IN THE SPOOKLIGHT: MAY THE DEVIL TAKE YOU (2018)

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MAY THE DEVIL TAKE YOU (2018) is a horror movie that hails from Indonesia. It was directed by Timo Tjahjanto, a filmmaker who is a huge fan of the EVIL DEAD movies, and this movie, MAY THE DEVIL TAKE YOU, is sort of a love letter to that series.

Or at least it tries to be.

MAY THE DEVIL TAKE YOU is the story of Alfie (Chelsea Islan) a young woman who learns that her father Lesmana (Ray Sahetapy) is in the hospital in a coma, and nobody seems to know why. But the audience knows because the film opens with a creepy sequence in which we see Lesmana making a pact with a demon that somehow involves the souls of his children. Hmm. No daddy of the year award for this guy!

Anyway, in the hospital Alfie is reunited with her step family, including her stepmother,stepbrother, and two stepsisters. Her oldest stepsister, Maya (Pevita Pearce), does not like Alfie at all. Actually none of them like each other all that much because it seems pop Lesmana wasn’t always faithful and was only successful in business for a time, and now as he lies in a coma he’s lost everything.

While at the hospital, Alfie has a strange experience where she sees a frightening female figure in the hospital room with them, and then her father wakes up long enough to vomit deep dark blood all over the place.

Later, this same group attempts to clean out Lesmana’s home, and while they are there bickering and arguing, mysterious things begin to happen, like a freakish demonic woman crawling out of the basement. Yikes! After this, all hell breaks loose. Well, not all hell, but enough of it to make these folks miserable as they are chased down by a horrific demon, hell-bent on possessing their souls.

This actually sounds better than it is.

And that’s because while there were parts of MAY THE DEVIL TAKE YOU that I liked, there were just as many things that I didn’t like.

For starters, director Timo Tjahjanto does set up some pretty scary scenes. There are some really cool spooky images here, like when the woman demon shows up, from the way he films her face to the way he captures her long bony hands. There’s some really freaky stuff happening in this movie. That’s all great.

However, for a guy who’s a fan of the EVIL DEAD movies, I thought Tjahjanto’s use of gore here was pretty lame. It might have been a budget issue, but the gory scenes simply didn’t look all that good, nor were there all that many of them.

I also didn’t think the story was as tight as it could have been. Tjahjanto wrote the screenplay, and it wasn’t always clear what exactly was going on. For example, the pact between Lesmana and the demon is never clearly explained, and as a result neither are the demon’s motives.

And in many instances the characters were slow to react to things. There’d be some horrifying violent event, and then afterwards the characters would still be sitting in the next room having a conversation. I would have high-tailed it out of there within minutes of that woman emerging from the basement. But no. These folks stay. And stay. And stay.

Will you flippin run away from that house already!

Chelsea Islan is excellent in the lead role as Alfie. She plays the role with a good mix of being scared and being tough when it’s needed. Likewise, Pevita Pearce is notable as Maya, who ends up spending a good chunk of the film possessed.

Overall, MAY THE DEVIL TAKE YOU is a mixed bag. I liked its creepy scenes and enjoyed Chelsea Islan’s lead performance, but its story isn’t always clear and its gore effects aren’t anything to write home about.

While it held my interest for the most part, there were times when I wished the devil had simply taken me someplace else.

—END—

 

INVASION OF THE CORONAVIRUS

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As I sit  down to write this morning on Sunday, March 22, 2020, I am not penning my usual movie review of the latest theatrical release, and the reason I’m not doing this is all the movie theaters in my area are closed.

As they are for most of you. As are many other businesses. And even if they were open, we couldn’t go to them, because we are practicing social distancing and staying at home.

And we’re doing these things because of the unprecedented spread of the novel coronavirus, otherwise known as COVID-19.

No, this is not the plot of a new science fiction movie. This is all very real.

So, I thought it best that before I continue writing this blog as if nothing has happened, and I will very soon, that I take a moment to pause, reflect, and think about why it is that life suddenly has changed for all of us.

And then I’ll get right back to writing this blog, writing about movies, especially horror movies, and returning to business as usual. Fortunately, writing a blog is a solitary endeavor that is not impacted by social distancing. So, the blog and the writing will continue.

But first—.

What is happening right now is not normal. Nor should it become the new normal. We should do everything in our power to make sure that what is happening now won’t happen again. Ever.

Oh, I’m not saying we won’t have other pandemics to deal with. We will. The experts say as much, and I believe them.

What I’m talking about is preparation.

Right now, to slow the spread of COVID-19, people are being asked to stay home from work, to not congregate in groups of ten or more, and some states here in the U.S. have mandated this. In fact, I’d wager to guess that this will be the wave of the immediate future, that the majority of states will follow suit and declare the same mandate.

When I’m not writing about movies or writing horror fiction, I’m a middle school English teacher. Students can no longer come to school, and like other schools, we are now teaching remotely, which with today’s available technology, is actually quite cool, that my students and I can all see and speak to each other at the same time from different locations. That being said, I wish this change hadn’t been forced on them. They deserve better.

I’m a firm believer in being prepared.  Whether I’m teaching an English class or directing a school play, I am preparing way in advance. With our drama program, for example, I spend months preparing the students for the performance, and I consider worst case scenarios, for instance, that a student may be ill the night of the performance and unable to perform, and I have a plan to deal with it. I’ve actually had this happen, and thanks to our preparation efforts, other students have stepped in and taken over the role. Likewise, when the week of the show arrives, the students are prepared and ready to go, and while nerves are natural, they are able to relax and approach the performance with a cool confidence knowing that we have prepared for everything and pretty much nothing will catch us off guard, and if it does, because of our preparation, we can make adjustments on the fly. I’ve done this as well, doing rewrites in between acts to fix a problem.

Now, I’m not suggesting that preparing for a small middle school play is similar to preparing for something as huge as COVID-19. What I’m saying is regardless of the endeavor there is value to preparation. It goes a long way.

Supposedly, our federal government knew of the dangers of COVID-19 as early as January and little or no action was taken until now. I do not intend to get political here. Instead, since what I am hearing is the main reason states are shutting down isn’t only because this is a deadly and contagious virus, but more so, because our present health care system is not prepared to hospitalize the potential number of patients needing hospitalization at the same time, because the stockpile of medical supplies— which in years past used to be stored in hospitals but in recent years cost saving decisions opted against this type of storage— is not there, I’m simply suggesting that it would seem to me that if the federal government knew this was coming, then preparations to stockpile the necessary supplies should have begun back in January.

My point in all this? If being prepared means fewer deaths and less social distancing and fewer businesses closing, I would certainly hope that future administrations would learn from the mistakes made here in 2020 and fix them, so that the next time, we’re not telling school children they have to stay in their houses and not interact with anyone else other than family members in their household for potentially months at a time. If this can be prevented by early preparation, then we need to make sure this happens in the future.

And that’s my message this morning. This is not normal.  And our leaders should be working as hard they can— as should we—- to make sure this does not happen again.

In the meantime, since it is happening now, and we’re pretty much all practicing social distancing, I will continue to write columns on movies, especially horror movies. There’ll be columns on classic movies of yesteryear, and perhaps some new releases that are available streaming at home.

I will continue to have fun writing about these movies, and sharing these columns with you, in the hope that you will continue to have fun reading them.

Stay healthy, happy, and positive, be kind, support one another, and most of all, stay prepared.

As always, thanks for reading!

—Michael

 

THE HUNT (2020) – Ugly Thriller Fails At Both Horror and Satire

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Crystal (Betty Gilpin) fights back in THE HUNT (2020)

THE HUNT (2020), the new thriller by writer Damon Lindelof, who was part of the team that brought us the classic television show LOST (2004-2010), and who also wrote the screenplay for WORLD WAR Z (2013), is yet another of those horror movies featuring the unpleasant concept of humans hunting humans.

It’s what we saw in THE PURGE movies, and in last year’s clever dark comedy, READY OR NOT (2019), which starred Samara Weaving as a bride hunted by her new husband’s family on her wedding night. While I enjoyed READY OR NOT and its deliciously dark sense of humor, I’ve never been a fan of the PURGE movies. They simply haven’t worked for me.

Neither did today’s movie, THE HUNT.

The premise in THE HUNT is that a group of people are abducted from their everyday lives, and when they awake, they find themselves in a clearing surrounded by woods only to be immediately shot at by unseen hunters who have declared open season on humans. This actually sounds scarier than what the movie ultimately becomes, and that’s because THE HUNT suffers from a serious case of the stupids.

More on this in a moment.

It doesn’t take long for nearly every character in the film to meet a grisly and horrific death. We’re talking in the first ten minutes of the movie. Which leaves one character Crystal (Betty Gilpin) to stand her ground and fight back. Fortunately, Crystal is the one interesting character in the entire movie, and Betty Gilpin’s performance here is the main reason to see this one. Otherwise, it would be a complete disaster. That being said, it’s still pretty bad.

See, the premise here in THE HUNT is a group of liberal elites who spend their days talking about fighting racism, taking care of the environment, and other “liberal” issues decide to take it upon themselves to help the world by ridding it of some of its less desirables, people of the opposite political persuasion- in short, people they see as rednecks.

Or so it seems. Eventually we learn the real reason why these victims were selected. It’s a very specific reason and one that really strains credibility. In fact, it’s flat out stupid.

The liberal elite hunters come off as caricatures rather than real people, which really hurts this movie. Likewise, the victims are also exaggerated stereotypes. Both sides are portrayed as pigheaded bigots, which I suppose is the point of the movie, a point that would have been more effectively made had its characters behaved like real people rather than cliches.

The screenplay by Damon Lindelof and Nick Cuse also can’t make up its mind whether or not it wants to be a straight thriller or a satire. Its over the top dialogue definitely has it leaning towards the satire end of the spectrum, but the writing isn’t sharp enough to pull this off. Not only didn’t I laugh, but I was hardly even amused. Attempts at humor failed left and right. No pun intended.

And then the premise just gets dumber and dumber. When we finally meet the person behind the hunt, Athena (Hilary Swank), and learn her back story, it asks the audience to accept a plot point that is absolutely ludicrous.

The climactic fight scene between Crystal and Athena is a good one, and one of the bright spots of the movie. But there aren’t too many positives here. Director Craig Zobel keeps the blood flowing throughout, but few scenes have any resonance. The over the top violence seems to be going for laughs, but it doesn’t really work.

The only reason to see THE HUNT is for Betty Gilpin’s performance. She’s really good, and Crystal is the only character in the film who doesn’t wear her political views on her sleeve. The rest of the characters all do, and none of them seem all that realistic.

The film is a sloppy attempt to make a statement about the divisions in our current society, but it completely fails. The writing isn’t sharp, the characters come off as phony, and the humor doesn’t work.

THE HUNT is an ugly movie which most likely will be attacked by both sides of the political spectrum as doing a hatchet job on their respective camps. And in this case, both sides would be correct.

—END–

IN THE SPOOKLIGHT: WAR OF THE GARGANTUAS (1966)

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WAR OF THE GARGANTUAS (1966) has always been one of my favorite Toho giant monsters movies.

One reason for this is nostalgia. In addition to its regular play on the popular Saturday afternoon Creature Double Feature back in the day, it also received a much-hyped prime time showing on our local UHF Channel 56 in Boston that had all the neighborhood kids, myself included, chirping about it before, during, and after it was aired.

But the main reason is it’s a darn good movie. Well, at least among films in the Toho canon, and this is no surprise since it was directed by arguably their top director, Ishiro Honda, who also directed the original GODZILLA (1954), THE MYSTERIANS (1957), KING KONG VS. GODZILLA (1962), and DESTROY ALL MONSTERS (1968) to name just a few.

I was recently able to view the original Japanese version of WAR OF THE GARGANTUAS, which includes the Frankenstein references that were removed from the film when it was released in the U.S. back in 1970.

And there are Frankenstein references because WAR OF THE GARGANTUAS is a sequel to Toho’s Frankenstein flick, FRANKENSTEIN CONQUERS THE WORLD (1965). I’m not sure why the Frankenstein connection was initially severed, but it’s too bad it was done, because the film works even better as a Frankenstein movie.

The story of a giant Frankenstein monster and his “brother” is much more intriguing than a story about two random gargantuas. And WAR OF THE GARGANTUAS is a better movie than FRANKENSTEIN CONQUERS THE WORLD, which means it’s one of those rare cases where the sequel is an improvement on the original.

In WAR OF THE GARGANTUAS, a mysterious monster is terrorizing the countryside attacking and eating people. It is also avoiding detection, as it always disappears quickly after it attacks, preventing the authorities from being able to stop it. It’s assumed that this is the same creature which escaped from the lab of Dr. Paul Stewart (Russ Tamblyn) and his fellow scientists. Of course, in the original version, this was the Frankenstein monster from FRANKENSTEIN CONQUERS THE WORLD. Dr. Stewart doesn’t think it’s the same creature, because the one which escaped from his lab was peaceful and would never harm humans.

It’s later discovered that there are two gargantuas, the original who escaped from Stewart’s lab, and a new more menancing one, who is believed to be a sort of clone from the first. These two behemoths eventually do battle. Hence, the war of the gargantuas.

The best part of WAR OF THE GARGANTUAS is that there are lots of scenes featuring the gargantuas. In lesser Toho movies, you have to sit through long stretches of usually boring dialogue and bland characters while you wait for the monsters to make their appearances. Not so here with WAR OF THE GARGANTUAS. These creatures are in this movie a lot. There is a ton of giant monster action.

And director Ishiro Honda, who also wrote the screenplay,  fills this one with a lot of memorable scenes. The film opens with a frightening sequence where a slimy looking giant octopus attacks a ship, only to be deterred by an even scarier looking gargantua, who makes quick work of the octopus before turning his attention to the crew of the ship which he promptly consumes for a yummy dessert

There are a bunch of rather frightening scenes in this one. In spite of this being a silly giant monster movie, there are some dark moments. The scene where a group of hikers encounter the gargantua waiting for them in a dense fog has always been one that gives me the shivers. Likewise, in another sequence on a boat, the gargangtua is seen staring up at the passengers from under the water. We’re gonna need a bigger boat!

And the battle scenes here are second to none. There’s an excellent sequence where the gargantua comes out of the water to attack an airport, and of course, the climactic battle between the two garagantuas is a keeper.

If you’re a fan of the Toho movies, this is one film you do not want to miss, and if you’ve never seen a Toho film, this is a good one to start with, although I do recommend watching FRANKENSTEIN CONQUERS THE WORLD first, since this is a sequel to that movie.

All in all, if you love giant monster movie action and want to see an A-list director at the top of his game, then check out WAR OF THE GARGANTUAS.

It’s a gargantuan good time!

—END—

 

 

 

 

 

THE INVISIBLE MAN (2020) – Frightening Re-Imagining of Classic Tale

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THE INVISIBLE MAN (2020) is a clever and creative re-imagining of the Invisible Man tale, of both the classic Universal Invisible Man movies, and of H.G. Wells’ famous novel, on which all of these movies are based.

Writer/director Leigh Whannell changes the focus of the story and places it on a young woman Cecilia “Cece” Kass (Elisabeth Moss) who is trapped in an abusive relationship which only gets worse when her husband fakes his own death and makes himself invisible, giving him unlimited power to torment her relentlessly. It adds a whole new layer to the story and gives new meaning to “he said, she said,” since obviously no one believes her story.

My only question when all was said and done was why? Why go through all the trouble of faking your own death and making yourself invisible if your only goal was to torture your wife? The movie does give a reason for his motives, but it still doesn’t change the fact that this is an incredibly convoluted way of getting what he wants.

When THE INVISIBLE MAN opens, a frightened Cece escapes from her abusive husband Adrian Griffin (Oliver Jackson-Cohen) and is whisked away to safety by her sister Emily (Harriet Dyer). Cece is so fearful of Adrian, that even when she is staying with Emily’s friend James (Aldis Hodge) who’s a cop, and his teenage daughter Sydney (Storm Reid) she can’t bring herself to step out of the house, terrified that her husband will find her.

But a short time later, the news breaks that Adrian committed suicide, which strikes Cece as odd since he was always in control, and taking his own life would be the last thing she’d expect him to do. Anyway, he leaves her a ton of money, and all seems well, until Cece begins to feel his presence around her, and then strange things begin to happen.

Cece becomes convinced that Adrian faked his own death and has found a way to become invisible. Of course, her story is completely unbelievable and makes her sound crazy, as if Adrian got inside her head and scarred her so badly that she’s now having delusions that he’s still alive. So, she sets out to prove she’s right, but before she can do so, there’s a vicious murder and when she is seen with the bloody knife in hand, her defense that it was an invisible man and not her, all but seals her fate.

I really liked this new version of THE INVISIBLE MAN. It’s smart and scary and provides a fresh new way of telling the story. The only thing I didn’t like, as I already said, is I thought the plot was a bit too contrived. Why a man would go to all this trouble to get what he ultimately wants is a head scratcher. There are far easier ways to get the same result.

Still, the screenplay by Leigh Whannell is a good one. Whannell, who wrote the SAW movies and the INSIDIOUS films, has written his most ambitious screenplay yet with THE INVISIBLE MAN. Making it a story about an abused wife living in horrific fear of her abuser husband adds an entirely different element to the tale and makes it that much scarier.

Speaking of which, that’s one of my favorite parts of THE INVISIBLE MAN, that the film is scary. While I’ve enjoyed Leigh Whannell’s screenplays, I did not enjoy his directorial debut with INSIDIOUS: CHAPTER 3 (2015), the first film in the INSIDIOUS series that I didn’t really like. But he more than makes up for it here with THE INVISIBLE MAN.

I don’t get scared easily at the movies, but there are a couple of scenes in this one which made me jump. There’s a nice contrast between silence and noise here. When Cece senses something is wrong, it’s dead silent. She feels someone in the room with her but she can’t see him, and so she keeps perfectly still, relying on her other senses, hearing and smell, and so you have scenes that go from silence to terror, and they really work.

The underlying theme of the entire movie, the abused wife, keeps the audience unsettled throughout and enhances the traditional horror movie elements, which also work really well.

I wish the movie had played up the plot point of whether or not the invisible man is real, or is Cece just going psycho? I found this aspect of the story fascinating, but the film only flirts with this for a while before making it clear that yup, there’s an invisible guy on the loose.

I’ve been a fan of Elisabeth Moss since her days on MAD MEN (2007-15), and of course she now stars in THE HANDMAID’S TALE (2017-2020). She’s excellent here as the tormented Cece. The film is mostly about her, and Moss is convincing throughout. She does ask a question which also unfortunately remains unanswered, when she asks Adrian, “Why me?” He could have had any woman in the world. Why was he obsessed with her? The film doesn’t really provide an answer, which is one of the weaknesses of the movie.

The Invisible Man himself Adrian Griffin (Oliver Jackson-Cohen) isn’t developed at all. We know little about him. He just comes off as a jerk who happens to be a genius. In a way, this makes sense. Do we really want a back story for vicious wife abuser? Not really. But compared to Claude Rains in the original THE INVISIBLE MAN (1933) who stole that movie with his crazed voice in spite of never being seen since he was invisible, Oliver Jackson-Cohen is barely a blip on the monster meter. Jackson-Cohen was much more memorable as troubled brother Luke on the Netflix series THE HAUNTING OF HILL HOUSE (2018-2020).

Strangely, more villainous here is Adrian’s brother Tom, played with weasel-like coldness by Michael Dorman.

It’s worth noting that Leigh Whannell kept the name Griffin for the Invisible Man, which hearkens back to H.G. Wells’ novel and the classic Universal Invisible Man movies of the 1930s and 1940s.

Aldis Hodge is excellent as police detective James Lanier, as is Harriet Dyer as Cece’s sister Emily. Storm Reid is also very good as James’ daughter Sydney.

The film also has a menacingly powerful music score by Benjamin Wallfisch, which really adds a lot to the tension in the story.

THE INVISIBLE MAN is a successful re-imagining of the Invisible Man story that adds layers and depth not present in previous tellings. That being said, it doesn’t always hold up to scrutiny, as it never convincingly makes its case for the reasons its main villain takes such a convoluted route to achieve his goal, but if you can look past this, you’ll enjoy this frightening new take on a classic science fiction horror tale.

—END—

 

 

 

 

LEADING LADIES: BROOKE ADAMS

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Brooke Adams in 1978.

Welcome back to LEADING LADIES, that column where we look at the careers of lead actresses in the movies, especially horror movies.

Up today it’s Brooke Adams, who, if you’ve seen the outstanding 1978 version of INVASION OF THE BODY SNATCHERS, you’ll definitely remember her performance as one of the contributing factors to it being such a great movie.

The Philip Kaufman directed INVASION OF THE BODY SNATCHERS (1978) is one of those rare instances where the remake is as good or arguably better than the original. There are many reasons for this. Among them, Kaufman’s direction, a truly unforgettable chilling ending, and a fine ensemble of actors, including Donald Sutherland, Brooke Adams, Jeff Goldblum, Veronica Cartwright, and Leonard Nimoy. I saw this at the movies when I was just 14, and it instantly became a favorite. I also immediately became a fan of Brooke Adams.

Here now is a partial look at Adams’ career, focusing mostly on her genre credits:

MURDERS IN THE RUE MORGUE (1971) – Nurse (uncredited) – Adams’ first appearance on the big screen, an uncredited bit as a nurse, in this tepid horror movie by director Gordon Hessler, featuring Herbert Lom and Jason Robards. Based on the Edgar Allan Poe story.

THE GREAT GATSBY (1974) – Party Guest (uncredited) – another uncredited bit in the Robert Redford version of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s classic novel.

SONG OF THE SUCCUBUS (1975) – Olive Deems/Gloria Chambers – plays the lead in this TV movie about a modern-day rock star haunted by the ghost of a Victorian era musician.

MURDER ON FLIGHT 502 (1975) -Vera Franklin – part of an all-star cast in this TV movie about a series of murders on a jumbo jet, featuring Robert Stack, Ralph Bellamy, Sonny Bono, Fernando Lamas, Hugh O’Brian, Walter Pidgeon, and receiving most of the hype at the time, Farrah Fawcett.

SHOCK WAVES (1977) – Rose – stars alongside Peter Cushing and John Carradine in this low-budget thriller about Nazi zombies.

INVASION OF THE BODY SNATCHERS (1978) – Elizabeth Driscoll – my favorite Brooke Adams role. Stars alongside Donald Sutherland, Jeff Goldblum, Veronica Cartwright, and Leonard Nimoy in this superior retelling of the classic Jack Finney story. The best part of Adam’s performance here is that she does fear very well and captures how unsettling it would be to be caught up in such a dire situation as the imminent invasion of the pod people.

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Brooke Adams, Donald Sutherland, and Jeff Goldblum about to get some bad news on the telephone in one of the many tense moments in INVASION OF THE BODY SNATCHERS (1978).

CUBA (1979) – Alexandra Lopez de Pulido- co-stars with Sean Connery in this romantic adventure by director Richard Lester.

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Sean Connery and Brooke Adams in CUBA (1979).

THE DEAD ZONE (1983) – Sarah Bracknell – David Cronenberg’s effective adaptation of Stephen King’s novel stars Christopher Walken, Brooke Adams, Tom Skerritt, Herbert Lom, Anthony Zerbe, and Martin Sheen. A good role for Adams, as she plays Sarah, the former girlfriend of Walken’s Johnny Smith. When Johnny awakes from a coma, five years have passed, and Sarah is now married to someone else. Jonny also finds that he now possesses an unusual power. Excellent horror flick!

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Brooke Adams and Christopher Walken in THE DEAD ZONE (1983).

THE STUFF (1985) – Special Guest Star in Stuff Commercial – appearance in Larry Cohen’s campy horror comedy, starring Michael Moriarty.

SNAPSHOTS (2018) – Patty – Adams’ most recent screen credit, in this drama co-starring Piper Laurie.

All told, Brook Adams has 66 screen credits. A lot of these have been on television.

Born on February 8, 1949, Adams is still actively acting. She has been performing on both the big and small screen since 1963, with her first big screen performance happening in 1971. For me, I’ll always remember Adams for her riveting performance as the very frightened Elizabeth Driscoll in the 1978 version of INVASION OF THE BODY SNATCHERS.

Well, that’s it for now. I hope you enjoyed this edition of LEADING LADIES and join me again next time when we look at the career of another lead actress in horror movies.

As always, thanks for reading!

—Michael

 

 

COLOR OUT OF SPACE (2019) – Adaptation of H.P. Lovecraft Story Decent Enough

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COLOR OUT OF SPACE (2019), filmed in 2019 but just getting its U.S. release here in February 2020, is based on the H.P. Lovecraft short story of the same name, and tells a tale of a meteorite which crash-lands on the property of a family’s farm, poisoning the land and water surrounding it, as well as the people, and if that wasn’t enough, completely messes with the space/time continuum.

Sound like a crazy trip? That’s because it is! And if you want further proof of just how trippy this one is, look no further than its cast, which includes Nicholas Cage as the patriarch of the farm family and Tommy Chong of Cheech and Chong fame as their oddball neighbor.

And while the film is a visual tour de force, taken as a whole, it’s far from being a complete package, as its story is uneven at best and the special effects while colorful are often cheap-looking and unimpressive.

In COLOR OUT OF SPACE, Nathan Gardner (Nicholas Cage), his wife Theresa (Joely Richardson), their teen daughter Lavinia (Madeleine Arthur), teen son Benny (Brendan Meyer), and young son Jack (Julian Hilliard) have all moved to a secluded farmhouse in Arkham, Massachusetts to get away from it all, to basically live off the grid and raise alpacas. Everyone seems happy enough, except for rebellious Lavinia, who wants nothing more than to escape her family and the isolated farm.

But when a meteorite crash-lands on their property, things change. For starters, their personalities are affected, especially Nathan’s and Theresa’s who both become more belligerent around their children. Young Jack hears voices coming from the well. Time changes, as it’s dark one moment, light the next, and they find themselves off- kilter, in an almost dreamlike state as their grip on reality begins to shift.

Furthermore, a young man tasked with studying the water tables in the area, Ward (Elliot Knight) determines that there’s something wrong with the water, that it’s poisonous. As things grow more bizarre, strange mutations start taking place, and suddenly in this dreamlike state the Gardners find themselves fighting for their lives.

For the most part, I liked COLOR OUT OF SPACE. It tells a decent enough story, although it doesn’t really push the envelope enough to fully do justice to the source material. The film is unrated, and in spite of some scenes that try to be gory, the film doesn’t ever really get all that disturbing or scary.

Once the meteorite has crashed and is doing its thing, the colors at the farm and throughout the surrounding wilderness are fun to behold, but the actual special effects aren’t so great, and in fact they’re rather cheap looking. What should be some of the more disturbing effects, scenes where beings are mutated together in horrifyingly twisted creatures, come off instead looking like inexpensive cousins to the effects seen way back when in John Carpenter’s THE THING (1982). Carpenter’s classic is 38 years old, and the effects in that movie are better than the effects here.

The actual story remains more bizarre than frightening. Screenwriters Scarlett Armaris and Richard Stanley, who also directed, do a good job setting up the mystery but afterwards never go for the jugular.

Nicholas Cage has a field day as papa Nathan Gardner, and for most of the film, he was my favorite part. Madeleine Arthur is also very good as recalcitrant daughter Lavinia.

The rest of the cast is satisfactory. And if young Julian Hilliard with his big eyeglasses looks familiar acting terrified, it’s because he did the same thing with better results on the Netflix TV show THE HAUNTING OF HILL HOUSE (2018).

COLOR OUT OF SPACE works better as a science fiction movie than a horror movie, although it certainly tries hard to be the latter, thanks to some gory scenes by director Richard Stanley. Unfortunately, these scenes don’t really resonate. With their cheap look, they play more as high camp, but other than Nicholas Cage’s performance, the film isn’t all that campy.

I wish COLOR OUT OF SPACE had been better. As it stands, it’s a many-hued science fiction flick with aspirations of being horrific, but it falls slightly short of this goal. Still, if you like this sort of thing, you definitely want to check it out, especially if you’re a fan of Nicholas Cage.

At the end of the day COLOR OUT OF SPACE is just decent enough to satisfy its niche audience.

—END—