Film: Beyond the Black Rainbow

A State Of Mind / A Way Of Being
Hello. My name is Dr. Mercurio Arboria, and I am the founder of the Arboria Institute. It has long been my dream to find the perfect way for people to achieve, simply, happiness. Contentment. Inner peace. These seem to be things that, strangely, elude us all — but it doesn't have to be that way. We at Arboria have found a path to achieve them.
A Practical Application / Of An Abstract Ideal
Here at the Institute, we are in the forefront worldwide in neuropsychology and new therapeutic technologies. Dr. Barry Nyle, our head of research, myself, and our dedicated team of herbalists, naturopaths, and healers have found a way to make that dream a reality.
Born Of A Dream / To Create A Reality
Through our unique blend of benign pharmacology, sensory therapy, and energy sculpting, we can guide you gently along the path to a new, better, happier you — all in the comfortable surroundings of our state-of-the-art facility and our award-winning gardens.
A Different Way To Think / A New Way To Live / A Perfect Way To Believe
We invite you to join us, and find out for your... self.
ARBORIA: Serenity Through Technology

Beyond the Black Rainbow is a 2010 Science-Fiction Psychological Thriller film, often crossing into Surreal Horror. It is the debut film by Canadian writer and director Panos Cosmatos. Set in 1983, the film follows a girl named Elena, a telepath studied and locked inside a research compound, and the unstable therapist that supervises her. Things start getting astoundingly weirder very quickly. The film is shot in the deliberately slow, sterile, and excessively polished style of 70s cold sci-fi movies, such as THX 1138 and Solaris. It also features a mostly Brown Note / Drone of Dread score.

This film provides examples of:

  • Ascetic Aesthetic:The Arboria Institute.
  • Air-Vent Passageway: Elena uses one to travel between rooms.
  • Battleaxe Nurse: Margo.
  • Benevolent Conspiracy: Implied at the beginning. Its results are not so much.
  • Big Bad: Dr. Barry Nyle
  • Bald of Evil / Black Eyes of Evil: Dr. Nyle, once he removes his wig and contacts and goes completely Ax-Crazy.
  • Brown Note: The low humming on the soundtrack that indicates that the Pyramid is active and suppressing Elena.
  • Came Back Strong: Elena's "baptism" in the same stuff has given her Off The Scale Psychic Powers that Nyle covets and keeps suppressed via Arboria's technology.
  • Came Back Wrong:
    • Dr. Nyle's dip in the primordial ooze had this affect on him whereas...
    • It's also implied as the Sentionaut's possible Fridge Horror back story.
  • Cosmic Horror Story: Dr. Nyle claims to have seen "the eye of God" and "the Black Rainbow" during his transformation.
  • Creepy Child: What the Sentionaut looks like under its helmet.
  • Drone of Dread: Most of the score is like this, but a particularly sinister note plays on the synthesizer during several scenes, most notably when the nurse discovers a notebook that hints at implied Rape as Drama.
  • Drugs Are Bad: "Benign pharmacology" proves to be anything but benign. While the film is too subtle and understated to be considered a Reactionary Fantasy about drugs, the anti-drug Aesop fits nicely with the movie's Reagan-era aesthetic. Especially when you see what Mercurio Arboria's morphine addiction has done to him.
  • Eerie Pale-Skinned Brunette: Elena.
  • Escape from the Crazy Place
  • Establishing Shot: Relentlessly subverted. An establishing shot of a room is likely to be done through macro photography of the carpet.
  • Evil Costume Switch: Barry goes from his Carl Sagan getup, contacts and toupee into an oil black jacket... granted, he was already shown/implied to be pretty sinister before, but at this point he becomes considerably less restrained about it.
  • Eye Scream: A few. A notable one includes Dr. Nyle removing his contacts with needle nose pliers. The removal is not shown, but his moan of pain tells it all.
  • Fade to Black: Whenever there's a scene change, the movie fades to red instead.
  • Genre Throwback: To "cold sci-fi" of the 1970s.
  • Homage: In terms of style as well as subject matter, to science fiction films of the early 1980s.
  • Left Hanging: The main conflict is resolved before the end, but the film ends very abruptly and many things remain unexplained.
  • Mad Scientist: Or mad pseudo-scientist, Barry.
  • Mind Rape: The flashback sequence to 1966. It's credible that Mind Rape is what results when you've just begun tripping on an experimental hallucinogen and your supposed "guide" lays some heavy responsibility on you, like "Bring home the mother lode." Thanks a lot, Dr. Arboria.
  • Mind Screw: Endlessly. It reaches the point that a perfectly ordinary Establishing Shot of a perfectly ordinary staff break room will unwind your mind.
  • Mushroom Samba: The flashback sequence (if not the whole movie.)
  • Ominous Pipe Organ: The soundtrack uses an organ-type synthesizer sound for some of the villain scenes.
  • Peace & Love, Incorporated: If you believe their promotional material, Arboria is a holistic psychological research center dedicated to helping people achieve happiness and realize their full potential.
  • Psychic Nosebleed: Margo gets a nosebleed while escorting Elena.
  • Psychic Powers: Elena has telepathic and telekinetic powers.
  • Psycho Psychologist: Barry.
  • Rape as Drama: Implied as part of the backstory (though it's never really clear) when the Battleaxe Nurse finds a notebook featuring illustrations of male and female sexual organs. Cue Brown Note.
  • Retraux
  • '70s Hair: Dr. Arboria and Barry have very Seventies mops of hair, showing that the Arboria filmstrip is outdated and Barry has not kept up with fashions. The Arboria institute is a time capsule even in the retro 1980s setting.
  • Shout-Out:
    • Barry's pills are from "Benway's Pharmacy," an appropriate shout-out to William S. Burroughs.
    • The way he kills his wife is also reminiscent of Tyrell's death in Blade Runner.
    • The flashback to 1966 is shot in high-contrast black and white in homage to E. Elias Merhige's experimental horror film Begotten.
    • The Sentionaut is wearing gear reminiscent of the spacesuits from 2001: A Space Odyssey.
    • The Sentionaut opening its helmet is similar to the unmasking of the humanoid in The Black Hole.
    • "No matter where you go, there you are" is quoted in the end credits.
  • Sliding Scale of Shiny Versus Gritty: much like the Stanley Kubrick films Beyond the Black Rainbow visually references, the film is based on an aesthetic contrast between the two. Notably the "shiny" parts are used for the main character's imprisonment while the "gritty" last half hour of the movie provides hope for escape.
  • Spiritual Successor: To Altered States, among others.
  • Stargate City: Notable Vancouver locations seen in this movie include the George Massey Tunnel and Bloedel Conservatory.
  • Start of Darkness: While Barry doesn't go completely off his rocker until the end of the film, a flashback shows when he actually first went insane and killed Elena's mother.
  • Soundtrack Dissonance: The film contains two out-of-place songs: "Angel Dust" by metal band Venom (during the scene with the camping heshers) and "Anonymous" by synthpop band SSQ (during the end credits). Compared to the Drone of Dread that is the entire rest of the film, this can come off as jarring.
  • The Stinger: A close-up of a Sentionaut action figure lays on a carpet, as a half-backwards voice exclaims "Do you read me?" over Pac Man Fever noises.
  • These Are Things Man Was Not Meant to Know: What Dr. Nyle saw when he tried to "bring home the mother lode."
  • Utopia Justifies the Means: Perfecting humanity was the Arboria Institute's initial goal. Too bad it led to Barry's pronounced psychotic break and quite a few seemingly otherworldly horrors.
  • Villainous Breakdown: Barry goes from a cold and calculating Psycho Psychologist to a bald, ranting, hallucinating, knife wielding psychopath.
  • "What Now?" Ending: Elena's escaped the suffocating control of Dr. Nyle and the Institute, but it's left unsure what she will do or face next.
  • White Void Room: The flashback to 1966 takes place entirely in one. See Shout-Out above.