The year is 1983. Let's have a look at the tape. It was produced to promote a new therapy devised by Dr Mercurio Arboria (Scott Hylands) which would take place at his experimental resort, images of which are on the featurette, which makes it appear like some paradise for peace of mind, but there is only one resident of the complex now, and she is Elena (Eva Allan), who is not happy. This is because the researchers there discovered she was in possession of psychic powers which could come in very beneficial to their advances, but to do so they would have to harness them, and that meant keeping Elena prisoner. Her personal doctor is Barry Nyle (Michael Rogers), a cruel man who thinks he can use her...
Beyond the Black Rainbow slotted neatly into a genre that found various sorts of receptive audiences in the twenty-first century, though in its selection of homages paid to styles of the past was by no means universally accepted. For every fan of The Artist or No or Super 8 there were plenty of naysayers who wanted their movies as modern-looking as possible, or on the other hand were big fans of the works paid tribute to and resistant towards any up-to-date recreation of them. In this case the director Panos Cosmatos was less inspired by the films themselves (some of which would be directed by his father, George Pan Cosmatos) than by the delights promised by their video cassette boxes.
For a generation, wandering the shelves of your local video rentals was a potent memory because they were too young to rent the adult-rated science fiction, thrillers and horrors but that didn't stop their minds from racing when they regarded the covers, which often were more lurid and promised far more than anything in the actual films. Therefore with that in mind, Cosmatos sought to craft the very kind of entertainment he envisaged would be contained behind the artwork, something that would be vividly coloured and designed, but was just that bit too far over the heads of the kids who yearned to watch them should they manage to sneak a look, and in that ambition you could observe he had achieved something close to his goal.
The look and tone of the film is almost pitch perfect as an artefact of the seventies science fiction category, not Star Wars but the sort of mind expansion that some of the stories wrestling with big ideas would have presented that George Lucas sidelined with his mammoth successes and those imitators and pretenders to his throne. Although working with a modest budget, Cosmatos applied it exceedingly well through extremely specific art design, meaning even if you didn't latch onto what precisely was going on - a very real possibility, and one reason some hated this - you could drink in the visuals which at the same time as referencing all sorts of fantastical and head movie touchstones managed a work all their own, as if this had indeed been a lost cult effort rediscovered decades after its creation.
The trouble with that being that those images and Jeremy Schmidt's perfect music overpowered his admittedly slight storyline, so you could watch this from beginning to end, if you got that far, and not have the faintest idea what Cosmatos was on about, turned off the whole concept as a result. For that reason, it was closer to its influences than even its director might have admitted: how many got to the finale of 2001: A Space Odyssey, or Phase IV for that matter, and were baffled in the way that this was derivative of? Sometimes that's a pleasing feeling, that sense of befuddlement mixed with the satisfaction you had appreciated an artistic success, but in this case it was pulling in two directions, nowhere more so than when it reached its own climax and opted not to go for the mindfuck as many of its antecedents had, instead going for the hitherto unexpected slasher flick ending. If you were aware of what the director was trying to revitalise, those impossibly scary, exotic even, forbidden fruits of the video stores of old then you could perfectly understand, but accept not everyone would.