Director: Panos Cosmatos
Writer: Panos Cosmatos
Cast: Michael Rodgers, Eva Allen, Scott Hylands, Marilyn Norry, Rondel Reynoldson
Release date: December 3, 2010
Beyond the Black Rainbow is a flawed, yet interesting and very unique film. It was the debut of Panos Cosmatos, the director and writer of Mandy. A science fiction horror film, it is about a young woman with psychic abilities who is being kept captive at a secretive institute by a creepy doctor played by Michael Rodgers.
Beyond the Black Rainbow is the kind of film that doesn’t make your viewing experience easy. It’s a very deliberately paced, clinical film in the vein of Stanley Kubrick; with characters that don’t particularly come off as emotional or human, except for one. Its plot is very minimalistic, requiring viewers to slowly piece together what exactly is going on. A lot of people will come away from it thinking that it’s boring, but sticking with it is a rewarding experience.
The film’s aesthetics are its strongest attributes; thanks to its direction, cinematography, and score. As mentioned above, Cosmatos was clearly influenced by Stanley Kubrick. His cold and calculating direction giving me flashbacks to 2001: A Space Odyssey. Every shot of this film is masterfully framed and beautiful to look at, yet also gives a haunting vibe. There are scenes and images in this film that will not leave your brain when you see them. The standout example being a flashback in the middle of the film that is surreal horror at its finest. The uncomfortable synthesizer soundtrack doesn’t exactly help either. Nothing comes across as quite human or natural in its neatness. The same can be said of the characters and their actors’ performances. Michael Rodgers as our antagonist is quite frightening throughout; first in an understated way, and then in a way that is the stuff of nightmares. Our protagonist named Lena is the sole sympathetic character in the whole film. She’s a captive in a cold, uncaring facility that she wants to escape. It would not surprise me if Cosmatos was inspired by Elfen Lied, nor would it surprise me if this film inspired the Duffer Brothers during the creation of Stranger Things.
Despite having great elements, Beyond the Black Rainbow is held back from being a great film. The plot is extremely bare bones, to the point of near non-existence. Its mostly just a series of events that happen, with the one flashback in the middle of the film to give events some more context. The third act is when things at last come together, and the film’s surreal horror kicks into high gear. Also, while beautiful, the film will linger on shots too long at times; coming across as pretentious.
It’s a flawed gem, and many will walk away from it feeling they had their time wasted. Regardless, Beyond the Black Rainbow is a nice throwback film that justifiably has a cult following. For all its faults, it was the arrival of a genuinely talented filmmaker with a unique style and vision. Anyone looking for a more unconventional horror experience should give it a shot.