Color Out of Space Movie and Book Compared – because I’m guessing that this movie could be a very close approximation of what it might be like to take acid. No. Space acid. It’s probably like taking space acid – if that were a thing. This is an awesome, wild-ride of a movie. If you are staring at Fandango.com right now, and wondering if you should purchase tickets to walk into the theater and watch Color Out of Space, first I would say, just go. Second, I would say, if you still aren’t sure, then I’d say, “Well, Bob” (Because your name is Bob apparently) “Color Out of Space is probably the love child of the movie Mandy, Midsommar, and Martha Marcy May Marlene. Uh, Bob, I not only gave you three movies, but I alliterated them. M Squared! No, cubed! No, no, that would be M-quartic!!! Or something. Sorry Bob… I got carried away. Just go see the movie chief.”
What is it about? Well, it’s a remake of the H.P. Lovecraft novel by the same name. Which is a fantastic short story, with glorious prose and fantastic visuals. If you are interested in reading the short story, you can find it for free at this particular location. I immediately jumped into the story as soon as this movie ended, because I was just so fascinated, I had to know absolutely everything I could about the story. So I’ll be stepping through the short story – as well as the movie, and comparing and detailing out what this movie was all about.
I’m sure this looks like a horror movie. It really isn’t. I mean, I guess, maybe it is? More of an intense alien, thriller flick. Sort of. A cerebral movie about an outer space infestation. And outside of that, I really can’t say anymore. But if you enjoy Nicolas Cage, this is a must see. Personally thought Madeleine Arthur was the one to steal this particular show. But the acting was stellar across the board. But we aren’t here for the acting, we are here for the Lovecraftian mindjob. THAT’S why we are here.
Short Story – Color Out of Space – Quick Walkthrough
In Lovecraft’s short story, you quickly realize that it is a surveyor from Boston who is the one that is trying to discover the secrets that the town is hiding out at Arkham. Talking to Ammi Pierce, a supposedly insane individual, who tells his own story about the chaos that happened to him and a farmer (Nahum Gardner) who used to live on the property in question. The place that the locals call, the “blasted heath.” But according to Ammi, it all began back in 1882, when an asteroid hit the Gardner farm.
The asteroid shrinks, and ultimately is destroyed by pulses of lightning…six distinct strikes, if you are of the counting variety. And as the asteroid disappears, it leaves behind this feeling of color. The color isn’t seen, rather, it is a feeling. But the next season, the crops on the Gardner farm are award worthy. The crops just explode in size and in unnatural abundance. Only trick though is, though gloriously beautiful crops, they are completely inedible. Simultaneously, this infection of growth continues to spread from the crops to the animals. Everything begins to shimmer in a bio-luminescent sort of way. And then the “color” begins to infect Gardner’s wife, who goes stark raving mad. So he locks her in the attic. And as the color settles in, the Gardner’s cut off all contact from the outside world.
Now, I read the story pretty fast, immediately after finishing the movie. So I think I’m pretty on track for this story recap. Soon after Mrs. Gardner goes insane, all the plants and crops dissolve into this sort of grayish powdery substance. And worse, the well water is ruined… And with it goes the sanity of Gardner’s son Thaddeus. Good thing there are several rooms in the attic… because we have a new guest honey! And not to jump to conclusions (cough Dark Water) but all the animals on the farm start dying, and the meat is 100% inedible. Poor Thaddeus, he soon dies after he is checked into the attic hotel. Merwin, another of Gardner’s sons, goes completely AWOL when attempting to go down into the well to get water. Noting that something must be wrong at the Gardner place, the police finally come out, something like a week or two later. Pierce, a policeman, heads up into the attic and is floored by what he finds. Zenas, Gardner’s last son, has disappeared and Gardner’s wife has been infected by the Color out of Space. Pierce though, being kind, shoots her in order to put her out of her misery. And as the color circles the house and destroys everything in its path, Pierce runs for his life. And the color kills Nahum, the final surviving resident.
Pierce comes back later that day with a number of other men to inspect the chaos of the homestead. They quickly find both Merwin and Zenas’ skeletons in the well. Not to mention bones of numerous other animals. Soon though, the color rises up out of the well and attacks the men. It envelopes everything on the farm. Sensing their danger, the men run for their lives. The only one to ever return again is Pierce, who finds nothing but gray ash. But Pierce is aware the some remnant of the alien infestation has remained, even if invisible. And its with that, he, and the Gardner’s neighbors, all leave, and abandon the area.
But what does Lovecraft say about the color? What is it? What does the story about it? Here’s the section of the story that talks most specifically about it:
“What it is, only God knows. In terms of matter I suppose the thing Ammi described would be called a gas, but this gas obeyed laws that are not of our cosmos. This was no fruit of such worlds and suns as shine on the telescopes and photographic plates of our observations. This was no breath from the skies whose motions and dimensions our astronomers measure or deem to vast to measure. It was just a colour out of space – a frightful messenger from unformed realms of infinity beyond all Nature as we know it; from realms whose mere existence stuns the brain and numbs us with the black extra-cosmic gulfs it throws open before our frenzied eyes.”
Movie – Color Out of Space – Quick Walkthrough
Though modernized, and the family decreased in size, the movie basically follows the similar path of the Lovecraft story. Instead of following the surveyor who is curious what happened years and years ago to the land, we follow a hydrologist, Ward (played by Elliot Knight), who is wanting to survey the land and it’s water. This brings him in touch with Lavinia (played by Madeleine Arthur) who has a proclivity for all things Wicca. Now, this brings us to one of the biggest differences between Lovecraft’s story and the 2019 movie. I’ll be honest, I wasn’t exactly sure what that did for the story. And the shockingness of the strangeness made me dive into Alexandrian Wicca practices just to see what the heck is going on here. And that means, you get to learn too! Congratulations!
Alexandrian Wicca Practices
Apparently, Alexandrian Wicca is a tradition of witchcraft that is connected to Neopaganism… a more modern arm of Wicca. It was founded by Alex Sanders and his wife Maxine, who created the Wiccan sect back in the 1960’s. This shoot of the Wicca tradition is similar to other Wiccan practices, but emphasizes the polarity of the genders, the definitive differences. And these differences come out most in their rituals – which concentrate on the relationship between the Wiccan goddess, and god. It also was a more eclectic form of Wicca – “If it works use it,” sort of an attitude. Sanders formed the practices as a derivative of Hermetic Qabalah, Enochian magic, and the Gardnerian tradition.
But the question remains – what is it doing in this movie?
Movies have to be wrung out, and taught, otherwise they lose the viewer, and confuse things needlessly. Every moment needs to be there for a reason. And since Wicca – of any sort – isn’t in the book, it leaves us to ask why Richard Stanley (The Island of Dr. Moreau) added it in. Last I checked, the color was a form of alien visitor. At least, that is what Lovecraft stated it was. So what was the writer, Scarlett Amaris, doing here? We are just going to have to set that aside now, and see where the rest of the movie goes.
Ending of Color Out of Space Explained
Large swaths of the movie follow the book fairly closely. Sure, there are more sons that are more impacted by the color. More people locked in the attic. But the cinematic envisioning of Jack (the son, played by Julian Hilliard – who rocked it in The Haunting of Hill House) and Teresa (the mother, played by Joely Richardson – who most notably starred in the movie In Darkness) being melded together, like some sort of evil radioactive horror show from Chernobyl? Brilliant. Scarily unnerving. But Brilliant. Benny does end up randomly climbing into the well, and never being heard from again.
When Ward brings the sheriff out to the Gardner homestead, he finds all manner of craziness happening. And he decides he will carry the injured Lavinia out of the house and away. And as they begin to leave the house, Nathan Gardner (Nicolas Cage – Mandy, and Mom and Dad, among a million other things), takes aim at the color coming out of the well. But the sheriff, believes that he is taking aim at Ward…for some reason. (Which, we will get to.) And then shoots him. Ward and the sheriff head off to find Ezra, but they are attacked by the color coming out of Ezra’s dead body. So they run, and the sheriff is scooped up by a tree, and constricted to death. Lavinia, is found standing by the glowing well…
When Ward looks into her face – which she carved previously during a Wiccan ritual hoping for protection from the color, he sees the vastness of the universe dominated by the color. It’s a vast galactic empire of solar flares, spectral shoots, terrestrial planes unimagined here on earth. Until Wade flailed backwards out of the vision and hit the ground. At which point, the grass began writhing and trying to consume him. Wade doesn’t realize just how much trouble he’s in. So he runs for the cover of the house, where he finds Nathan, sitting in his lazy boy, watching the television. Watching. The. Television.
But the two begin struggling with each other as Ward tries to get down into the safety of the basement. (Safety of the basement?) And as he slips down into the basement, closing the door behind him, Nathan is banging on the door, trying to get in. When, everything turns to ash. The color ashifies everything above ground. The only thing left of Nathan is the calcified ash he has left behind.
Unanswered Questions from the Color Out of Space Movie
I loved this movie. It wasn’t as intense as Midsommar. It wasn’t as mental as Mandy, and yet way crazier than other alien invasion films like Arrival, and Captive State. And I am 100% ready to just give Lovecraft the color idea. You can have it, no questions asked. Why do all aliens have to look like E.T.? Sure, an alien color. I get it.
And I also love how the color manifested itself in a number of frightening and interesting ways. It made people do things that they had just said they were not going to do. Benny? His climbing into the well? I hear the dog down there. Lavinia was like, it’s just a dog! No! Let’s just get out of here. But the color had infected his mind with an infestation of insanity. Climb down into the well. And it also explains why the sheriff had the crazy idea that Nathan was about to shoot Ward. It was obvious that Nathan was staring at the well.
But I’m still going to come back to the Wiccan references that were inserted. I find it interesting because Lavinia utilizes the spells in order to invoke a protection. It’s how the movie starts even before the asteroid hits I believe. It’s how Ward and Lavinia are introduced. Are we saying here that Lavinia summoned the color? Is that where this is going? Inadvertently? Or if she didn’t summon the color, is it just a different call to a deity for help and safety? So Lavinia is invoking Satan to ward off the color – and she does so through cutting and slashing runes and shapes into her skin. It just doesn’t make sense to me. Personally, the best way to square this, is to think that Lavinia accidentally summoned the asteroid, and the color from space. Nothing else really makes sense to me. And, having this connection to the color, she channels it as the movie goes on.
The Improbability of Color Out of Space?
It apparently wasn’t a foregone conclusion that Richard Stanley was going to get a chance to create Color Out of Space. The last film he touched was the Island of Dr. Moreau. He pulled together a dream cast, including Brando and Val Kilmer?? But he only survived 3 days before he was fired. Yet, here we are. And this film really worked. I really enjoyed it. What about you? Was this a good kinda crazy? Or a Moreau kinda crazy? You tell me!
Edited by: CY