Dir/scr: Panos Cosmatos. Canada. 2011. 110mins


Haunting visuals only partially make up for the narrative shortcomings of Beyond The Black Rainbow, a trippy, retro sci-fi thriller that marks the feature debut of Canada-based writer-director Panos Cosmatos.

A sixties flashback sequence, during which the scientist has a mind-altering drug experience, is the film’s highlight.

After screening at the Tribeca festival, the film, which also appeared at Fantastic Fest and is in the line-up of this month’s AFI Fest, was picked up for the US by Magnolia’s Magnet Releasing label. The theatrical audience probably won’t extend beyond a small hard core of genre fans but the exposure might ultimately lead to more mainstream projects for Cosmatos (son of Greek Hollywood director George Cosmatos) down the line.

Set against a backdrop of the Reagan-era Cold War, the story, such as it is, has a creepy scientist (played by Canadian veteran Michael Rogers, from The Assassination of Jesse James) holding a young girl with dangerous mental powers (Eva Allan, from sci-fi series Caprica) captive in a isolated laboratory.

Paying homage - perhaps a bit too diligently - to Stanley Kubrick, early George Lucas, Andrei Tarkovsky and others, Cosmatos shoots the uneventful first half of the film almost exclusively in tight close-ups of the handful of characters and slow tracking shots of the lab’s red-lit interior. A droning synth score by Sinoia Caves (a side project of Jeremy Schmidt from neo-prog band Black Mountain) adds to the mood.

A sixties flashback sequence, during which the scientist has a mind-altering drug experience, is the film’s highlight, with eye-popping imagery apparently created either in-camera or with make up rather than with special effects.

The final act is more conventional and less impressive and leads the film into cheesy low-budget genre territory. 

Production company: Chromewood
US distribution: Magnet Releasing
International sales: Elephant Eye Films, www.elephanteyefilms.com
Producers: Oliver Linsley, Christya Nordstokke
Cinematography: Norm Li
Production designer: Bob Bottieri
Editor: Nicholas Shepard
Sound designer: Eric Paul
Music: Sinoia Caves
Website: www.arboria.org
Main cast: Michael Rodgers, Eva Allan, Scott Hylands, Marilyn Norry, Rondel Reynoldson