MOVIE REVIEW: Color Out of Space

Rating: Unrated / Runtime: 1 hour and 51 minutes

The best independent films do more with less. When there isn’t a massive budget to fall back on for special effects, the importance of storytelling and conveyance of mood become amplified. Operating on a $12 million budget (which I’d assume a decent chunk of went to star actor Nicolas Cage), Richard Stanley has crafted a gnarly, yet intoxicatingly beautiful aesthetic in “Color Out of Space”, which fits the bizarre nature of this story perfectly. The tale comes from an H.P. Lovecraft short story of the same name. We follow the Gardner family, who have not too long ago traded city life for a rural family estate located near Lovecraft’s famous setting of Arkham, Massachusetts. Nathan (Cage), the father, is a wannabe gardener and farmer who raises alpacas and is trying to embrace this new country life, while his wife Theresa (Joely Richardson) is doing her best to work from home via the home’s bad internet connection while recovering from breast cancer surgery. They have three children, all with their own sort of strange qualities. LaVinia (Madeleine Arthur) we first meet in the middle of some kind of Wiccan ritual that she hopes will heal her mother and eventually lead the family back to the city. Her practice of magic and dabbling in the occult continues throughout the film and leads to some pretty horrifying decision making. Her brother Benny (Brendan Meyer) likes video games, smoking weed, and helps out around the house without too much fuss. And then there is her younger brother Jack (Julian Hilliard), who is a bit of a mama’s boy still and gives the film a vessel for some freaky child-based horror. There’s also an old hippie living out in the woods who seems to notice problems with nature before everyone else and a young biologist named Ward (Elliot Knight) who pops in and out of the story and serves as a sort of documentarian for the events that take place.

The first half or so of the film, before things get really weird, I found myself very engaged. Family drama is explored and when the mysterious meteorite crashes into their yard a good amount of time is spent on slowly revealing various sci-fi anomalies that mess with the characters’ sense of sight and sound. Of course, this is based on the dark mind of H.P. Lovecraft, so horror is part of the story’s DNA and once it comes, the situation gets nasty quickly. There is definitely some gore, but it’s far from overwhelming and contained to just a few scenes. For the most part, it’s the psychological nature of horror explored here, a staple of Lovecraftian storytelling, and a general haziness of time and space that overwhelms the family as the alien color begins to permeate the landscape and their lives. Cage is given the opportunity to get nuts in a few scenes, but unfortunately, it felt almost out of left-field, very forced, and not a natural reaction I expected from his character. Perhaps if he had gone all-out crazy and stuck to that versus oscillating back and forth between sanity and insanity it would have played better for me. It’s in the second half of the film, where the color from the meteorite is taking over, where I didn’t find myself enjoying it nearly as much. As mentioned earlier, the look of the film is mesmerizing and the score by Colin Stetson contributes strongly toward setting that important mood. I just didn’t care about the characters much at all, and I didn’t find the film to be saying anything vastly important about humanity and nature. It’s a tale of aliens or elder gods or whatever you want to think of them as showing up without any explanation as to why and ruining life for this family in a horrific way. The story is just lacking a bigger picture view that I think would have given it much-needed weight and stakes.

“Color Out of Space” is Stanley’s first feature film in over two decades, though, and it proves the filmmaker most famous for being fired from “The Island of Doctor Moreau” still has talent worth sharing with the world. The visuals alone are worth seeing this movie for and it never dips into lackluster boring territory, even if it doesn’t reach any memorable heights either. “Color Out of Space” is the kind of unique sci-fi and horror film that we deserve to see more of. Though the vision of their directors may not blow every viewer away, seeing something this different from mass-market blockbusters is always a treat.

Rating:


Aaron White is a Seattle-based film critic and co-creator/co-host of the Feelin’ Film Podcast. He is also a member of the Seattle Film Critics Society. He writes reviews with a focus on the emotional experience he has with a film. Follow him on Facebook and Twitter to be notified when new content is posted.

Episode 140: Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse

Let’s cut to the chase – this week we get to discuss our favorite animated film of 2018. Into the Spider-Verse isn’t just the ultimate Spider-man, it’s amazing, spectacular, and astonishing too, and provides us ample material to cover like sympathetic villains, the idea that everyone can be a superhero, and what a playground for telling diverse stories can look like going forward.

Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse Review – 0:01:36

The Connecting Point – 1:06:26

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Music: Going Higher – Bensound.com

Additional Music this episode: “Lord Knows / Fighting Stronger” (performed by Meek Mill, Jhené Aiko and Ludwig Göransson) and “Gonna Fly Now” (by  Ludwig Göransson)

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MOVIE REVIEW: Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse


Aaron White is a Seattle-based film critic and co-creator/co-host of the Feelin’ Film Podcast. He is also a member of the Seattle Film Critics Society. He writes reviews with a focus on the emotional experience he has with a film. Follow him on Facebook and Twitter to be notified when new content is posted.

What We Learned This Week: September 23-29

LESSON #1: WE CAN THANK ETHAN HAWKE FOR BEING HONEST, BUT HE’S WRONG— In this column’s September absence until last week, First Reformed actor Ethan Hawke has twice pinched his nose at blockbuster filmmaking.  First, he comes off high-brow and still pretentious calling superhero films overrated and not worthy of higher class. Next, he revealed his personal story about turning down and throwing out Independence Day with an ardent and profane dismissal. Thanks for sharing, Ethan. Your opinion is welcome, but you’re still wrong though too.

LESSON #2: BRAD BIRD IS RIGHT TO LAMENT THE BUSINESS END OF MOVIES— I’m a little late to report this, but Incredibles 2 director Brad Bird sounded off mightily on Twitter at the end of August with a string of warnings directed at the sequel trend and the lack of backing for original works at the blockbuster level.  He praised Christopher Nolan’s Dunkirk as a truly original tentpole and how size and ambition deserve support equal to big money sequels and franchise.  He added more to that in a second interview for Science Fiction. The hard part is the business is going to flock to where the money is being made.  That said, Bird sure ain’t wrong. Give a few original films a chance to become their own big business.

LESSON #3: FOLKS CAN TAKE OR LEAVE THE BIG SCREEN EXPERIENCE— If you haven’t been noticing, and I don’t know you haven’t, but the communal theater experience is trickling away with the greater availability of streaming options, their competitive price points, and the affordability of home theater equipment compared to generations past.  Dueling sensibilities came down on that slow shift recently. 12 Years a Slave and upcoming Widows director Steve McQueen stepped up in an interview with Uproxx to declare his love and intent to seek out and add to the big screen experience.  Citing the big emotions and thrills, he said there’s “no point looking at a movie on your laptop on your own at home.”  On the other side of the coin in an interview with Indiewire, Mandy actor Nicolas Cage has begun to see the VOD viewership numbers for his films and sees money and success to be had in that format.  I, for one, admit to being completely on the fence. For the right movie, nothing beats the big screen experience, but it gets expensive and I have to enjoy the buried treasure and convenience of the VOD and streaming markets.  This looks like a place to have that adorable “why not both” internet GIF.

LESSON #4: THE 1990S ARE BECOMING A TIME CAPSULE— This lesson is spurred from two places, Feelin’ Film host Aaron White’s recent rewatch of Varsity Blues and a recent Unilad piece citing Millennial reactions to watching American Pie.  When you look back at popular teen-centric films like those two titles and compare them to the likes of Eighth Grade or The Edge of Seventeen now, the sentiments and tones couldn’t feel more antiquated or out of place.  People are actually getting offended by the sexist and male horndog tones of those films.  I get it, but I also call that par for the course akin to watching Blazing Saddles and taking the pause to understand its place in time.  I can’t get mad at out-of-touch films from out-of-touch times because their context fits its background.  Are the 2000s next? How will this list of that decade’s best from the Washington Post age? 


DON SHANAHAN is a Chicago-based film critic writing on his website Every Movie Has a Lesson and also on Medium.com where he is one of the 50 “Top Writers” in the Movies category.  As an educator by day, Don writes his movie reviews with life lessons in mind, from the serious to the farcical. He is a proud director and one of the founders of the Chicago Independent Film Critics Circle and a new member of the nationally-recognized Online Film Critics Society.  As a contributor here on Feelin’ Film now for over a year, he’s going to expand those lessons to current movie news and trends while chipping in with guest spots and co-hosting duties, including the special “Connecting with Classics” podcast program.  Find “Every Movie Has a Lesson” on Facebook, Twitter, and Medium to follow his work.

MOVIE REVIEW: Mandy

 

Aaron White is a Seattle-based film critic and co-creator/co-host of the Feelin’ Film Podcast. He is also a member of the Seattle Film Critics Society. He writes reviews with a focus on the emotional experience he has with a film. Follow him on Facebook and Twitter to be notified when new content is posted.