This film oozes with 80’s scifi psychological horror behind a doomy, drug hazed veneer. The setting, cinematography, and soundtrack helps to make the viewer feel that they being crushed by the simplistic nature of this film. Chalked full of long, anxiety filled scenes focusing on one individual for long periods of time, while a droning auditory pulse lingers in the background adds to the oppressive unease. The more I watched, the more I felt myself being sucked into the void that is the fractured minds of the main characters. If that is something you are into, then I bid you safe travel down the rabbit hole of this retro oddity homage.
The film debuted in 2010 to Italian/Canadian first time writer/director Panos Cosmatos who’s only claim to fame is that his late father directed the 80’s Action film Rambo: First Blood, which is honestly one of the best action films this world has ever experienced. I am all for first time directors, and his upcoming cult themed film, “Mandy” starring Nicholas Cage aims to continue the crazy I experienced during my viewing of “Beyond the Black Rainbow”. BtBR centers around a doctor/patient relationship within the back drop of a government run psychiatric facility aimed to bring people greater happiness and freedom than they’ve ever enjoyed before. Dr Barry Nyle focuses his obsessive, pedophilic attention on his nearly catatonic, and mute juvenile patient Elena, to awaken her “potential”. His soft spoken, father figure sounded words are juxtaposed by his deep lingered breaths, and unblinking sociopathic demeanor while he tends to his patient, but while home he is a shaken man, that struggles with his facilities teachings. A fist full of meds keeps Barry focused, and jovial. Scenes that focus on the young, distraught Elena are flared with bright neon colors of reds and orange hues, while she sits clutching her knees and murmuring to herself, and then abruptly shifts and distorts, symbolizing that more is going on with this imprisoned girl; maybe she needs to be here rather than the outside world.
Much of the scenes not within the facility are dull, and bland, offering the viewer a break from the constant bright all consume lighting, and gives a sense that this is how Barry sees the world when he isn’t working, and consumed by his happy pills. The film takes a turn half-way through with a focus on the original purpose of the program, and takes an aggressive nose-dive into the abyss of an acid infused haunted house. This reminded me of what some of the men that we’re test subjects during the government program known as MK-Ultra. Melting faces, neon colors amped up to 11, mutant malformed creatures, paired with 2001: A Space Odyssey wardrove. Director Cosmatos shows his love and respect for the masterminds directors of the weird such as, Stanley Kubric, Dario Argento, and Andrei Tarkovsky, and fuses a glacial pacing with erratic scenes successfully, adding to the surreal anxiety that never feels like it’s going to end.
I give this film a solid 7/10; there’s things that need to be respected about this film, the cinematography, to audio, and the practical effects are all well done. But it feels highly pretentious, and that leaves me annoyed and a bit bewildered, but maybe that is the point.
Art is subjective, and this film is an intense experience on all of your senses for better or worse. It’s not for everyone, but for me, it was a much needed melting of my brain that left me wanting more.
Lock me up, and feed me acid until I can liquify brains with my mind, please?