Written and directed by first-time filmmaker Panos Cosmatos, everything about Canadian sci-fi/horror Beyond the Black Rainbow (2010), from its premise to its ambiance and the appearance of the characters, smacks of those chillers which you’re parents never let you watch yet all your friends at school had somehow managed to see, in particular those by that master of seedy, psychological horror David Cronenberg.
The story follows Elena (Eva Allan), a young woman who finds herself in the futuristic Arboria Institute, a research facility run the mysterious Mercurio Arboria (Scott Hylands). Realising that Arboria’s plans for her may not be to her benefit Elena attempts to escape from the secluded commune-like confines of the institute before it’s too late.
If, like me, you find a lot of the current trend for nostalgia tainted homage films falling short, mainly because they are re-tellings, instead of reinterpretations, of past classics, then Beyond the Black Rainbow looks more promising. As far as you can tell from the trailer, which plays like a two-minute-long Altered States (1980) acid trip, Cosmatos appears to have been influenced by the aforementioned Cronenberg and all the best elements of his medical/sociological based horrors such as Rabid (1977) and Videodrome (1983), yet given them his own twist.
From the creepy Arboria himself (how can you trust anyone who says they use benign pharmacology in their treatment) to the hallucinating Elena, the discordant organ music and a bizarre astronaut like, helmeted figure (I can’t wait to see what part he plays in the weird set-up), the shadow of Cronenberg is undeniably hovering in the background. Yet the whole thing retains an air of sinister originality which looks set to give those of us who remember the glory days of 1980s horror first time round a frisson of excitement.