Movie Review: “Beyond the Black Rainbow” – Beyond Scary

Written by Angela September 19, 2014

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In an effort to bypass the risk of making a massive generalization, I’ll allow that the Canadian film industry has managed to produce a number of credible feature films over the past twenty years. But let’s face it, every country has its own take on film making, and Canada’s unique brand is perhaps one of the most resistant in the world to the conventions set by the Hollywood bar. In short, Canadian movies are more often than not really fucking bizarre in some fashion or other, especially when they fall under the sci-fi classification. Panos Cosmatos’ 2010 “Beyond the Black Rainbow” not only exemplifies Canadian strangeness, it outright epitomizes it.

The time: 1983. In the neon lit, plastic-furnished world of a hidden-away New Age research facility dubbed the Arboria Institute, we meet our toupeed villain, Barry Nyle, played ever so appropriately by the unforgettably freaky Michael Rogers. Don’t let the toupee and the name “Barry” fool you. Our man here may appear to be your mild mannered scientist, “researching” the relationship between science and spirituality by getting stoned out of his gourd of on a daily basis, but in reality he is a sadistic nut conducting nefarious experiments on the teenage Elena (Eva Allan) in the basement of the facility. Elena, mysterious and beautiful, seems to possess some kind of psychic ability which Nyle suppresses with the use of a glowing triangle or something. That part is a bit unclear, but his maniacal obsession with her is not. Will Elena escape from the institute before Nyle’s last shred of humanity is lost to his horrifying desires? Or will she forever remain trapped in his chamber of horrors and sinister geometric shapes?

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“It’s easy to become disillusioned when you don’t know who you are…”

With the appearance of only five significant characters throughout the film’s hour and a half run, Rogers is responsible for carrying along most of the narrative and plot. Although Elena is our sweet and pretty princess-like protagonist, “Beyond the Black Rainbow” is really a movie about her captor and his perpetual descent into darkness. With this in mind, Rogers is eerily brilliant for the role and pulls off his part with graceful ease. A glance at his filmography reveals a modest history of straight-to-video B horror movies, but I could have sworn I’d seen him on an episode of Star Trek, where truly he would have been well-cast as a diabolical bad guy. His build and mannerisms are reminiscent of an early Brad Douriff, making him well suited to meeting the script’s scenery-chewing requirements. And chew he does, with his soft voice and soul-burning stares into the camera, accompanied by a smile that only gets more and more twisted with the flash of each frame. A brief flashback into a horrible past, and a glimpse into the most unsettling journal ever are the only real insights the plot offers into his motivations, but Roger’s seemingly drug-induced performance is more than strong enough to get the point across: Barry Nyle is evil in a wig and tie.

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“…or what you are.”

As for the movie itself, it must be admitted that it has its lagging segments, as it tends to rely a bit too heavily in the first act upon a makeshift Kuleshov effect as a means of exposition. Nevertheless, a great pick up towards the middle reveals some very scary images, which are perhaps enhanced by the ongoing lack of explanation. This results in some of the greatest “what-in-the-actual-fuck” moments I’ve had in a while, meaning that “Beyond the Black Rainbow” is one of those films you don’t just watch, but relish in the experience of. It won’t be everyone’s cup of tea, but the electronica soundtrack paired with Daft-Punk music video visuals are sure to catch and keep the attention of a particularly adventurous group of viewers.

The film has been marketed as a “psychedelic” romp, a term that I’m sure is meant to be interpreted as one best sees fit. While not as pulse-pounding and extreme as other “psychedelic” films like Gaspar Noe’s “Enter the Void”, there’s the same stock of shocking images, flashing lights and bright colours needed to captivate willing participants, be they aided or unaided by certain holistic accouterments. No matter what floats your boat, “Beyond the Black Rainbow” is an inexplicably strange and scary trip down the proverbial rabbit hole. How deeply you delve is up to you.

My Rating: 8/10

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About Angela

Angela McInnes is an English major and up-and-coming horror film aficionado. To her, happiness is a bottle of rum and a creature-feature on a Saturday night.

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