Taking a trip to sci-fi's past.
As the son of late Cobra director George P. Cosmatos, Panos Cosmatos grew up around videotape. From a young age, he was obsessed with the lurid sci-fi box covers he saw on the shelves of his local video store. The Vancouver native’s first feature, Beyond the Black Rainbow, is a loving tribute to what those boxes might have housed inside (amazingly, he wasn’t allowed to watch R-rated movies). The film is a retro-pulp curio that seems to have been pulled out of a collector’s attic.
There isn’t much to the almost punishingly drawn-out story, which follows a young woman with telekinetic powers (Eva Allan) as she tries to escape the Arboria Institute, an experimental facility that’s imprisoned her. As she flees, she’s pursued by Dr. Nyle (Michael Rogers), the turtlenecked scientist (and sometimes counselor) who controls her mind using a weird pyramid-shaped doodad. It’s safe to say he isn’t prepared for the mind-bending journey she’s about to take him on, once she gets the upper hand.
What’s lacking in story, at least on the surface, is more than made up for by the film’s glorious style, which isn’t an homage to ’70s and ’80s genre movie tropes so much as a ghostly possession by them. This is such a thorough recreation of the analog era Cosmatos is transfixed by that you leave feeling like you’ve just visited someplace strange. The stately minimalist compositions—all forlorn humans in cavernous neon spaces and pulsing synth music—are an integral part of the package, which is best experienced on the big screen, surrounded by likeminded space travelers.