Release Date(s)2019 (February 25, 2020)
Studio(s)ACE Pictures Entertainment/SpectreVision/XYZ Films/RLJE Films (RLJ Entertainment)
- Film/Program Grade: B-
- Video Grade: A-
- Audio Grade: A
- Extras Grade: C+
After being absent from the industry for a number of years due to a tumultuous relationship with the Hollywood studio system, Richard Stanley has become a figure of fascination for film fans—particularly after the release of the documentary Lost Soul, which chronicled the disintegration of the filmmaker’s involvement with 1996’s The Island of Dr. Moreau. Lured back to the director’s chair by the company Spectrevision, he brought his screenplay for an adaptation of H.P. Lovecraft's The Colour Out of Space along with him.
The text has been adapted several times before, two of the most well-known being 1965’s Die, Monster, Die! starring Boris Karloff and 1987’s The Curse starring Wil Wheaton. The latter was the more faithful of the two, though updating the time in which the story takes place. Richard Stanley’s version of Color Out of Space also places the story in modern day, and is a tad more faithful to the original work, but also more successful at getting the tone right, being more of a tragic fable than a straight-up horror or monster movie.
The story concerns the Gardners, a family recently relocated to a remote farm outside the town of Arkham. Nathan (Nicolas Cage), the father, is concerned with keeping the farm running, but also taking care of his wife Theresa (Joely Richardson), whose recent surgery has strained their love life. Their daughter Lavinia (Madeleine Arthur) studies black magic, their son Benny (Brendan Meyer) begins smoking pot, and their youngest son Jack (Julian Hillard) interacts mostly with the family dog. One night a meteorite giving off an otherworldly color crashes in their front yard and begins to have strange effects on everything nearby. Their hippie-like neighbor Ezra (Tommy Chong) takes notice while hydrologist Ward (Elliot Knight), sent by the mayor to test the local water supply, becomes increasingly concerned for the family’s well-being.
Richard Stanley’s vision for Color Out of Space is a potent one visually. The caveat is Nicolas Cage. You either go with his delivery, which is often completely off the rails (particularly once the effects of the meteorite begin to kick in), or you laugh it off. In truth, it might have been better with an actor in the lead that can be taken more seriously. On the other hand, the film might not have had the reach that it’s had without him. The rest of the cast is mostly effective, but the mix of practical and CGI elements are not always harmonious—though for the most part, they enhance rather than detract. Above all, Color Out of Space is solid. It wobbles a bit in certain areas, but is satisfactorily executed and presented. And from someone like Richard Stanley, who can be a bit of an odd figure at best, it’s an incredibly human story.
Color Out of Space was captured digitally using Sony CineAlta VeniceArri cameras with Zeiss Master anamorphic lenses. It was finished as a native 4K Digital Intermediate at the 2.35:1 aspect ratio. This is a film that was made for Ultra HD given its vivid use of color and depth, which is why it’s odd that an HDR grade wasn’t completed (or that a Dolby Vision option wasn’t made available). Even still, the images presented here are dynamic. Textures on skin and clothing offer an abundant amount of detail, while black levels are inky deep. Although portions of the CGI work are lacking aesthetically, it’s consistent texturally and doesn’t stick out. This film is also awash with colors, mostly vibrant pinks, purples, reds, and greens, as well as other hues that pop. The farmhouse setting offers a spectrum of color that really benefits from the increased resolution. Everything appears bright and clear without any evidence of filtering or oversharpening. Still, an HDR pass with Dolby Vision would have put it over the top.
The audio is included in English 5.1 DTS-HD with optional subtitles in English SDH and Spanish. Though a Dolby Atmos track would have added another shade of dimensionality, there’s very little to complain about with this soundtrack. It’s highly enveloping, though with dialogue mostly front and center. Atmospherics, including those found in the open wilderness, are plentiful. The large booming sounds of thunderclaps early on really rattle the speakers and give the subwoofer a real workout. Music is often subtle in the overall scheme of things, but it’s given an ample amount of breathing room. It’s an impressive surround mix, to be sure.
Both the 4K and Blu-ray discs feature the following extras, all in HD:
- Hot Pink Horror: The Making of Color Out of Space (20:12)
- Deleted Scenes (8 in all – 12:57)
- Photo Gallery: The Gardner’s Farm (24 in all – 20:12)
Hot Pink Horror offers a brief but substantial look at the genesis of the project, getting Richard Stanley involved, casting Nicolas Cage, and how satisfied Stanley is with his return to the director’s chair. The deleted scenes offer many additional moments, including Theresa telling Jack a bedtime story, Ezra telling Ward and Benny his whole backstory, Ward’s attempt to warn the mayor about the water, and an amusing moment of Benny walking and talking with the alpacas. The click-through photo gallery offers glimpses of the set without anybody standing in it. Both discs also open with trailers for Mandy, Brawl in Cell Block 99, and Bone Tomahawk.
Color Out of Space is a film that’s likely to get more traction as time goes on, with fans finding more to appreciate about it the longer it exists. It’s one of those films that has “cult” written all over it, which is not a phrase I use lightly. And the UHD presentation is quite good. Other than the lack of HDR, Dolby Atmos audio, and extras that are a bit more in depth, it’s a knockout.