Friday, September 14, 2012


(Canada - 2012)

This one-of-a-kind stunner is the directorial debut of Panos Cosmatos, son of the late journeyman director George P. Cosmatos, whose films ran the gamut from THE CASSANDRA CROSSING (1977) to RAMBO: FIRST BLOOD PART II (1985) to TOMBSTONE (1993).  BEYOND THE BLACK RAINBOW is an instant cult classic and may be 2012's ultimate love-it-or-hate-it film.  Cosmatos has a target audience and in the grand scheme of things, it's a pretty small audience, but if you "get" this, you'll be hooked immediately.  Cosmatos also wrote the script, which has a plot only in a vague, abstract sense.  Set in a surreal 1983 (but not too surreal, since Reagan is the president), the film takes place mostly in a massive, new-agey, "happiness"-focused research compound founded by Dr. Mercurio Arboria (Scott Hylands, a veteran of countless TV shows going back to the 1960s).  Arboria is aged and very ill, and his longtime associate Barry Nyle (Michael Rogers) oversees the facility, with his job primarily consisting of watching Arboria's daughter Elena (Eva Allan), who's kept in a locked ward and with whom Barry may or may not have a telepathic link.  There's also a strange army of cyborg types called Sentionauts, and a pyramid-shaped object that seems to be controlling (or attempting to control) Elena's thoughts.  I really don't know.  A standard-issue story with a beginning, middle, and end is not what Cosmatos is doing here.  Where the film succeeds, and quite brilliantly, is with its incredibly effective retro production design, its grainy, weathered-looking cinematography, the gaudy color scheme, and its insanely catchy throwback score by Sinoia Caves, the synth-rock side project of Jeremy Schmidt of the Canadian psychedelic metal band Black Mountain.  Just look at this:

With BEYOND THE BLACK RAINBOW, Cosmatos fashions a film that feels like pieces of a cinematic dream that you can't quite fit together but nonetheless has a profound effect.  We've all woken from a deep sleep with vivid images of a dream that stick with us for the rest of the day even if they make no sense.  That's what BEYOND THE BLACK RAINBOW is like.  Cosmatos throws out winks and nods to various influences throughout, but it's not done in a snarky or "funny" way.  He's dead serious and so is his film.  It comes from some alternate universe 1983 where Stanley Kubrick, Andrei Tarkovsky, David Cronenberg, Alejandro Jodorowsky, Ridley Scott, Terrence Malick, Dario Argento, Michael Mann, and Tangerine Dream all collaborated on a low-budget sci-fi movie that debuted at 4:00 am on an off-the-grid pirate TV station.  It'll take multiple viewings to figure it all out, but that's a project I'll be happy to undertake.  I've never seen anything quite like BEYOND THE BLACK RAINBOW and I loved every hypnotic, bewildering minute of it.  (R, 110 mins)

(US - 2012)

This mumblecore fright flick is part of the same polarizing "slow burn" movement popularized by Ti West's THE HOUSE OF THE DEVIL and the wildly overrated THE INNKEEPERS.  Directors/co-writers Dallas Hallam and Patrick Horvath slowly let the tension build, and until the one-hour mark, you wouldn't even know you were watching a horror film.  Until then, it's not that far removed from any Greta Gerwig or Lena Dunham vehicle, as the filmmakers follow twenty-something Suziey (Suziey Block, also a co-writer) and her mundane life in L.A.  She can't afford to get her car fixed ("You have to have a car in this town," her roommate tells her), works as a barista in a coffee shop, loves her dog Darryl, occasionally socializes with friends, and leads a generally quiet life.  There's an almost JEANNE DIELMAN-esque repetition to Suziey's daily routine, and like that film, you gradually grow so acclimated to it that you start noticing the little, peripheral signs that something isn't right.  While it takes an hour for outright horror to finally break out, the signs are there:  she gets home to find Darryl behaving oddly for no reason, she's in the shower and hears footsteps in the living room even though her roommate's out of town, a car slowly follows her as she walks home from work, etc.  And someone takes photos of her while she sleeps.  Then Darryl disappears. All the answers are there, and you'll catch them on a second run-through, so while the pace is often extremely--some may say unbearably--slow, it's necessary to make ENTRANCE work as well as it does.  Since Paul Haggis' CRASH, we've been inundated with an endless string of "everything is connected" sagas of self-absorbed L.A. ennui, but Hallam and Horvath take that and turn it into a methodical, disturbing little gem with an extremely well-handled continuous shot late in the film that goes on for about 15 minutes.  Block is very good and proves herself a tough one who can hang with the best of the scream queens.  Look, like BEYOND THE BLACK RAINBOW, this is a love-it or hate-it piece of work.  You'll either give it the time and space it needs to accomplish what it needs to do or you'll get bored and bail on it in 20 minutes.  Look for a cult to be forming around this one pretty quickly.  (Unrated, 84 mins, also on Netflix streaming)

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