Don’t Drink the Water
The Gardner family moved to the country to escape. With their city life behind them, they buy some alpacas, deal with shoddy internet, and drink well water. None of this goes well.
Adapting Lovecraft’s short story and bringing it to a contemporary setting, Color Out of Space seeks a surefooted, ‘80s-like pacing. That small family, a dog, and isolated life recall any number of ‘80s sci-fi outings. Only now, it’s inherently gruesome.
It begins with a meteor. Just as the Gardner’s put things back together, a disruption from space falls onto their property. Buried anxieties begin to surface because of the unknown – star Nicolas Cage worries he’ll turn into his abusive father, on-screen wife Joely Richardson terrified she’s losing her looks. In time, that initially innocuous meteor makes those fears into truth. Color Out of Space doesn’t rush this transformation from idyllic to horror. That’s refreshing.
Poison drips into the water. In that, Color Out of Space aligns with climate fears. Crowded cities draw ire for their pollution, but Color Out of Space suggests there’s no running. An opening monologue talks of untouched trees, living for millennia in the forest. It’s sacred land. That too becomes infected by change.
Color Out of Space loves grisly stuff
Color Out of Space loves grisly stuff
Insanity takes hold. That allows Cage to go full Cage (memeworthy content is waiting), scratching his hardening skin obsessively, switching accents instantly, and blowing up when his kids do wrong. A standout, arguably out of tonal sync, if still allowing the younger cast to work, especially Madeleine Arthur who self-harms as the situation breaks down. Stress organically piles on to a generation forced to face a dire future.
Color Out of Space turns to pure evil; that’s that Lovecraftian touch. In taking over, the infection begins to warp lifeforms like The Thing. Color Out of Space loves grisly stuff, malformed bodies contorted, and animals ripped of their flesh. It’s all dying, uncontrollably, and in grotesque, painful ways with no means to stop the agony.
Yet, the counter is that death is strangely beautiful, ethereal and brilliant when the time comes. Suffering turns into a splashes of bright pink light, imbued with intense luster. With loss comes beautification, alien to us, if the natural way of things. Earth goes back to its origins, this family the first victims of a coming cataclysm. The world looks better without people, a hopeless and dark observation. Thanks Lovercraft.
From RLJ, Color Out of Space comes to 4K UHD without HDR. The disc joins a small list choosing to forego the tech. That’s a shame given Color Out of Space demands intense light to accentuate the alien forms.
That doesn’t mean it’s a disappointing image. Light still reaches an intense peak, with vivid white slicing through neon pink. Even black levels perform. Shadows hit needed density, sans crush. Even color hits its mark, saturating every primary and maintaining natural flesh tones.
Where the format can excel is sharpness and detail. Digital cinematography adds grain, generally well resolved. A few misgivings aside, precision isn’t lost. Facial definition reaches incredible levels, the surrounding forest equally so. The setting allows for a resolution showcase, dazzling when asked to handle bushes, leaves, tall grass, or more. Color Out of Space’s texture is exquisite, and easily the noticeable boost over the Blu-ray.
Routine DTS-HD adds small spacing to action scenes, capturing alien swirls and wind. Forest ambiance brings flair to dialog scenes. It’s something to fill the surrounds. Only a few instances stand out.
Low-end fares better, adding dread through the soundtrack. Soft rumbles precede horror, definitely freakish and used appropriately, not for jump scares. There’s enough range to deliver a jolt.
At 20-minutes, the making-of is better than expected. It’s honest, dealing with director Richard Stanely’s history post-Island of Dr. Moreau, the source material, and production. This is a necessary watch. The deleted scenes and photo gallery following? Not so much.
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Color Out of Space
Nicolas Cage sticks to his usual eccentric form in a cruel, observant update of Lovecraft’s Color Out of Space.
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The following six screen shots serve as samples for our Patreon-exclusive set of 49 full resolution uncompressed 4K screen shots grabbed directly from the UHD: