in Review, Shocktober

Beyond the Black Rainbow (2010)

Last month I reviewed Mandy the sophomore effort from Italian/Canadian filmmaker Panos Cosmatos. For those who don’t know, is a blood crazed arthouse trance movie where Nicolas Cage screams in his underwear and has a chainsaw duel with a hippie. Beyond the Black Rainbow is a lot like that but minus most of the stuff I just said. Both films are nightmarish fever dreams bathed in red lights and surreal settings. Both films are slow with simple narratives but complex visuals. And though I’m not always 100% on what I’m looking at in this film. I’m always intrigued to look further.

Beyond the Black Rainbow is about Dr. Barry Nyle (Michael Rogers) a charismatic scientist working at New Age research facility known as the Arboria clinic. Though unbeknownst to the rest of the world, Dr. Nyle is actually a psychopath keeping a woman named Elena (Eva Bourne) hostage underneath the facility because he believes she possesses psychic powers. This intrigues Dr. Nyle because of psychic visions he received from an ink bath experiment that drove him insane back in the ‘60s. Dr. Nyle studies Elena by interrogating her behind in room that looks a room on the Death Star. The catch is Elena only responds via telepathy. As the film progresses we meet others in Dr. Nyle’s life; his docile wife Rosemary (Marilyn Norry) and the founder of the institute Mercurio Arboria (Scott Hylands) a once great spiritual leader who trained Dr. Nyle before he descended into senility.

The film is a character study of a man driven insane by his obsession but also an escape film as Elena attempts to flee the institute. Naturally there are all sorts of weird rooms with blinking prisms and mutants and some guy dressed like a red stormtrooper known as the “Sentionaut”. Dr. Nyle hunts Elena down with a big ass knife, removes his hair and contacts, and then chases her around like proto-Pinhead from Hellraiser. Watching this and Mandy reaffirms my believe that Cosmatos should make a Hellraiser movie someday. Only because if he did it would be the scariest fucking thing ever.

There’s a lot of cool shit in this movie but I’m going to level with you. There were tons of moments where I found myself spacing out and looking at my phone. Unless you’re watching this in a theater or on drugs I don’t think its possible to watch it without spacing out. Beyond the Black Rainbow can be boring from time to time. That being said when I was focused I was enthralled. There aren’t many films that look like this and Mandy. This surreal dreamlike worlds set in a parallel 1980s. You have to give Cosmatos credit. He has a vision.

Watching this film you might think Panos Cosmatos is a pretentious arthouse pariah but I’ve watched interviews with the writer/director and he seems like a very down to earth normal guy. Check him out when he did “What’s in My Bag?” Cosmatos isn’t enigmatic in interviews either. He always shares exactly why he did what he did and what it means to him. His initial process on his first two films has been going back to childhood memories at the video store. There he used to look at horror VHS covers and imagine what the film was like without any of the actual details. Cosmatos claims these movies he’s made recently are like interpretations of what horror movies could be. He’s also gone into detail regarding the death of his parents as a constant theme in his work. His father George P. Cosmatos was a director himself and it was the DVD residuals from his film Tombstone that helped fun Beyond the Black Rainbow.

If there was ever a film that wasn’t for everyone, it’s this one. This film is on a whole other plain of reality and whether or not that’s always thrilling it’s always admirable and another welcomed addition to our Shocktober vault.