‘Beyond the Black Rainbow’ is beautiful, empty

Beyond the Black Rainbow
Release date:
“Beyond the Black Rainbow”
Panos Cosmatos
December 31, 2010
3/5 stars

The annals of sci-fi are haunted by the campiness, and occasional genius, of the ‘70s and ‘80s. With the advent of CGI, amateur and professional filmmakers alike had a field day with visuals. Playing out with fever dream clarity, the halls of “Beyond the Black Rainbow,” look like a mishmash of “2001: A Space Odyssey” and “THX 1183.”

The movie focuses Elena (Eva Allen, “The Big Year”), a girl with psychic powers being held in a facility run by a perverse doctor. During a series of uneasy one-on-one sessions, the doctor tells the girl, “You’re a very sick girl,” but he could be talking about himself in equal measure.

As far as sci-fi villains go, the doctor (Michael Rogers, “Continuum”) is a stoic menace. Even before removing his “accessories,” Rogers feels like the embodiment of psychosis. But beyond his performance, there’s not much in the way of acting.

Allen is serviceable as Elena, but she doesn’t carry all of the narrative weight her character implies.

Therein lies the biggest problem with the movie: It’s all implication. The plot, if it can be called that, is purposefully hard to follow and feels as isolating as a dream. When it comes down to it, that isolation serves no purpose and “Black Rainbow” ends up feeling empty.

It’s all flash and little substance, but the flash is hypnotizing. Director Cosmatos has an eye for visuals. Each scene pulses with color and creativity. His aesthetic sense feels like the lovechild of Stanley Kubrick and David Lynch, meticulous and surreal all at once.

Pulsing under it all is an ‘80s era synth track. Any fans of John Carpenter’s work in the eponymous decade will feel right at home.

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Beyond that, the movie is hopelessly empty. “Black Rainbow” is an acid trip without the revelations. It’s like Cosmatos poured all of his energy into the cinematography and lost the story along the way. As a daring piece of eye candy, “Black Rainbow” works, but as a full meal it will leave viewers starving.