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Beyond The Black Rainbow – film review

June 5, 2013


 Bad acid.

beyond the black rainbow

Written & directed by Panos Cosmatos. Starring: Michael Rogers, Scott Hylands, Marilyn Norry, Rondel Reynoldson and introducing Eva Allan. Year of release: 2010. Running time: 110 mins.

Elena, an orphaned young girl with the ability to kill with her mind is drugged and held captive in an underground research facility by a psychopathic doctor who may or may not be human. Elena seizes her chance to make her escape.

From the outset I have to say – this is not a film for everyone. To the average filmgoer it will undoubtedly seem slow-moving, pretentious and possibly dull. But for those unfazed by unconventional cinema, there is much to admire here. And perhaps this is the film’s major difficulty – it is more a film to be admired – than actually loved. For it is very much a mood piece; owing more to the seminal works of David Lynch (Eraserhead) and Darren Aronofsky (Pi) – than a more commonplace film which may rely on the dynamics of narrative to hold the viewer’s attention. In fact, I can definitely see how this could easily be the most turned-off and walked-out-of movie     I have written about since launching this blog.

Beyond The Black Rainbow is the debut feature by Panos Cosmatos (son of the late George Pan Cosmatos – director of Rambo: First Blood Part II, Cobra, Leviathan and Of Unknown Origin). It has been called ‘The cinematic equivalent of LSD’ and for good reason. It is a trippy mash-up of early Cronenberg (particularly the explosive drug-induced telekinesis of Scanners and the clandestine medical clinics of Crimes Of The Future, Rabid and The Brood) – incorporating Lynchian soundscapes; with     a large dollop of Altered States’ perceptions of enlightenment through the use of hallucinogenic drugs scenario. Produced in Canada on a budget of just over $1 million, Cosmatos used residual earnings from the DVD sales of his late father’s movie Tombstone in order to fund the production of Black Rainbow.

eva allan star of beyond the black rainbow

Eva Allan stars as Elena.

Canadian actor Michael Rogers (who bears more than a passing resemblance to Christian Bale) plays the sinister Dr. Barry Nyle, while newcomer Eva Allan plays Elena and does well with a performance which is virtually mute for much of the time – although it would have been nice to see her have more to work with; as far as fleshing out her character is concerned.

sentionaut - beyond the black rainbow

The Kubrickian minimalism of the production design; incorporating the austerity of George Lucas’ THX 1138 and the gaudy oversaturated color of Dario Argento’s Suspiria creates a look and feel which is entirely unique and unforgettable. And there are many startlingly surreal moments here – the reveal of the child-like face of the robotic ‘sentionaut’; the melting heads in Nyle’s acid flashback; the room containing limbless mutants and finally Nyle revealing his true self – a nod to The Man Who     Fell To Earth perhaps?

eva allan with mutant

With the film taking place in 1983, the cinematography by Norm Li employs old-school 35mm celluloid (rather than HD digital) – which gives the image the suitably grainy appearance of a film from that period. The retro-style analog synth score (composed and performed by Jeremy Schmidt – a member of Canadian psychedelic rock band Black Mountain) – is unsettling to say the least. As Schmidt and Cosmatos shared an appreciation for German electronic band Tangerine Dream,     the music of John Carpenter and Giorgio Moroder’s score for American Gigolo, they decided the Black Rainbow score should emulate the sounds of these particular composers.

eva allan - beyond the black rainbow

This may well be the most difficult movie to recommend to just about anyone; aside from those with an appreciation for cult movies and cinema of the bizarre – but for those willing to venture out of their comfort zone, Beyond The Black Rainbow is at times a truly immersive and haunting experience.

And hey – you gotta love a movie whose credits end with a title card: ‘No matter where you go. There you are’ – B. Banzai.

3 stars out of 5

Star ratings: 1 – poor / 2 – below average / 3 – good / 4  – excellent / 5 – unmissable

Greg Moss is a film school graduate with a background in directing music videos     and is currently seeking representation as a screenwriter. He likes creative people, feeding the cat and watching genre movies.


From → film reviews

  1. Never even heard of this one. Don’t know if its even available over here in the UK, but I shall have a look for it.

    • gregory moss permalink

      Yeah, it’s a bit of a mind-blower and well worth checking out if you like that kinda’ thing. 🙂

      • Doesn’t look like it’s out over here. Weird thing about regional releases/territories. Have you seen Solaris on blu-ray? Its out over your way but not over here- can’t figure out why it would only be released in some territories, must be rights issues of lack of financial viability. I guess Beyond… is in similar situation. Maybe one day!

      • gregory moss permalink

        No I haven’t yet checked out Solaris on blu-ray (I’m guessing you mean Tarkovsky’s original and not the Clooney remake). I was recently able to find a region-free blu-ray player here in Oz for AU$70 – a real bargain. It’s only a cheap chinese knock-off – but it does the trick. It’s such a relief not being constrained by regional considerations when ordering blu-rays from overseas. Beyond The Black Rainbow is available on blu in the States if you’re interested. 🙂

  2. Okay – I remember reading this but see I didn’t comment at the time. I’d totally watch this. It looks completely messed up! Lol. But I like most everything that you’ve compared it to… 🙂

  3. This film is actually terrible – I mean, yeah – it is scary in the sense that its creepy, but I think, really, the film is just the byproduct of global DVD residuals from the directors father – allowing Panatos to string together a series of overproduced, overgrained interior sequences, cheap synth score and a slasher movie ending, and trying to pass it off as a ‘cult movie’, when really we, the audience, need to know who, what or where the protagonist is coming from, what her dramatic need is, who she interacts with, and so on. The set designers are VERY indebted to classic films and the script is mostly weak, humourless and lacks anything called ‘character depth’ or ‘story development’.

    I guess, as an amateur filmmaker, Panatos hoped that his empty, overproduced film would have enough atmosphere to work, but its really just testament to the fact that he can’t communicate with the medium. One festival reviewer suggested that the use of close ups, obtrusive editing and overamped lighting is just a way to paste over the sheer lack of content. I agree, pretty much. This film should be fifteen minutes long.

  4. Robyn permalink

    Well I liked it.

  5. Ficus permalink

    Hey Greg,

    Finally watched it. Phew. Definitely invoked a retro and creeped out mood, which is a good thing. You could drive a pack of blue blazer regulars through all the film-making gaps, but I really didn’t mind. Hats off to some audacious work. It evoked a feeling of cold, reductionist, dystopian, alienation. A film experience for which I have a bizarre nostalgia. And I liked the dig at the 70s / 80s bankrupted new age metaphysics. Good stuff.

    • gregory moss permalink

      Hey Mark – pleased you like it! Nice summing up!

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