A weekend of strangeness in the moviehouse

Over the last few days, I’ve seen a couple of horror movies, one new and one old. The new one is The Color Out of Space, which, unfortunately, is indescribable. Nic Cage is raising alpacas on a farm near Arkham; his neighbor is Tommy Chong, who really leans into the deadhead stereotype. There is a family. For a while. They really come together in confronting the nightmare that has landed in their front yard, which is my way of saying there will be some gruesome body horror. Pity the alpacas. Nic Cage’s mannerisms and accents get weirder as the movie progresses. Tommy Chong finds enlightenment, of a kind of purplish pink wavelength. Everyone dies, but it’s OK, they come back. Wait, that’s not OK. The plot is very Lovecraftian, in the sense that the plot really doesn’t matter at all, it’s just a scenario in which an ordinary family, in the sense of a family that chooses to isolate themselves in rural Massachusetts and milk alpacas is ordinary, get confronted with a malignant cosmic reality that cares nothing for them.

If you liked The Thing, you’ll love this movie. If you enjoy watching Nic Cage acting badly, but with verve, you’ll like this movie. If you watch this movie under the influence of drugs, you’ll probably become one with the movie. If you’re a fan of Cronenberg or Lynch, you’ll want to see this movie. If you like alpacas, you may be profoundly disturbed by this movie. You’ll have to decide for yourself whether you want to see it.

By the way, the color is magenta.

The old movie I watched was The People Under the Stairs. I first saw this one when it came out in the theaters, way back in 1991, when there was a theater around the corner from me in Salt Lake City that would show odd arthouse movies that none of the Mormons would ever go see, but that would appeal to the university crowd. There was a lot of dreck, but two stuck with me: Tetsuo: The Iron Man for its bizarre transformations and horrifying body fluidity, and The People Under the Stairs for it’s remarkably prescient class consciousness.

Here’s a review that spells out the story, but really, it’s obvious: psychopathic rich people control a black neighborhood, taking all the money out of the people’s hands and salting it away in the cellar of their escape-proof, booby-trapped house. They also steal children, and if they don’t behave to their standards, mutilate them and stash them in the cellar, where they’re forced to live on the flesh of burglars. The metaphor is laid on pretty thick, to the point where you begin to wonder if Wes Craven was having prophetic dreams about 2020. Unfortunately, you could see this coming quite clearly in the 80s, so I don’t think he had any magic powers.


  1. says

    “If you enjoy watching Nic Cage acting badly, but with verve”
    In other words, if you like watching Nick Cage. He couldn’t act his way out of a wet paper bag to save his life, a scenario that sadly hasn’t happened yet.
    The plot sounds suspiciously similar to Annihilation, or am I just imagining things?

  2. canuckamuck says

    If The Color Out of Space seems Lovecraftian, that’s because it is. The Color Out of Space is literally a Lovecraft short story from 1927 upon which the movie is based.

  3. methuseus says

    @Erlend Meyer
    Hey, Nic did a good job of a borderline psychotic conspiracy theorist in the National Treasure movies. That may just be his normal, but it made sense for those movies, at least.

  4. says

    There is a lot of similarity to Annihilation. The overall tone of Annihilation was one of strange beauty, while this one is about incomprehensible horror.

    TCOoS does indulge in mindblowing light shows, just like Annihilation, but they’re all shades of magenta.

  5. Callinectes says

    I must have so completely absorbed The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy that I was unable to imagine the Colour as anything other than blue.

  6. christoph says

    @ Erlend Meyer, # 1: I wouldn’t call it bad acting. Maybe over-the-top acting. I’ve liked Nicholas Cage in just about every movie he’s been in.

  7. Beatrice, an amateur cynic looking for a happy thought says

    Better of worse than Mandy? Because we tried watching that one and we had to give up after about 15 minutes.
    Soundtrack only could be used for torture.
    I love Nicolas Cage, but even I have some standards.

  8. christoph says

    “The People Under the Stairs” was also a great horror-comedy. No spoilers, but I found the ending to be very satisfying.

  9. waydude says

    Was that theater the Blue Mouse or the Tower? could’ve been Broadway as well, but any of those and I might’ve been in that theater with you

  10. says

    The Tower, that was the name! I lived around 900E 800S. There was also a bagel place near there where I would sometimes hang out.

    That was 30 fucking years ago. Sheesh.

  11. waydude says

    Yes! The Tower, it’s the only one of it’s kind still around in SLC. I saw Rocky Horror and countless Animation festivals there

  12. loreo says

    @Beatrice “Worse” than Mandy? That was my favorite film of 2018, and it specifically got me listening to Jóhann Jóhannsson and Sunn O))) because of their work on the soundtrack. No shade tho, everybody has different taste :)

  13. jackmann says

    Magenta actually makes a little sense as the color, in that it’s not a “real” color. It’s what happens when the brain gets news from the eyes that they’re seeing violet and red at the same time. The actual color that’s halfway between would be green, but the green-sensitive cone cells don’t pick anything up, so the brain kind of “invents” magenta as a solution.

  14. John Morales says

    No mention of Octarine, yet?


    Although I can’t be sure how faithful the movie is to the story …

    After perusing detailed synopses, I’m pretty sure it’s very faithful to the spirit of the original, though modernised. Sounds good, I will check it out someday.

    (I am very familiar with the source material; I only wish William Hope Hodgson’s corpus would be equally recognised — perhaps it will, some day)

  15. christoph says

    @ Erland Meyer, # 10: “@cristoph: You must be suffering from Stockholm syndrome. I can understand not hating him enough to actually consider homicide, but like?”

    You didn’t like the Ghost Rider movies?