her garments, foot, and scholarly detritus. She burns her own hair, endeavoring to cast a spell to remove her mother’s cancer.
When a handsome young buck arrives dressed in drab utility worker clothes (he’s a hydrologist), one wonders: does she come from another time? The inadvertent suitor tells the beguiling wisp of a girl that her family’s property is now “city land.”
The girl argues. Flirtation ensues. “I live out here, unfortunately.” She concludes.
Nicholaus Cage, in yet another excessively odd yet hyper-realistic performance, rocks constipatedly on the porch. “Dad took too much acid in the hippie days,” the girl says offscreen. Meanwhile, one of her brothers gets stoned in a horse barn surrounded by alpacas.
Later on the porch, Cage and his wife speak their fears aloud about becoming their parents, concluding resignedly that they already have.
“Would you still love me if I got my legs cut off?”
“Bit kinky, but yes. I’d put you in my carry-on luggage.”
Later, while making love for the first time in six months (due to her cancer treatment), a poisonous red light pours from the sky. Pink light hums and swarms around the alpacas. An ominous ashy blob lands in the middle of their yard. Their youngest son is inconsolable and drifting. Mentally drifting. The beautiful storms of pinkish lights return the next night, fading from purple to blue when the hydrologist shines his flashlight through them.
Mom is drifting too. “Dinner’s ready,” mom says, holding up a hand missing fingers she just sliced off while in her eerie dream state.
What’s causing all of this? Is it the gelatinous gurgling pink mass at the bottom of the ancient well in their yard? Otherworldly pink bugs merge and we see through their eyes: an echoing of reality, a mosaic reality of shifting spheres.
Sister washes the blood from the knife of Mom’s maiming, struggling not to vomit. Blood gets on her forehead. Blood rises from the sink. “Don’t puke.” She pukes.
Eerie roses sprout everywhere. Chong’s cat, named “G-Spot,” becomes a psychotronic creature, a vision beyond sleep. Chong was only trying to get what the aliens said on tape. The film itself has a sanity-shredding sound design, complimenting and complicating the painterly visual motifs, causing the viewer to sonically zoom in and out, rotate in circles, and hover above the wavering imagery of: pink mushrooms, toads, bowling ball tomatoes, skin-cracking rashes, pentagrams sliced into flesh, inside-out alpacas bobbling in violet froth, a son assimilated into mom’s body like conjoined twins, purple phantom light in the eye of an insect, another world in that eye of an insect, a world the young girl calls “so beautiful” until everything fades to purified white ash.
Only an alien engaged in human science studying alien scientists traveling in time to study animal scientists studying alien science might discern the continued meaningful movement of the color out of space and draw sustenance from its eerily beautiful light waters.
“I should’ve grown, barley. Eh, dad?”
Today is April 27th, 2020, and The Color out of Space (2019) is currently streaming on various VOD services.