Directed by Richard Stanley, ‘Color Out of Space’ is an adaptation of H.P. Lovecraft’s short story that goes by the same name. Despite being a movie that’s rough around the edges, the film perfectly captures the essence of Lovecraft’s horror and keeps you enthralled with its incomprehensible yet intriguing mysteries.
While the film’s terrifying atmosphere and trippy visuals are enough to keep you at the edge of your seat, the fact that it leaves almost everything to your imagination makes it even more unnerving. So further in this article, we will make an attempt to explain all the mysteries of the film that were intentionally left undone.
A meteorite comes crashing down on the front yard of the Gardner household one day and in the days that follow, it mysteriously disappears. But soon, strange occurrences and malevolent mysteries surround their peaceful neighborhood and everything starts to reflect a mild tinge of an undefined color. The ghastly extraterrestrial organism, that fell out of the sky with the meteorite, starts spreading its roots onto everything around it, eventually affecting both the minds and the bodies of the entire family in the most terrifying ways.
Pretty much like every other element of its storyline, even the parts where the film features H.P. Lovecraft’s fictitious book, “Necronomicon”, one can only guess what it truly means in context to the overarching storyline. Lovecraft’s mythology and lore go deep and it is, by far, full of some of the weirdest things anyone can imagine.
“Necronomicon” is another of his “imaginary” creations, which is a tome brimming with the most bizarre secrets and rituals that can drive a human to the absolute brink of insanity. The book is a mere narrative device used in many of his stories and does not actually exist. With this out-of-the-way, let’s discuss how it plays a role in the movie.
In the opening scene of the film, Lavinia Gardner can be seen practicing witchcraft out in the woods and that’s when she meets Ward for the first time. Even later in the film, one can notice that she possesses a copy of Necronomicon.
After the Color slowly spread everywhere it takes its toll on every single person in its reach. The first one to show its symptoms is Theresa (Joely Richardson), who ends up chopping off her own fingers. It then spreads on to Nathan (Nicolas Cage), who gets strange bouts of anger and shows early signs of psychosis. And then later, its radiations create a weird anomaly that adjoins Jack’s body to Theresa’s. In the end, out of everyone in the family, Lavinia remains to be the only sane person. There is a scene in which Lavinia does a ritual and chants spells from the Necronomicon. Using a knife, she inscribes symbols from the book on her body.
Much later in films, when almost everyone gets demented by the Color, she stands right next to the well, gets visions of the alien’s techno-colored world and then sends it hovering back up into the sky. While none of this is directly implied in the film, it is a possibility that she used the secrets of Necronomicon to find a way to temporarily get rid of the Color. And since her body disintegrates right after this, maybe it’s the price that she ends up paying after performing such a complex feat of witchcraft. Or maybe, just maybe, as one can recall from her ritual in the opening scene of the film, she is the one who summoned the Color in the first place. These parts of the movie do add their own Lovecraftian charm to it, but are completely original and cannot be found in the source story.
What is “the Color” Out of Space?
“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 soars open before our frenzy eyes.” – Ward Philips (Closing scene)
The film never really makes an attempt to explain what exactly “the color” from the space is and that itself is the beauty of Lovecraft’s stories. He instills the fear of the unknown like no other and leaves you wondering what really happened. Even the ecological and health-related impacts of the Color are so mysterious that one cannot truly explain it. All we know about it is that it is alien, it is completely out of our space-time and it only affects the ones who come in direct contact with it. Further below, we’ll be proposing our own hypothesis of what it could possibly be and explain it in context with its impact on its surroundings.
Theory I: A Natural Phenomenon
There are a few instances in the film where it is proposed that the Color is nothing but a form of ionizing radiation. When Ward Philips, the hydrologist, first takes a look at all the animals that were affected by the Color, he claims that all of them look burnt from radiation. But what contradicts this theory is the fact that its impact does not really decline with more distance. Anything that very well falls under its area of impact gets affected in a similar fashion.
The Color could also be a natural chemical contaminant that ends up seeping into the groundwater and then affecting the ones who come in contact with it. In the movie, Ward also performs a litmus test on the groundwater and discovers that it is heavily alkaline in nature. He later even warns Lavinia Gardner to stay away from it and asks her to avoid consuming it. However, if it were only a chemical contaminant, its impact would again become less concentrated with time and eventually fade away with the relative increase in the concentration of water. But throughout the span of the film, the impact of the Color just increases.
Moreover, the ones around the Color-infested regions also experience weird time shifts. There’s a scene in the film that clearly shows the disparities in time by portraying an abutting shot of a clock. This proves that the Color is either a natural phenomenon that is beyond anything that human science can explain or it is something more sinister.
Theory II: The Color is an Alien
For obvious reason, the most convincing theory is that the color is an alien species or an entire civilization of beings who have traveled “from the stars.” From the very beginning, it appeared in a very conscious manner, landing exactly in a desolate piece of land, and further planned its way into the groundwater to directly impact the food webs of all the creatures around it. It did not exactly feed on any living matter but almost used them as a host to produce strange mutations and aberrations. And every living or non-living organism that it affected, seemed to retain its vague color.
This explains that maybe it was planting a seed or a spore of some sort that would germinate sometime in the future. Or just by passing on its Color to everything around it, maybe it was directly spreading its civilization to everything that retained its luminous glow.
Theory III: The Color is a Weapon of Mass Destruction
Another convincing theory would be that the color is actually a weapon of mass destruction or technology of some kind, that has been sent to Earth by alien species. Its purpose could be to sample the surface of the Earth and further understand if it is suitable for the survival of aliens or not. And the gruesome impact that it had on every living being in its surroundings is probably an outcome of the technology harvesting the DNA and proteins of all the living creatures around it. This explains all the alkaline material that it leaves behind in the water.
Since the impact of the color was only confined to a small piece of land, it seems less likely that it is a weapon of some sort, however, the closing scene of the movie subtly suggests that it is still digesting the world around it in some ways. We’ll be discussing that further in the next section.
The Ending: Is the Color Still Out There?
After Lavinia sends the Color soaring out in the sky, right through the bottom of the well, Ward Phillips rushes to the basement of the Gardener home and locks himself down there. When he later comes out of there, he finds himself surrounded by a splotch of greyish dust. With no sign of the Color now, the entire landmass that was previously affected by it, now seems to be in ruins, as if someone burned it down with acid.
In the final scene of the film, Ward stands right above a water body that runs through the destroyed fabled lands of what once was infested by the Color. He claims that even though the place is buried deep under the water, he will never drink it. He then takes a compass and observes all the distortions in the magnetic fields of the place, indicating that the Color is still out there somewhere, lurking all around him. Before the credits start rolling, one can see the remnants of the mysterious hues of the Color still reflecting in the sky right above the water body. So the color was probably a weapon of mass destruction and is slowly consuming the world all around it.
Even throughout the movie, the way it steadily spreads all across the Gardner family’s home and their surroundings, no one is initially able to notice all the changes that it brings. Although its assimilation of the world might seem a bit too slow, one must not forget that time is relative. So its rate of causing destruction might just be relatively a small segment of time for the ones who have created it.
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