Nicolas Cage goes predictably nuts in Color Out of Space

Richard Stanley’s adaptation of an H.P. Lovecraft story provides Cage with plenty of canvas to showcase his gonzo acting.

At the top of last decade, the career of Nicolas Cage took a turn for the weird. Once considered one of Hollywood’s most bankable stars reports of money troubles resulted in the actor becoming overly prolific. For every big blockbuster, there was a direct-to-DVD stinker. This pattern, along with his irreverent tendency to over-act, turned the once well-respected Cage into a meme.

Then came 2018’s Mandy, a film so over-the-top yet self-aware that it launched a new era for the actor: “Meta Cage.” The movie finds the actor’s character setting out on an acid-laced murder spree following a cult kidnapping and burning (alive) of his girlfriend before his very eyes. This was Cage at his best in years, tackling a project that allowed him to embrace his ridiculousness to its fullest.

Directed by the equally enigmatic Richard Stanley, Color Out of Space finds Nicolas Cage reteaming with Mandy producers Daniel Noah and Josh C. Waller for another journey into the absurd. It follows a family in small-town Massachusetts whose lives take a turn for the worse after a mysterious meteorite smashes into their front lawn.

It comes as no surprise that this film premiered as a “Midnight Madness” selection at the Toronto International Film Festival. The programming for said section of TIFF could be likened to the type of content that often appears at Montreal’s own Fantasia Festival: an extremely original story delivered with a B-movie aesthetic and ’80s charm. This is another moment for “Meta Cage” to shine, a film with qualities that push the actor to embrace his reputational baggage to the fullest.

Nicolas Cage at his gonzo best

Similar to Mandy, Color Out of Space succeeds in its strong visual canvas. An extraterrestrial purple that gleams throughout a good majority of the film is mesmerizing, as if a river of codeine rained down from the heavens. 

Approaching the film with a focus on a family creates a double-edged sword. It’s interesting to present a horror story with an array of perspectives, as Stanley spends an equal amount of time on all five family members. Though the familial aspect is well-paced in terms of time-allocation, it is hard to ever quite feel connected to any particular one of them. There is no one compelling enough to root for, no one true hero of the story. 

If nothing else, Color Out of Space is an opportunity to see Nicolas Cage do what he does best. Often criticized for his lack of subtlety, this film instead encourages the actor to go balls to the wall ballistic as much as he pleases. In quite a comical manner, he takes himself seriously in situations of utter goofiness. There is never a time when you doubt that he has cranked the dial to the max.

Despite being a slow, directionless burn, Color Out of Space has its moments. It is a feast for the eyes but does little to satisfy the mind. If Mandy was your cup of (LSD infused) tea, there is probably some of this that you will enjoy. However, if National Treasure Nic Cage is the only version of the actor you can stomach, best to steer clear of this. ■

Color Out of Space opens in Montreal theatres on Friday, Jan. 24. Watch the trailer below.

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