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Joshua Brunsting

May 21st, 2012

Some films are best saved for late night (or even midnight) screenings, to be enjoyed amongst a group of similarly-minded people. For example, TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE or THE ROOM fall within this particular category.

Very few, if any, films within this special category resemble the 1983-set fever dream quite like the masterfully bizarre and aggressively unsettling BEYOND THE BLACK RAINBOW. It’s unique, and quite unlike anything you've ever seen before (and, possibly, after).

Coming from the absurdly inventive mind of director Panos Cosmatos, the film has a relatively simplistic narrative that follows a doctor who is studying a young mute girl with psychic powers. Despite its simple premise, BEYOND THE BLACK RAINBOW is boldly experimental and blends a handful of genres, a handful of directors, a range of of aesthetics and a brooding synth score from noted composer Jeremy Schmidt. The film is not only a superficial sensory experience but one that manages to succeed as one of the most visionary pieces of filmmaking offered in 2012 thus far.

Performance-wise, BEYOND THE BLACK RAINBOW is distinctly cold. Primarily following the pair of Dr. Barry Nyle (Michael Rogers) and the young girl Elena (Eva Allen), the film is inherently superficial, beginning with its performances. Rogers is the true star here, playing Nyle as both incongruous and cartoonishly devilish. A character seemingly ripped right out of a Roger Corman sci-fi film or an early David Cronenberg feature, Rogers is one note, but that note is hit with such a creepy attitude that it manages to evoke a breath of fresh air. Allen is both equally one note, and as fun to watch; she is just the right blend of innocent and brooding. When her sudden spurts of violence occur, they are absolutely horrifying and add weight to the overall level of dread that is so pervasive throughout.

No one thing is singularly important to what makes this feature film debut such a beautifully affecting piece of horrifying science fiction. Rather, the film is a mélange, and here are its ingredients:

One part Stanley Kubrick’s framing
One part Dario Argento-style cinematography
A pinch of Fassbender-esque naturalistic sci-fi
A dash of Cronenbergian body horror
An ounce of acid
Blend heavily.

Film the results, and you’ll get something relatively close to the beauty that is BEYOND THE BLACK RAINBOW.

Cosmatos is on top of his game here, giving us a neon-fueled body horror film that plays as a more intellectual, superficial, sci-fi heavy cousin to Cronenberg’s SCANNERS or VIDEODROME and manages to take inspiration from the horror king yet still make a film all his own. Muted and esoteric, the film is punctuated by brutal moments of violence that add a great deal to the overall mood of this tonal piece.

A tad overlong (it clocks in at a dense 110 minutes; odd for such a stylish experiment), the film is slightly superficial (it’s far from an intellectual masterwork) and likely not everyone’s cup of tea. With Schmidt's score the film feels like a distant relative of something broader, like TRON: LEGACY (particularly that film’s Daft Punk score) and feels aesthetically and tonally akin to a long-form music video (albeit one that is as original and polarizing as any ever crafted).

While this film isn’t one that will inspire world change or garner impressive numbers of box-office receipts, it may be one of 2012’s best features. It is far and away this year’s most singularly inventive, brooding, and utterly terrifying piece of cinema that also happens to contain one of the best scores put to celluloid in years. BEYOND THE BLACK RAINBOW is more than just the epitome of a midnight film: it's a glorious, cinematic acid trip.

Grade - A

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  • http://profiles.google.com/nadie.entiende.nada Guillermo Alén

    Right in the nail. Fetishism for the eyes, a true visual feast that builds up uncanny levels of tension. Disturbingly erotic reflection about power.

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