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Film / Color Out of Space (2020)

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"I hope the dam water that covers this place will be very deep, but even then, I'll never drink it. There are only a few of us who remember the strange days now. What touched this place cannot be quantified or understood by human science, or our basic concept, our perception of reality. It was just... a color out of space. A messenger from realms whose existence stuns the brain and numbs us with the gulfs that it throws open before our frenzied eyes."
Ward Phillips

Color Out of Space is a 2020 Sci-Fi Horror film based on the short story The Colour Out of Space by H. P. Lovecraft. It is directed by Richard Stanley in his return to filmmaking after a twenty-year absence and stars Nicolas Cage, Joely Richardson, Madeleine Arthur, Elliot Knight, and Tommy Chong.

Presented as a haunting recollection by hydrologist Ward Phillips (Knight), he tells of how his work once took him to Arkham County to aid in the planning of a new water reservoir. There he befriends the Gardner family, led by struggling farmer Nathan (Cage) and his wife Theresa (Richardson), a cancer survivor who is struggling to get her online brokerage business off the ground. Despite their woes, the Gardners are more or less happy until the night a meteor that emits a strangely-colored light crashes onto their property. Ward quickly notices dangerous changes in the local water supply, but his discoveries may come too late to help the Gardners, who must now struggle to survive against increasingly bizarre events that threaten to overwhelm their isolated farm.

This work contains examples of the following:

  • Abusive Parents: It is implied that Nathan's father was an abusive alcoholic. While Nathan himself tries to keep from being this, the Color's influence and the Trauma Conga Line it puts him through drives him into fits of rage, shouting at his kids when things don't go his way and eventually attempting to feed his oldest daughter to the monster his wife and youngest son had become.
  • Action Survivor: Ward escapes several attacks from the Color operating through its various proxies and ultimately survives, despite not having any particular kind of edge or advantage that would help. However, he's pretty traumatized by the utter horror of the Color he witnessed, so he isn't entirely unscathed.
  • Adaptation Expansion: The short story tells very little about the Gardners' life before the arrival of the meteor. Here, the entire first act is spent just getting to know them. There is also a scene of Arkham's mayor emphasizing how the new reservoir will provide water for much of the eastern seaboard.
  • Adaptation Name Change:
    • Nahum Gardener becomes Nathan Gardener.
    • Abigail "Nabby" Gardner is changed to Theresa.
    • Nahum's children's names are also changed: Thaddeus becomes Benny and Zenus is now Jack, while the middle son Merwin is gender flipped into Lavinia.
  • Adaptational Villainy:
    • The Color in the story drains its victims at an almost leisurely pace and it is deliberately left vague as to whether the Color even possesses the sentience to be aware of what it is doing, or simply just operates on Blue-and-Orange Morality due to its utterly alien nature and is thus indifferent to lesser forms of life, as Cthulhu was originally described. The Color in the film appears much more aggressive, seemingly deliberately attacking, luring, and tormenting its prey. It goes so far as to directly influence the negative changes and deterioration of the Gardners' already shaky mental state, not to mention simply poisoning them with its essence polluting the well water.
    • In the short story, when Nahum is under the Color's influence, it renders him feebleminded but harmless. His film counterpart Nathan, on the other hand, becomes fully Brainwashed and Crazy.
    • The short story mentions the trees swaying on their own in the absence of wind. The film takes this much further with the trees being capable of grabbing people and killing them.
  • Adapted Out: The researchers from the nearby university are nowhere to be seen in this movie, while in the short story they lead important research on the meteor's origin, although they didn't come to a distinct conclusion.
    • As all of the extraneous but still plot-relevant characters are adapted out or suffer Death by Adaptation, it’s not clear who else Ward is referring to when he remarks that “few of us remember the strange times,” given he’s the sole survivor of the event.
  • Admiring the Abomination: More than one character reacts to the Color by saying it looks beautiful, including notably in the film's final act where the Color is an established dangerous threat. Possibly justified in the latter instance by Sanity Slippage. Also possibly justified in that, despite the horrors it leads to, the way it's presented can indeed give the Color itself a weird, unsettling beauty.
  • And I Must Scream: A direct hit from the Color's attack fuses Theresa and her son Jack into one heaving, whimpering mass of flesh. Also implied to be the fate of most other things infected and transformed by the Color for the remainder of their life.
  • Animalistic Abomination: By the midpoint of the film, the Color infects Ezra's cat G-Spot, turning her into a creature with hairless translucent skin and misshapen glowing magenta eyes. It later infects the Gardners' alpacas, turning them into a grotesque amalgam like something out of The Thing (1982). Ironically, or maybe as a tribute to it, their wolf-dog Sam is also part of the flesh-mix of the creatures.
  • Apocalyptic Log: Ezra starts making recordings of the sounds emanating from the meteor underground, adding his own thoughts and theories as he goes. By the time these recordings are played near the end, they have managed to outlive him and are delivering one final message for whoever is willing to listen.
  • Astonishingly Appropriate Appearance: The repeated shot of the Gardner house at night has all the outdoor lights form an outline that resembles a generic UFO, which is fitting to say at very least, considering all the events of the movie.
  • Ax-Crazy: It's implied that the Theresa-Jack hybrid becomes this before it's killed, based on it attacking Lavinia. Nathan meanwhile experiences an increasing Sanity Slippage partly due to the Color's effects, and is very much a danger to his still-living family members by the film's final act.
  • Beard of Sorrow: Ward Phillips is shown to have grown one by the time of the film's epilogue, symbolizing his lingering trauma from the previous events.
  • Beauty Is Never Tarnished: Gender-flipped. Lavinia ends up carving symbols all over her body that probably would have led to permanent scars had she survived, while Ward gets out covered in dust but without a single scar.
  • Be Careful What You Wish For: In both the opening scene and when she carves symbols on herself, Lavinia pleads with the powers that be to get her the hell off her family's farm. It's hinted in the climax when the Color disintegrates her, then creates projections of her and her deceased family before it fully returns to space, that she got what she asked for.
  • Big Creepy-Crawlies: The hybridization of Theresa and Jack plays with this trope, having a decidedly spider-like look and movement with its multiple limbs once it regains mobility and becomes aggressive.
  • Bizarre Alien Senses: The mutated mantis and later the Color's manifestation perceive the world in a false-color effect.
  • Black Dude Dies First: Inverted when the only black character in the cast, Ward Phillips, is the Sole Survivor, recounting the tale to the audience.
  • Blood Magic: Tried, unsuccessfully, by Lavinia at the mid-point of the Color's infestation. Unfortunately, she decides to rely on a ritual from her copy of the Necronomicon for protection. While she stays sane longer than Nathan, it ultimately does nothing to help her, and it's implied it makes her final descent into madness worse.
  • Bloodier and Gorier: Like many other Lovecraftian adaptations, this one is much more graphic and violent than the original story. The film adds conjunction of bodies of mother and son and their violent death. Lavinia carves symbols onto herself. Also, there is a scene where alpacas become like a creature from The Thing. None of this happened in the original story.
  • Body Horror: In addition to draining, mutating, and outright disintegrating living things, the Color can fuse multiple organisms into a single pulsating, gruesome biomass.
  • Brainwashed and Crazy: By the end of the film, the Color's influence has driven the Gardners irrevocably insane. Benny is lured into willingly climbing into the well and a Fate Worse than Death, the fused creature that is Theresa and Jack attempts to devour Lavinia, Nathan becomes unhinged and - at one point - outright hostile, and Lavinia crosses the Despair Event Horizon, willingly embracing and being possessed by the Color and being disintegrated for it.
  • Bright Is Not Good: The Color is VERY bright, and characters keep referring to it as "beautiful".
  • Brown Note: The Color causes its victims to hear a high-pitched noise when it increases its hold over them. Actually, the Color's entire presence is a Brown Note Being.
  • Brown Note Being: The Color affects all life around it negatively; mutating flora, fauna and humans in ways varying from the bizarre to outright horrific, and influencing and inducing trances and Sanity Slippage in all the Gardners after they drink the contaminated water.
  • Bugs Herald Evil: A strange and vibrantly violet-pink coloured praying mantis creature is seen on the Gardners' property crawling out of the well in the early stages of the Color transforming the local area. It has far more eyes than a mantis and what looks like several tongues sprouting from its mandibles. Just before the credits, one of these is seen buzzing about near the reservoir after Ward has given his final narration, signifying the Colour's effects not being fully gone, though whether it is the same insect or a different one is not known.
  • Bunny-Ears Lawyer: The Gardners' hippie neighbor, Ezra, clearly isn't all there. But he's a competent electrician who built his own off-the-grid home, and he figures out the Color's origins, nature, and intent long before anyone else. Not that it does him or anyone else any good.
  • Cell Phones Are Useless: The Color causes electromagnetic disruptions that render cellphones all but inoperable, transmitting only sounds of garbled screams, effectively isolating the farm from the outside world. For some reason, the Internet connection works slightly better — for a while.
    • Ezra thinks it's alien communication, rather than mere static. It's also heavily implied that the disruptions influence Nathan's mental degradation.
  • Chekhov's Gun:
    • The Gardners' wine cellar, briefly seen while they're having dinner early in the film, allows Ward to survive the Color's parting shot.
    • Early in the film Benny finds a pair of old-fashioned pilot's goggles among his grandfather's belongings. When The Color emerges from the well in a burst of light, Benny puts on the goggles to shield his eyes... and gets vaporized anyway.
  • Chewing the Scenery: Fans of Nicolas Cage's legendary hamminess won't be disappointed here. In particular, several scenes feature him doing a bizarre voice that sounds like an impression of either Bobby Axelrod or Donald Trump. Interestingly, this represents one of the few movies where his hamminess is almost entirely justified by The Color's influence.
  • Cigarette of Anxiety: In the end, after everything that has happened, the very traumatized Ward, who had steadfastly rejected Ezra's repeated offers of getting a hit from his blunt, quietly smokes a cigarette as he considers everything that happened to the Gardners and the horrible implications of it.
  • Climate Change Allegory: Under the meteor's influence (represented by the titular psychedelic "Color" emitting from it) the farm gradually turns into a barren wasteland, its inhabitants are Driven to Madness, and the local animals become creepy mutants. Though the movie is an adaptation of the eponymous 1927 story by H. P. Lovecraft, the director stated in an interview that he reimagined it as a metaphor for climate change.
  • Closed Circle: The alien entity disrupts phone service and renders vehicles inoperable, making escape from the area impossible. Lavinia and Benny attempt to escape on horseback. But then it possesses the horse.
  • Closest Thing We Got: Ward is a hydrologist, but the Gardners ask his help identifying the meteor, and the sheriff and a local hunter ask his help identifying a mutated animal corpse, as he's likely the only person with any form of scientific education for miles.
  • Composite Character: The nameless water surveyor from the short story and Ammi Pierce, the local man he interviews, are here merged into the single character of Ward Phillips. Likewise, the half-dozen anonymous lawmen who accompany Ammi on his final journey to the farm are rolled into the singular character of the town sheriff, whose name does happen to be Pierce.
    • Ezra has a cat and hears strange noises coming from within his home, not unlike Mr. Delapoer, is an old eccentric living in a rural area who makes recordings of a strange alien presence, as does Henry Akely, and shares his name with a minor character in The Case of Charles Dexter Ward.
  • The Corruption: The Color very much, mutating and/or amalgamating all terrestrial life that comes into contact with its influence in pretty horrific ways. The entire Gardner family are also affected and suffer Sanity Slippage; they don't get better.
  • Cosmic Horror Story: Given the story's author, such a bleak tone is unsurprising. The Eldritch Abomination cannot be stopped from achieving its goals (whatever they may be), the Gardners all go mad and die horribly, Ward is left traumatized by his experiences, there are countless other creatures just as terrible out in the vastness of space, and said abomination's passage may have tainted the water supply for most of the Eastern Seaboard.
  • The Corruption: Plants and animals infected by the Color are mutated — as seen with the praying mantis emerging from the well and Ezra's cat G-Spot. As the Color's power grows and its taint increases, the foliage and even the mist on the Gardners' property take on an eerie purple hue.
  • Dangerously Garish Environment: The more the titular color infects the surrounding land, the more vibrant it becomes, with the plants and animals becoming a shade of bright magenta.
  • Deadly Euphemism: Nathan, driven insane by the Color, drags Lavinia to the attic and locks her in with the mutated creature that was Theresa and Jack, telling her: "If there's one thing that families do, they stay together. Now feed your mother."
  • Decoy Protagonist: Despite the prominence of Cage on the poster and advertisements, Lavinia is the real lead, having the primary point of view. This, however, does not mean she's spared.
  • Deliberately Monochrome: How the Blasted Heath is represented. The Color's departure from Earth drains the entire area around the Gardners' farm of any color, leaving it a white-and-grey ashen wasteland. Viewers may be forgiven for thinking the film has switched to black-and-white photography until they look closely at Ward and the camera zooms out to reveal the surrounding green forest.
  • Despair Event Horizon: Nathan's death appears to push Lavinia over this. Despite Ward urging her to flee, she abandons any intention of escaping as she believes it's impossible. When she's seen again, she's fully under the Color's influence, and dies soon after.
  • Developing Doomed Characters: Unlike in the short story, in this film, we get to spend a great deal of time getting to know the human characters, showing them as a rather dysfunctional family undergoing hard times even before they become victims of one of the Old Ones. You learn Nathan is a struggling gardener and father with anger issues who's also The Alcoholic, stemming from his abusive father. Theresa is a highly stressed stock broker and haggard mother who's just recovered from breast cancer, and thus feels ugly because of it and comes off as somewhat insensitive to her husband and kids. Benny is a stoner who'd rather hang out with the resident hermit Ezra. Lavinia is a withdrawn goth who has taken up Wiccan arts as a form of coping, and Jack is even more withdrawn and hardly talks to his parents or siblings, only really connecting with their dog Sam. Despite these issues, it's clear at least in the beginning that they love each other. Which makes it even more heartbreaking when the Color's arrival disrupts their lives and ends up directly ruining their lives before directly consuming them.
  • Dissonant Serenity: Nathan's insanity culminates in this. Where previously he was living up to his actor's reputation in his manically spectacular breakdown, his final scenes have him eerily mild, and even cheerful while delivering a Mercy Kill to his mutated wife and child. His reaction to receiving a lethal gunshot wound is to simply stare at the blood on his hand and dreamily remark: "It's beautiful. Like the flowers."
  • Drink-Based Characterization: Subverted. Nathan mentions enjoying bourbon, but has none of the macho qualities typically associated with it. Amusingly, while in the middle of a confused rant on the news, the title "Bourbon Connoisseur" appears beneath him.
  • Downer Ending: Don't expect happy endings in a Cosmic Horror Story. The Color finishes its feeding and returns to space, leaving the Gardners, Ezra, and the sheriff dead, and Ward permanently traumatized by his experiences. Additionally, the reservoir still gets built, meaning thousands if not millions of people are drinking water that's almost certainly tainted.
  • The Dulcinea Effect: Ward puts himself through a lot more trouble than his job obligates him to simply because of a subtle attraction to Lavinia.
  • Eldritch Abomination: The titular entity, an utter Brown Note Being with seemingly no fixed form or shape beyond its magenta-esque color, and which can distort time and space around itself in a similar manner to a black hole. It's not even 100% certain if the Color is an entity so much as a thing or if it's aware in any way of what it's doing (although it's much more likely that it is sentient and has some environmental awareness than in the book). Since this movie adapts a book by none other than H. P. Lovecraft himself, this is a given.
  • Eldritch Location: It can be argued that the Color is slowly turning the Gardners' land into this. Its homeworld is undoubtedly this: a confusing, fleshy landscape covered by writhing tentacles - some gigantic in size - dominated by towering structures of alien design, the most prominent of which has the same shape as the runic symbol from Lavinia's Necronomicon. A black sun hangs in the sky, which is bathed in a light identical to that of the Color.
  • Eldritch Transformation: Downplayed and implied. The Color fuses and transforms all plant and animal life it infects into horrible, mutated Flesh Golems and other fusions which glow with the Color's light and energy. The movie's climax seems to imply that the Color absorbed Lavinia and possibly her family's consciousnesses into itself before departing Earth, granting Lavinia's wish to escape the farm.
  • Electromagnetic Ghosts: While it's not a ghost, the Color interferes with technology in the nearby area, including cell phones, televisions, the Gardners' internet router, and Ezra's recordings.
  • The End... Or Is It?: Unlike in the original story, we do not see the entity leave an offspring behind as it departs. But Ward suspects it regardless and refuses to drink from the new reservoir. Then, in the final shot a mutated mantis like the one seen earlier in the film goes flying by...
  • Energy Being: The Color, which itself has no physical form so to speak of and the few times it manifests in a way that's comprehensible to human senses, it appears as something made of pure energy. It has Brown Note Being effects on terrestrial life its influence touches.
  • Evil-Detecting Dog: The Gardners' family dog, Sam, knows the Color is dangerous from day one. And he ends up being one of its first victims alongside the alpacas.
  • Evil Smells Bad: When the meteorite carrying the titular Color first crashes onto the Gardners' property, Nathan remarks that it smells awful. No one else does regardless of how close they are to the meteorite.
  • Fate Worse than Death:
    • The fates of the victims who are amalgamated by the Color into giant, fused pounds of flesh seem to be this if their constant moaning and whimpering, and the almost feral way Theresa's head laps up water is any indication.
    • Implied to be Benny's ultimate fate — He's last seen inside the well, being engulfed by the Color while screaming in terror. An insane Nathan later off-handedly remarks to Ward and Pierce that he "lives in the well now". This may also be Sam's fate, since we hear his whining coming from the well when Benny tries to save him.
    • And based on the reappearance of the entire family after they're all been affected by the Color and killed at the film's climax, appearing as they did before being affected, it seems probable that even in death the Color's victims' consciousnesses don't escape its hold.
  • Final Boy: By the end, Ward is the only main character to survive.
  • Final Girl: Averted: Lavinia is heavily set up to be one, and she probably outlives the rest of her family at least, but in the end the Color gets her too.
  • Fingore: The Color puts Theresa into a trance, resulting in her lopping off her fingertips.
  • Flesh Golem: The alpacas get mutated into a horrific, constantly-wailing mass of multi-headed flesh.
  • Foreshadowing: The runic symbol from the Necronomicon that Lavinia carves into her forehead can be briefly seen flickering on Ezra's monitors in the film's climax. Soon after, that same symbol comes back in a big way in Ward's vision of the place the Color came from.
  • Gender Flip: The Gardners' middle son from the story is replaced by a daughter, Lavinia.
  • Glowing Eyes of Doom: Both humans and animals who are experiencing advanced stages of the Color's mental influence can display this. All the Gardners - save for Benny - display this at the end. In Lavinia's case, the glow also emanates from the rune she carves into her forehead.
  • Godzilla Threshold: When it becomes apparent that escape from the Color is impossible, Lavinia, a good "witch", turns to the evil magic of the Necronomicon for help. Not only does it not work, but it is implied that it speeds up Lavinia's doom due to the rune she inscribes on her forehead actually representing a structure found on the creature's homeworld.
  • Hazardous Water: It is explicitly stated that the Color itself contaminates the water supply. Because the Gardner family's water comes from the well, the Color slowly drives them crazy and mutates the flora and fauna around them. And in the final scene, it's hinted that the water of the reservoir now covering the land tainted by the Color might also be tainted, despite the Color's departure. And that water now supplies most of the US Eastern seaboard...
  • Heel–Face Revolving Door: Crazed Nathan does several of these near the end of the film in a matter of minutes: first, he betrays his daughter to feed her to his mutated wife and child, then he rescues her just moments later, then attempts to shoot the Color, then his possessed corpse violently attacks Ward when the Color leaves Earth.
  • Hostile Terraforming: An Eldritch Abomination case. The Color increasingly contaminates and mutates the fauna, flora and even the air condensation on the Gardner property and its surroundings, rendering the vegetables inedible, and turning the drinking water into a fate-sealing hazard which makes any drinkers vulnerable to the Color, and by the film's final act, the property's boundaries look as if Another Dimension merged with it. The Apocalyptic Log speculates that the Color is trying to reshape the local environment (which is just as alien and strange to the Color as the Color is to us) into something more familiar to the Color.
  • Humanoid Abomination: Nathan seems to gradually turn into one, as he ingested the Color and had a mutated organism sting and burn his arms. As well, the thing that used to be Theresa and Jack is clearly one.
  • Insult of Endearment: Lavinia and Benny's loving sibling relationship is demonstrated through their creative insults for each other.
    Benny: Harpy. Harridan. Hairy ax-wound.
    Lavinia: Maggot dick.
  • I Reject Your Reality: Nathan's coping mechanism as madness consumes him seems to be "everything is normal, nothing is wrong" with a side-order of getting angry at everyone else when anything does go wrong, like losing his shit at the mutated tomatoes tasting horrible despite him "following all the instructions" on growing crops. By the end when Ward and the sheriff show up, he's so deep in denial that he claims his family is right there with him in the living room talking with him.
  • Ironic Echo: Early in the film, when Nathan bemoans the lack of nearby hospitals, the mayor sardonically responds, "Welcome to life in the sticks." Much later, when Ward and the Sherrif come by to check on the place, Nathan, having completely lost his mind, feebly writes off the bizarre events as "life in the sticks".
  • Irony: In the end, Ward, the hydrologist, throws their cigarette into the new reservoir. Normally, this would count as littering. But given the nature of what might be at the bottom of the reservoir, it makes little difference and he knows it.
  • Karma Houdini: Downplayed with the mayor, who from what we see of her is an utter obnoxious bitch. She's hell-bent on having the hydro-dam project go through and blatantly dismisses the warnings about the water contamination, and in the end she gets exactly what she wants; though it likely wouldn't have made any difference at this point in the film if she had listened, and beyond this she doesn't contribute much of anything to the plot.
  • Know-Nothing Know-It-All: Even before the Color begins working on his mind, it's blatantly obvious Nathan's not the best farmer and is just winging it. The best example is how he repeatedly insists that alpacas are great livestock even though they aren't in demand, while using them for their milk, rather than what's really valuable - their fleece.
  • Large Ham: Nathan Gardner as his Sanity Slippage progresses, although here it works quite well.
  • Maybe Magic, Maybe Mundane: Not the Color, but the Necronomicon. It's unclear if the grimoire in this film contains any verifiably working magical rituals, or if it's just a mundane New Age book/fake Necronomicon like those that can be found in real life. It certainly doesn't do Lavinia any good, and the rune she carves into her forehead is suspiciously similar to one on the Color's homeworld.
  • Mercy Kill: Nathan is forced to do this to the alpaca herd, and then again later when Jake and Theresa are fused. In the latter case, he fails to go through with it. He does eventually kill them, but at that point, he no longer even recognizes them as his family.
  • Misplaced Wildlife: There is a fire salamander briefly glimpsed by the well. This is a European species and not found in New England, though not surprisingly, it is native to Portugal.
  • Mythology Gag:
    • Lovecraft's fictional cities, Arkham, Dunwich, Kingsport and Innsmouth, all get mentioned as real locations in a local newscast.
    • "Lavinia" happens to be the name of a character from another of H.P Lovecraft's books, The Dunwich Horror. Fittingly, Lavinia is into magic, being a Wiccan, and communes with an eldritch power — which leads to her death, just as her namesake did (although this Lavinia is never quite as, ahem, into it).
    • Lavinia owns a mass-market paperback of the Necronomicon (a 1977 Bantam printing whose author is unknown and whose authenticity is contested at best and considered entirely a hoax at worst).
    • The logo of the local news network resembles the tree-version of the Elder Sign.
    • Ward wears a Miskatonic University shirt.
    • Ezra owns a black cat named "G-Spot". Suffice to say this is not the first black cat with an offensive name in H.P. Lovecraft's stories.
  • Named by the Adaptation: Mrs. Gardner's name was not mentioned in the story, here she is named Theresa. The water surveyor of the original story becomes Ward here.
  • No Body Left Behind: The Gardners' home and the surrounding land are left mostly dust at the end. The Color disintegrates Lavinia in front of Ward, and this is also the ultimate fate of Nathan, though in his case the desiccated remains of his hand - with the wedding ring still on - are shown.
  • Not Quite the Right Thing: Sheriff Pierce sees Nathan aiming a shotgun in Ward and Lavinia's direction, and understandably reacts by shooting him to protect the two. What he doesn't realize was that Nathan had actually seen the Color emerging from the well, and was aiming at it. Nathan's death drives Lavinia past the Despair Event Horizon, which leads to her final insanity and death, and Nathan's corpse being possessed by the Color.
  • Nothing Is Scarier: Benny's fate is never seen. We only see the Color take him, and later that Nathan describes him as "living in the well now." Depending on how you interpret that, some trace may remain of Benny in the water supply. In the same case, we never see what's at the bottom of the well right before Benny is taken, if it is indeed Sam, and if so what horrible state the poor thing is in now after being previously taken by the Color.
  • Nuclear Mutant: The Color's presence has a lot of overtones associated with nuclear radiation, implying that the Color might be giving off a form of radiation or is itself a sentient radioactive wavelength. It mutates the flora and fauna around it, creating unusual mutant strains before the land is reduced to an unrecognizable wasteland. It contaminates the air, the soil and the water, slowly driving people exposed to it insane and messes with all of the signals in the area. When a group of hunters finds the corpse of various animals melted together, Ward compares some of the injuries to radiation burns. After it fuses Theresa and Jack together, their skin turns grey, they become sensitive to sunlight and her hair starts to fall out, not unlike the symptoms of cancer and radiation therapy. When it flees at the end of the movie, it leaves a massive ash-heap where the farm used to be, Nathan reduced to a charred skeleton, almost as if a nuke was dropped on it.
  • Offing the Offspring: Nathan almost does this with Lavinia, locking her in the attic with the mutated Theresa and Jack to "feed" them. Ultimately he saves her, but in the process he does kill Jack - though it could be argued that, at that point, Jack isn't even his son anymore.
  • Orifice Invasion: Sheriff Pierce dies from a carnivorous tree ramming a branch down his throat.
  • Papa Wolf: Zig-Zagged with Nathan. At first, driven insane by the Color's influence, he actively prevents Lavinia from escaping and attempts to feed her to the mutated and now-feral monster that was Theresa and Jack. He later appears to recover enough of his senses to kill the creature and save his daughter, and when he sees the Color emerging from the well close to Ward and Lavinia, his first reaction is to aim his shotgun at it. Unfortunately, this last act gets him killed.
  • Police Are Useless: Averted with Sheriff Pierce, who's shown as competent and proactive once he learns that something's wrong (see Reasonable Authority Figure). Not that it helps him or anyone else in the end.
  • Pragmatic Adaptation: The main threat of the film is an extraterrestrial color, described from the original short story as "display[ing] shining bands unlike any known colours of the normal spectrum", something that naturally poses a problem when translated to the visual medium of film. The solution was to choose the next best thing: magenta, a color that's not only garish and striking, but also technically doesn't exist in the color spectrum. "Pink" is strictly a mental construct based on how optical rods in our eyes interpret specific mixtures of red and blue (which are non-adjacent on the color spectrum), paralleling nicely with the nature of the human mind trying to perceive an alien force that to characters and viewers alike should not be comprehendible.
  • Psycho Pink: The film gives The Color and the surroundings a magenta lighting, to depict a dangerously otherworldly setting.
  • Reasonable Authority Figure: Played straight with Sheriff Pierce, who respects Ward's expertise and rides to the rescue with him as soon as he learns what's going on. Averted with the mayor who is audible vocally refusing to let news of a water contamination stand in the way of the new water reservoir.
  • Related in the Adaptation: Kinda. Lavinia Gardner is clearly based on Lavinia Whateley, an important side character in The Dunwich Horror, but it's unclear if she's meant to be the same character.
  • Right for the Wrong Reasons: When Theresa and Jack become fused together, Nathan's sanity deteriorates fast. First, he intends to Mercy Kill them, but stops at the last second. Then, he decides to feed Lavinia to his wife. Shortly after that, he begins to hallucinate that his entire family is alive and well on the couch downstairs. When Ward and the Sheriff find the Theresa-thing attacking Lavinia, Nathan shoots her first and in doing so saves his daughter, with the logic, "They're not my family."
  • Sanity Slippage: Every member of the Gardner family suffers from it to varying degrees as the film progresses. As the Color increases its hold on the family, they begin spacing out for hours at a time, growing increasingly short-tempered and delirious; unurprisingly, the most spectacular case is Nathan. They don't get better (see Brainwashed and Crazy).
  • Screw This, I'm Out of Here!: Tried, unsuccessfully, by Lavinia. She tries to flee on horseback, but the Color spooks the animal and causes it to run away. After crossing the Despair Event Horizon, Lavinia rejects any sort of escape even being possible.
  • Setting Update: Changed from the 1930s of the original story to a more modern 2000s setting.
  • Shout-Out:
    • "Ward Phillips" is an obvious reference to HoWard Phillips Lovecraft. He's even from Providence, Lovecraft's birthplace. He's seen reading a copy of Algernon Blackwood's The Willows, the author's favorite horror story.
    • The fate of the alpaca herd strongly recalls that of the sled dogs in The Thing (1982). Considering that, it's probably not a coincidence the family dog Sam is played by a wolfdog, though in this case Sam is a Czech Vlcak or Saarloos instead of a low-content that can pass for a malamute.
    • The Gardners' horse is named Comet.
    • The game on the computer screen that is played when the meteor hits is Universe Sandbox 2.
    • The phrase "No flesh shall be spared" hangs above Benny's computer. This is not only from the Biblical book of Mark, but is also the Arc Words for one of Richard Stanley's earliest films, Hardware (1990).
  • Shown Their Work: When Nathan refers to liking "a good bourbon out of Texas", this might seem odd, as bourbon is traditionally distilled in Kentucky. However, later on in the film, he is shown drinking Garrison Brothers, which is indeed a high-end bourbon distilled in Texas.
  • Slut-Shaming: An unthinking Theresa tells Lavinia that with the "way [she's] dressed" she needs to think about the "signals" she's sending to Ward, which deeply upsets Lavinia. Also, you'd have to be living in the 1970s instead of the 2010s to consider Lavinia's costume revealing. To Theresa's credit, she appears to realize what a hurtful thing it is to say, but the damage is done.
  • Snowballing Threat: As the movie goes on, the titular Eldritch Abomination's hold over the main location and the family escalates horrifically since its landing. At first, the only obvious signs of the Color's presence can be dismissed (abnormal bugs and insects, and episodic blackouts among the human family), but it soon escalates to people and animals being horrifically fused into flesh golems, the family becoming trapped as the Color prevents them leaving the affected area, and the vegetation and very air becoming visually infected with the Color. Fortunately for the rest of the Earth, the Color goes back into space once its strength hits its zenith, albeit taking all life in the infected area with it.
  • Sole Survivor: Ward at the end of the film, with the entire Gardner family, Ezra and even the sheriff who accompanied him all dead.
  • Starfish Aliens: Since the film is based on the short story by H. P. Lovecraft, the titular Color is both this and an Eldritch Abomination. The closest the film ever gets to showing its 'form' is a brief glimpse of a glowing mass with tendrils made of light, and the writhing column of multicolored light erupting from the well in the film's climax.
  • Stay in the Kitchen: It's subtle, but this seems to be the attitude of Nathan, and to a lesser extent Theresa, towards Lavinia. Notably, her parents at various points hold her directly responsible for keeping her brothers out of trouble — which is understandable enough in Jack's case since he's much younger, but she and Benny are around the same age. This comes into even starker contrast later when Nathan puts Benny in charge of the household while the parents are gone — when most people with half a brain would know that Lavinia is significantly more intelligent and responsible than Benny is. Furthermore, Nathan's first response when seeing Lavinia doing something risky seems to be telling her to get back inside, while noticeably not admonishing his sons in the same way.
  • The Stoner: Ezra, who seems to spend most of his time in his shack getting high, and Benny to a lesser degree. With Benny, his family seems to give him crap about it more than he actually does it.
  • Supernatural-Proof Father: Benny and Lavinia try to warn Nathan about the Color but he won't hear it, dismissing the damage it has caused as the result of their teenage irresponsibility. However, it is unclear how much of this is his own nature and how much is the Color preying on his mind.
  • Technicolor Magic: Magenta in this case, but it fulfills the role nonetheless. The titular Color is a Starfish Alien Energy Being that gives off a supernatural and otherworldly vibe, thanks to its incorporeal nature and the ability to corrupt whatever it touches.
  • Title Drop: At the end, Ward, as he considers everything that happened, describes the entity as "a color out of space".
  • Thousand-Yard Stare: Ward, in the final shots of the film, displays an empty, haunted look as they look on the water reservoir that covers the Gardners' home and recollects the events that traumatized him.
    • Nathan gets it whenever he watches TV under the Color's influence.
  • Too Dumb to Live: Benny thinks he hears the family's dog, Sam, in the well and intentionally climbs in, practically serving himself up to the Color. Justified, however, by the Color's influence on the Gardners' deteriorating mental state, making his actions more the result of being Brainwashed and Crazy rather than genuine stupidity.
  • Tragic Keepsake: Lavinia's compass becomes this to Ward.
  • Truth in Television: There is a specific reason why the color magenta is used to represent the alien color in the film: by any objective measure, the color magenta does not exist as part of the natural color spectrum. Instead, it is an extraspectral color that is only perceived by humans when optical rods in their eyes that detect red and blue colors interact in specific circumstances to create the color magenta in their minds. Ergo, it is the natural choice to represent a color that is an alien phenomenon. This SciShow Psych Youtube video can explain it more fully.
  • Two Beings, One Body: Whilst the alpacas and G-Spot and a bunch of other animals get turned into Flesh Golems, Theresa and Jack get attacked by the Color and fused into a gruesome, eight-limbed, two-headed moaning monstrosity, with either head retaining their minds (initially).
  • Vampiric Draining: Ezra speculates on his Apocalyptic Log that the Color grows strong by feeding on what life it comes in contact with in the area.
  • Vertical Kidnapping: Sheriff Pierce is grabbed and impaled by a mutated tree as he passes underneath it.
  • Voice of the Legion: As the Apocalyptic Log progresses, Ezra's voice becomes deep, gravelly, and echoing due to the Color affecting him.
  • Wham Shot:
    • When the condition of the mutated alpacas and the fused-together Theresa and Jake respectively are revealed.
    • When the camera pulls upward near the end, revealing the devastation of what is now the Blasted Heath.
    • The final shot before the credits shows a vibrantly pink praying mantis fly past, similar to the one that was mutated from the Gardners' well, showing that though the Color has retreated, the same may happen again.
  • When Trees Attack: A mutated tree lashes out and kills Sheriff Pierce.


Video Example(s):


Color Out of Space (2020)

Color Out of Space is a 2020 Sci-Fi Horror film based on the short story The Colour Out of Space by H. P. Lovecraft. It is directed by Richard Stanley in his return to filmmaking after a twenty year absence and stars Nicolas Cage, Joely Richardson, Madeleine Arthur, Elliot Knight, and Tommy Chong.

Presented as a haunting recollection by hydrologist Ward Phillips (Knight), he tells of how his work once took him to Arkham County to aid in the planning of a new water reservoir. There he befriends the Gardner family, led by struggling farmer Nathan (Cage) and his wife Theresa (Richardson), a cancer survivor who is struggling get her online brokerage business off the ground. Despite their woes, the Gardners are more or less happy until the night a meteor that emits a strangely-colored light crashes onto their property. Ward quickly notices dangerous changes in the local water supply, but his discoveries may come too late to help the Gardners, who must now struggle to survive against increasingly bizarre events that threaten to overwhelm their isolated farm.

How well does it match the trope?

5 (7 votes)

Example of:

Main / CosmicHorrorStory

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