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Beyond The Black Rainbow is true 80′s horror

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Originally I had intended to watch this movie at a local art house theater, but I saw that it was available on Amazon on Demand, so I decided to enjoy the movie in bed with my wife, dog and laptop. What you notice immediately about Beyond The Black Rainbow is that it draws heavily upon the 80′s science fiction horror aesthetic. It’s easy to see why it has been compared to such films as THX 1138, A Clockwork Orange, The Hunger and pretty much all the works of David Cronenberg, but not to be caught up in the smoke and mirrors there still has to be a good story…right? Searching for a viable plot in such artistry can sometimes be a daunting task, but you soon realize that the formula is the same, but it’s just being presented like a sarcophagus at a museum or vestige of some by-gone era that the director Panos Cosmatos (son of George P. Cosmatos, who directed Tombstone, Cobra, and Rambo: First Blood Part II) has meticulously decided to pay homage to. BTBR speaks in metaphors, the viewer is meant to take something from every single frame, the director even goes as far as beginning these super short scenes with fade in and outs of the grittiest red instead of the usual black.

Right now’s when you’d probably like for me to explain what the fuck this film’s about…

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Deep within the mysterious Arboria Institute, a beautiful girl (Eva Allan) is held captive by a scientist, Dr. Barry Nyle (Michael Rogers). Her mind is controlled by a sinister technology (a mysterious pyramid-shaped light). Speechlessly, she waits for her next session with the deranged Dr. Nyle. She escapes her cell under the watchful eye of Dr. Nyle peering through video monitors. She journeys through the darkest reaches of the Institute but Nyle wonʼt easily part with his most gifted and dangerous creation.

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It all makes for some amazing vintage horror done with a committed cast and one hell of an art director Antonio Colin and costume designer Kathi Moore. Shot entirely in Vancouver, the story travels along an analog path of science verging on insanity. As we learn more about the Arboria Institute we find out about or at least we think we find out about what the institutes real mission is and that’s when BTBR begins tinkering with the idea of the occult and going places with the storyline that all good 80′s horrors can’t do without. Like Alejandro Jodorowsky’s psychedelic masterpiece Holy Mountain, BTBR toys, ever so slightly, with god/devil themes in the form of glowing masonic style triangles and the Sentionauts (ominous albino baby faced worker bees or minions for the Arboria Institute) but doesn’t try to be what it’s not thus elevating the films level of genius by acknowledging the Satanic prime directive and moving on. It has to be said before I continue that the soundtrack is near flawless. Panos obviously knew that if the image was the vehicle the music had to be the engine so he did what any film/indie video director does and enlist the help of none other than Jeremy Schimdt from the synth rock band Black Mountain to pepper this art piece in a blanket of moogness, add that sound to the brilliant cinematography of Norm Li and you have a film fit for any classic VHS library.

The following Interview with Panos Cosmatos in it’s entirety is available @ Dork Shelf

DS: How involved were you with the score because it felt so integral to the mood and tone? I’d imagine it was something you wanted to be heavily involved in.

PC: Well, Jeremy Schmidt from Black Mountain wrote the score and has an amazing record collection of soundtracks Panos Cosmatosand synth music from the 70s and 80s. He’s very influenced by that time and writes this amazing music that he records on analogue synthesizers. Once I discovered him, I really wanted him to score it. I showed him a rough cut and he really wanted to do it. I think he drew influences from a lot of not just soundtracks, but different artists from that era. John Carpenter was definitely part of that, but there were so many. I don’t know, our musical sensibilities were so close that I gave him some guidance, but generally I just let him create and it was like Christmas. Because I’m a fan of his, it was amazing to just to get to hear him create music and put it on my movie.

Overall the film’s formula isn’t anything something we’ve never seen before, but what Panos has done was added more to an era of films that had no idea what is was then or what it would become.

DS: How difficult was it to find financing for a project as experimental and out there as this? I’d imagine there would have been a lot of scratched heads while you were pitching it around.

PC: Well, I self financed it, but that didn’t stop people from scratching their heads when I was trying to talk them into working on it (laughs). The people that responded to it responded to it very strongly and wanted to be involved. It was just hard to find those people at times. The only reference they had for my work was a music video that was online. So that would show them that perhaps that mentality combined the script could be something interesting.

BTBR is what was to be expected of the son of the director of COBRA and seeing the world through his goggles and knowing the urge to go totally modern and sell this to the studios and not doing it, is a feat within itself and should be celebrated in this age of overdone. I bet no one could have seen this rebirth of 80′s coming and most won’t understand it or they think they will, but due to their lack of love for films, won’t be able to place a proper finger on it and that’s what I believe directors like Panos Cosmatos and Ti West (House Of The Devil) has set out to create…enigmas. Films without a home, but stand alone as works of art never to be looked upon as a movies in the Hollywood sense. BTBR is pure aural and eye candy for lovers of great science fiction (notice how I didn’t write 80′s science fiction). You won’t find me trying to even coddle those less likely to watch this movie cause there’s a time and place for everything and unlike some films from the past this one harnesses it’s own power, and because of modern technology, will be less susceptible to degradation/wear and tear unlike it’s 80′s predecessors, and that’s a bit of next gen that I’m sure even Panos Cosmatos is happy with.

Lost ending to cult 1974 science fiction film Phase IV has been found

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The film that led the way for movies like Beyond The Black Rainbow, has just been given new life with the recent discovery of a new ending. Phase IV starring Nigel Davenport, Michael Murphy and Lynn Frederick and directed by Saul Bass was a monumental feat in film making for the time. Phase IV used elements from directors like Alejandro Jordorowsky, George Lucas and Alfred Hitchcock to create a very unsettling look at an alien invasion, but from a species all too common to humankind…the ant.

The Paramount produced film was dissed by most movie critics and was quickly placed in the eco-horror jar and pretty much ended director/graphic designer Saul Bass’s creator before it got started. Flash forward thirty nine years and Phase IV has become a cult favorite due in part to shows like Mystery Science Theater 3000, that although made fun of the film, breathed new life into it in a strange sorta way urging those not satisfied with it’s bastardizing to pursue this gem.

Original synopsis:

Due to some unknown cosmic event, listed in “phases”, ants have undergone rapid evolution and developed a hive mind. A scientific team begins investigating strange towers and geometrically perfect designs that ants have started building in the desert. The local human population flees the strangely acting ants. James Lesko (Murphy) and Ernest Hubbs (Davenport) set up a computerized lab in a sealed dome located in an area of significant ant activity in Arizona. The ant colony and the scientific team, along with a holdout rural family, make war against each other, with the ants being the more effective aggressors. The narrative uses the scientific team as the main protagonists, but there are also ant protagonists going about their duties in the colony. The ants immunize themselves to the humans’ chemical weapons and soon infiltrate their lab. Teams of ants penetrate the computers of the lab and short them out. Kendra Eldrige, a young woman who had taken refuge with the scientists, abandons the lab.

Hubbs and Lesko begin to have different plans for dealing with the ants. While Lesko thinks he can communicate with the ants using messages written in mathematics, Hubbs plans to wipe out a hill he believes to be the ants’ central hive. Delirious from an ant bite, Hubbs can barely get his boots on, but is determined to attack the hive and kill the ant queen. Instead, Hubbs literally falls into trap – a deep ditch that soon fills with ants that consume him. Helpless to save Hubbs, and concluding that the ants will soon move into desert areas where their growth will exceed man’s ability to control them, Lesko chooses to follow Hubb’s plan. He sets out to the hive with a canister of poison. Descending into the hive, Lesko hunts for the queen but instead finds Kendra. In the film’s cryptic finale, the two embrace. Lesko realizes that far from destroying the human race, the ants’ plan is to change them, making them a part of the ants’ world.

The Cinefamily of Los Angeles has come across the original ending that was intended for the original cut of Phase IV and will be showing from April 26-28 @ 9:30pm pacific time.

Description of ending is as follows:

“Starting with the same shots as in the theatrical version, Michael Murphy’s character James descends into the ants’ hive expecting to blow it up, ending the war with humankind’s insect adversaries. Instead, he enters a room where Kendra (Lynne Fredrick), the girl he and his partner rescued from insecticide poisoning earlier in the film, is lying in a pool of sand. She rises and approaches him, as he realizes that the ants want to join – or merge – with humanity, prompting a new evolutionary development in both species. James and Kendra find themselves running through a gauntlet of geometric structures, eventually ending up in a maze where they are tested and observed in the same way that mankind tested the insects.

In a dizzying and often disturbing montage of imagery, James and Kendra become an embodiment of all mankind as a new species is created. Emerging from their transformation, the pair gazes out onto a sunset-stained landscape, realizing that humanity has reached a new level in its evolution: “Phase IV.””

This film is filled with iconic images, images that have been stolen by those smart enough to do it. Especially in this age of rehash and throwback. A film like this is an American treasure and deserves to be right there among such classic science fiction films  as Planet of the Apes or 2001: A Space Odyssey.

THE CINEFAMILY OFFICIAL WEBSITE

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A collection of amazing “back facing the camera shots” set to Moby’s soundtrack in HEAT

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Whoever’s job it was to collect this footage from so many amazing films was amazing at collecting the good ones. There are millions of shots, I imagine, where a characters back was facing the camera, but these particular scenes were all pivotal and epic in nature. Could’ve just been the soundtrack, but I don’t think so. A good director knows when to use this technique and when you watch this amazing video, you’ll see for yourself, most of footage are from directors who used it wisely.

M.I.T.N.G reviews Panos Cosmatos’s Reagan era inspired science fiction horror Beyond The Black Rainbow

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