Colour Out Of Space is a wild ride that deserves several viewings

Colour Out Of Space (MA)

Four stars

In my younger days I used to run an arthouse cinema where there was a certain crowd that would come to the weekend late late shows. Their clothes smelt organic, they giggled at practically everything, their eyes bloodshot red and barely open. What i'm implying is that they'd been criminally indulgent in the car park before the film. The weirder the film, the more they loved it, the more they wanted.

A scene from 'Colour Out of Space'. Picture: Umbrella

A scene from 'Colour Out of Space'. Picture: Umbrella

Watching the hyper-colour and hyper-sensory Colour Out Of Space, I kept thinking back to that crowd of delightful mid-1990s arthouse weirdos and pondering how much they would have loved this film. It's of-a-kind with Lair of the White Worm and Gothic, classic literature-referencing, maybe not exceptional art, but a bonkers mad ride and definitely worth repeat viewings.

It is one of a number of adaptations from HD Lovecraft's popular short story, his personal favourite, in which his narrator recounts the curious history of a region in Massachusetts poisoned by a meteorite which releases a maddening toxin. Like the story of the Andrea Gale, this film is a perfect storm of delightful derangement, beginning with its director Richard Stanley. Stanley's indie film director cred took a hit when he was was walked from the set of his 1996 Marlon Brando starring adaptation of The Island of Dr Moreau due to creative differences.This is his first feature film since, and I feel something of a vindication.

Moreau was a disorganised mess. This is real fun. With Moreau, he wasn't able to rein in his overpowering mega-star. With this film, he has an equally magnetic, forceful lead but he manages to make that star's usual unhinged schtick work for the narrative.

I'm talking about Nicholas Cage. You see his name on the poster and you just know this film is going to be weird. Cage has been carefully cultivating this brand for decades. Cage plays Nathan Gardener, husband to stockbroker Theresa (Joely Richardson) and dad to Lavinia (Madeline Arthur), Benny (Brendan Meyer) and Jack (Julian Hiliard). Nathan has recently moved his family to the farm he grew up on and has recently inherited. Theresa is furious with the WiFi and the bad phone reception but more furious about her chemotherapy.

A scene from Colour Out of Space. Picture: Umbrella

A scene from Colour Out of Space. Picture: Umbrella

Ward craves his dad's approval. Lavinia wants to connect with supernatural forces. She will certainly get her wish. She meets visiting hydrologist Ward (Elliot Knight) on their property, and he happens to be present when a meteorite crashes close to the family home. Ward feels the meteorite might be responsible for poisoning the water table, but he comes to witness the poisoning impact it has on local wildlife, and eventually the human population.

This is sci-fi horror, but not the usual torture porn. There are some great effects as the family disconnect from reality, and eventually from time, from physics, from metaphysics. There is gruesome classic horror as Joely Richardson's mum mutates and reabsorbs one of her children. You read that right. Bonkers. There is peak Nicholas Cage as the dad loses touch with reality.

Lovecraftian is a subgenre that merges science fiction and horror, in which the usual understandings of the the universe are challenged or twisted. Richard Stanley makes some bold choices to make this the most Lovecraftian film possible, primary amongst which is the soundscape.

This film deserves a second sitting-through with your eyes closed to let Colin Stetson's music, strings and synthesiser, possibly saw blades and 80s power beats, rattle your teeth and unsettle your intestines. It felt quite Koyaanisqatsi at times.

The colour of the title is a luminous magenta, possibly a disembodied alien, a metaphor for the descent into madness, a colour that repeats through this lava lamp of a flick.

This story Colour Out Of Space first appeared on The Canberra Times.