BEYOND THE BLACK RAINBOW
Chinese 6, 11/4/2011, 11:59 PM
Chinese 1, 11/9/2011, 11:00 PM
By Karina Wilson
If the whole point of a midnight movie is to elicit the audience response “What was that?” then BEYOND THE BLACK RAINBOW hits the sweet spot.
Panos Cosmatos’ debut has outraged audiences at film festivals this year, reportedly causing mass walkouts and fervent applause in equal measure. Buy a ticket at your peril.
If you hang in till the end, it’s because you’re seduced by the lush synth soundtrack (described by composer Jeremy Schmidt as “continuing explorations of the ether-synth abyss”), the sumptuous neon of the visuals, and the smorgasbord of filmic references to Stanley Kubrick, Roger Vadim, Mario Bava, Don Coscarelli, even Steven Lisberger.
If you quit 30 minutes in, it’s probably because of the plot, or lack thereof. The narrative revolves loosely around a bizarrely bewigged killer operating in a fictionalized 1983 (although the sets look like they were dreamed up by John Barry a decade earlier), and has something to do with a clinic, and a naïf in a surgical robe who may or may not have special powers—this stuff is important and then it’s not, as the final act degenerates into slasher bloodshed.
Don’t say I didn’t warn you. Or that the above in any way spoils the story for you.
Cosmatos was never going to be the next Michael Bay. The son of a Greek movie director father and a Swedish experimental artist mother, he roamed the globe with his family, winding up in Mexico in the early-’80s, before finally settling in Canada. His vagabond years allowed him to view both American and European pop culture through a refractive lens, and BEYOND THE BLACK RAINBOW reflects his unique perspective. It’s less a movie than a vision of a stylized head-trip that evokes the memory of experimental photographs you once saw back-projected in a club in Reykjavik.
Cosmatos claims it’s the movie he was never allowed to see growing up.
“I wasn’t allowed to watch R-rated films when I was a kid, but when we’d go to the video store on the corner, a mom and pop shop called Video Attic, I’d obsessively look at all the horror movie videotapes. I was mesmerized by the lurid box covers and the vivid descriptions on the back.”
Unlike every other kid on the block in the early-’80s, young Panos didn’t watch these horror movies at his friend’s house—you know, that friend with the absentee parents and the direct line to all kinds of video nasties? He’d play them back on his own personal, internal projector.
“So I’d imagine, in great detail, my own versions of these movies without having ever seen them. That was one of the key inspirations for the film. The idea of making one of those imagined movies.”
BEYOND THE BLACK RAINBOW certainly has the feel of a series of vignettes that a psychopath—a sophisticated, educated, tasteful psychopath with a Bachelors in Film—might play across the back of his or her eyelids. It’s the perfect midnight movie, the one you can describe to your friends with a simple, enigmatic “I was there”.
Karina Wilson writes at Horror Film History.