Beyond the Black Rainbow (2010) Review

Beyond The Black RainbowReviewed by Kevin Scott,

Beyond the Black Rainbow (2010)
Directed by Panos Cosmatos
Written by Panos Cosmatos
Cast: Eva Bourne (Elena), Michael Rogers (Barry Nyle), Scott Hylands (Dr. Mercurio Arboria), Rondel Reynoldson (Margo), Marilyn Norry (Rosemary Nyle), Sara Stockstad (Anna Arboria)

“Beyond the Black Rainbow” is definitely the most unique film that I’ve seen lately. I’m stealing my own thunder early on, but just that statement alone merits a recommendation. If anyone is into really iconoclastic filmmaking where symbolisms abound against a backdrop of some sophisticated imagery, this is their film. Or if anyone is just into a pretty freaky deaky movie, this is also their film.

Director and writer Panos Cosmatos has fashioned something pretty unique here. Unable to be labeled into any particular genre, and guaranteed to be sought out and re-watched either in the near future to get a firmer grasp on what’s going on, or decades later to see if it’s as strange as human recollection dictates. Panos Cosmatos said that back in the days of video stores, he wasn’t allowed to rent anything adult horror or science fiction related. He would look at the box art, and formulate his own opinions about the plot of the film. That may have been the best thing to have ever happened to him. He’s got filmmaking in his family. His father was famed action director George P. Cosmatos, who directed “First Blood Part II”, “Cobra”, and “Tombstone”. His film is very different than any of his father’s work, which I think is pretty refreshing. “Beyond the Black Rainbow” is unmistakably Kubrickian with rich, meticulous cinematography, but with the physical shock value of Cronenberg, and a little Ken Russell thrown in just for kicks. It’s set in 1983, and indistinguishable from anything filmed in that era. I’m calling it required viewing because it channels something that I thought had been lost to the twilight of all those aforementioned director’s careers. It’s uncanny to put it mildly.

The framework of the story is reinforced by the primary characters. There’s Barry Nyles, the director of the Arboria Institute, and the protégé of its founder, Mercurio Arboria. The Arboria Institute is a facility with sterile white walls and swooshing doors. It was the brainchild of Dr. Arboria to foster a higher level of human consciousness through unconventional means. To any horror fan, this should be a red flag, that things have the possibility of getting really weird really fast. There’s also a nice bit of exposition with a retro informational video about the Arboria Institute that gives the viewer a little bit of supplemental information and a nice sunny façade to give the weirdness a little more shock value. Dr. Arboria has since aged out, and is nothing more than a figurehead now. Barry Nyles, with his hair helmet, and cold politeness has a special focus on Elena. She’s a young girl with telepathic powers. He manipulates her emotions to get reactions that are supposed to be for science’s sake, but is really just for his demented amusement. This is the only thing that could be called a trope in this film.

Calling “Beyond the Black Rainbow” a throwback film would be accurate in that Panos Cosmatos lovingly crafted it as an homage, but it’s also going to be one of the most unforgettable films that you’re going to watch lately. I’ve given minimal details on the plot on purpose, because knowing anymore until seeing the film is pretty unnecessary. Taking in all the fantastic weirdness is what I enjoyed the most about this film.

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