Movie review: Cage blasts off in fun 'Color Out of Space'

Movie review: Cage blasts off in fun 'Color Out of Space'

'Color Out of Space'

From left: Elliot Knight, Nicolas Cage and Q'orianka Kilcher in a scene from "Color Out of Space," opening at Darkside Cinema in Corvallis.

As front-yard meteorites go, this one's a real player.

It's about the size of a dorm room minifridge, and it arrived in a blinding blaze of purple-pink colors — and also, it stinks. It literally stinks, to the point where if you get too close, you'll recoil.

The gentleman farmer who owns the land is among a small group of onlookers inspecting the mysterious meteorite.

After a brief discussion, the gentleman farmer says, and I quote:

"Now if you don't mind, it's time we milk the alpacas!"

If there's any justice, that will become the first movie catchphrase of the new decade.

That Nicolas Cage utters the line is what makes it extra special, and that Nicolas Cage gets to play an ordinary family man who goes off the rails IN A BIG WAY is a major reason why the wackadoodle sci-fi horror film "Color Out of Space" is so damn fun.

Directed with great style and innovative use of light, shadows and, yes, color by Richard Stanley, "Color Out of Space" is based on an iconic short story from 1927 by H.P. Lovecraft. It's just the latest adaptation of what is said to be Lovecraft's personal favorite of all his short stories, following the likes of "Die, Monster, Die!" (1965) and "The Curse" (1987).

Cage's Nathan Gardner and his family have recently moved from the city to the town of Arkham, Massachusetts, after inheriting a gorgeous, sprawling rural estate. In addition to the Country Living Magazine main house, there's a garden and a stable housing a white horse right out of a fairy tale — not to mention those aforementioned alpacas.

"You have to be very gentle with the, uh, boobs," Nathan explains to a visitor as Nathan milks an alpaca. "But once you get 'em warmed up ..."

He then proceeds to offer the visitor a slurp of some fresh alpaca milk. The visitor declines. Oh, that Nathan. What a character.

Nathan's wife, Theresa (the wonderful Joely Richardson), is recovering from cancer and is still weak but puts on a brave face as she tends to Nathan and their children: teenager Lavinia (Madeleine Arthur), a student of the Wiccan world; Benny (Brendan Meyer), a slacker-in-training who likes to smoke weed in the stable; and youngest son Jack (Julian Hilliard), a sensitive lad who witnessed the meteorite crashing into the front yard and hasn't been quite the same ever since.

For that matter, everyone in the family seems to be going through some ... changes. Lavinia really steps up her Wiccan game, while Mom turns into something of a zombie in the kitchen. The boys are exhibiting some strange behavior, and Nathan — well, Nathan begins to display some roller-coaster personality traits, giving Nic Cage the chance to hit more showy electric notes than Eddie Van Halen onstage circa 1985.

Elliot Knight plays Ward, a hydrologist who arrived in town just before the meteorite crash to study problems with the water supply. (For one thing, it's kinda brown.) Q'orianka Kilcher is Mayor Tooma, who seems oddly uninterested in the bizarre goings-on in her town. The one and only Tommy Chong is the reclusive Ezra, who lives in a solar-powered hideaway and is a complete stoner (shocker!) — and for a long time is the only one who seems to grasp something inexplicable and powerful and horrifying has landed in Arkham.

As the Gardner family descends into madness, with the purple-pink light seemingly taking possession of the house and the grounds, director Stanley and his creative team come up with original and in some cases quite effectively nauseating touches. At one point, the camera's POV switches to an exotic, dragonfly-looking creature as it regards one of the Gardner children through its many eyes. And when the alpacas are having a particularly bad night, we see quick-cut images of their altered states — and it's horrifying, and it will make you want to put down the snacks.

Cage has some funny deadpan one-liners, e.g., when a television reporter questions whether Nathan had been drinking on the night of the meteorite landing and Nathan says, "I like a good bourbon ... from Texas." But the real fun comes when Nathan starts to lose it, as when he slam-dunks his homegrown tomatoes all over the kitchen, or when the family has experienced some unspeakably awful transformations and Nathan says to Lavinia, "I need you to stay [in the attic] with Jack and your mother. Everything's under control."

No, Nathan. Everything's out of control. Which is what makes "Color Out of Space" such an entertaining ride.


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