Color Out of Space

Review: Color Out of Space

15 Mar 20

A colourful addition to the genre

The Geets:

A visually stunning and equally horrifying addition to the Sci-fi Horror genre, with a haunting depiction of an alien invasion that seems to induce euphoria and hallucinatory effects on its hosts. What starts as a typically interesting family dynamic slowly and painfully descends into a strikingly different outlook of horror that we don't usually see these days. This unique, inventive format of plot and cinematography excels in cultivating terror through non-conventional forms of scares and feelings of unease, instead of whole-heartedly being formulaic to contemporary horror.

The visually distinctive style of utilising unique colors as a source of alien invasion is something that is optically pleasing and surprisingly and eerily frightening. The movie begins with a rich sight of natural forestry and foliage, as well as the natural colours of the house. It slowly unfolds that the alien's presence seems to transform all living and inanimate objects around it through electrical dissonance, biological mutation and addition of different hue of colors. The strangely disturbing colours of extraterrestrial origin slowly transform the natural environment into something psychedelic and claustrophobic in nature. These visually distinctive colours pulsates each scene as it illuminates terror in the more subtle ways.

This movie works perfectly in creating an effective distinction between beautiful colors of the environment and the impending doom that awaits the family similarly to Midsommar (2019). Both films compound even greater threshold of terror through this differentiation between the natural beauty of effervescent colours and the horror that is implied and expressed as a result.

At the same time, it is quite refreshing to see a Horror movie that doesn't shy away from character development. The beginning of this movie gets straight to the fragility and unison of each family members in a way that we appreciate and relate to this family dynamic. It adds another level of complexity that the filmmakers can utilise to showcase the psychological nature of horror, irregardless of the gore. From the increasingly superstitious Lavinina, to her dope-inhaling brother, to the silent younger brother, and, of course, the typically humourous and disturbingly volatile Nathan (Nicholas Cage). Due to their strikingly unique personalities, it is only visually spectacular to see how the alien's influence on their psyche only amps up the perimeters of each character, something that is even more disturbing than the actual horror of mutation and gore. The psychological horror transcends to new heights thanks to excellent character development and complete investment in each character rather than solely focussing on the various alien forms.

Nicholas Cage's depiction of the father is particularly a stand-out performance in this film. We really get to see all of his 'Cage-yness' from appreciable humor to his volatile tendency to different emotions. In contrast to his past acting performances, this act itself proves just how humanistic and volatile his character is. He doesn't dwell too much into cliched sense of overt dramatization that he is usually known for, rather depicting a carefully calibrated personality whose inner thoughts and tendency for normalcy boils to the surface as the situation deteriorates. It is a visual artform that is disturbing and scenic, especially as he descends into madness.

I really value this horror movie for taking the spot light away from the hideous monsters as much as possible, instead showcasing the psychological worsening of each family member. Cage's heightened sense of smell and sound seems to infuriate him, so does the lack of control over maintaining his family. It seems that the loss of control over everything kicks him out of his safe zone, causing him to be duplicitous in his inner psyche. He harnesses a type of alter ego whereby his psyche projects a false sense of reality more so than do his family members, an inner working of his fragmented mind. It is here where the horror succeeds in frightening the audience though the psychological form more so than through the grotesque physical form.

Despite a masterful manipulation of our terror senses through psychological horror, this movie doesn't shy away from gore and Lovecraftian style of body horror. With a heavy influence from The Thing (1982) and The Poltergeist (1982), this movie nevertheless succeeds in amplifying terror through grotesque and gory poly-mutations of various animate objects. Viewers will get a kick out of the Llama poly-morphism, however, it is the mum-and-son fusion that is extremely vile, disturbing and grotesque, and it stays at the heart of psychological horror more as the family members can't seem to normalise to this haunting transformation. Even though this movie relies more on body horror, it is its psychological perception and devolving mentality that makes this film palatable.

With a strangely appetising depiction of alien invasion, body horror and a rich psychological focus, this movie is spiced appropriately with a vaguely interesting environment use and otherworldly musical score. The musical composition perfectly fits each scene, as it exuberates a certain cosmic transition and stays as situational as possible, helping to take terror to an even greater height of fright shock perception. It is also complementary to stay grounded to a Hippie cultural format, with the children being offspring of a Hippie couple, their secluded, crazy Hippie friend, and the sense of being in a 'trip' as visualised by the extraterrestrial presence. The alien's powers are euphoric, oftentimes inducing perception altering effects that are hallucinatory and bends time and space, similar to a 'trip'.

It is also spectacular to see a visually fitting environment, with the moving foliage, a presence of a forgotten dream-like time, completely isolated from urban landscape, that makes the impending doom of the family members at the hands of this aggressive being inescapable. Alternatively, the haunting sight of the family home at night with the eerie lights provide a foreshadowing, as do the various symbolisms within the house of events to come. I think the filmmakers did an excellent job with cinematography and capturing the otherworldly presence of UFOs.

The Phads:

With a healthy dose of family dynamics shown in the first half, it is quite unpleasant to see them surprisingly be subdued by the alien's presence. As a result, our investment and likeability for each of these family members is robbed with their ultimate fates in this film. It sets up an ending which is lacklustre, instead dwelling into a bland philosophy of the events that a less protagonistic character internalises. It gives us the feeling that the joys of intricacies in family amount to nothing in the end, something that is not that digestible and satisfactory.

This film feels a bit overstretched with a running time of almost 2 hours. It would be more practical to keep it to a normal run time instead with all the effervescent colors, gore and psychological warfare being a bit overwhelming for few viewers. Each scene feels a bit longer than it should be which may hinder its cinematic effectiveness. There is only so much movie-adrenaline or focus we, as audience members, can bear to a certain threshold, beyond which the reverse effect is possible. At the end, this movie left a certain distaste which made me confused about what type of movie it wanted to be. It relied too much on mysteriousness of the devolving events, but it could have gone in a certain direction more, such as body horror, or psychological horror, or a B-grade schlock.

Rating: 6/10