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"Black Rainbow" Reviews/Discussion - 2010 Horror Challenge: Day 9

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"Black Rainbow" Reviews/Discussion - 2010 Horror Challenge: Day 9

Old 10-07-10, 01:22 PM
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"Black Rainbow" Reviews/Discussion - 2010 Horror Challenge: Day 9

Black Rainbow (1989)


Selected by J. Farley.

These "October Horror Movie Challenge" threads are for the discussion of the films in the 31 Films in 31 Days Subset.

Main Discussion Thread | The List Thread

The plan is for everyone to watch this film on the October day in the thread title, and to start discussing it the morning of the following day.
You may start discussion early if you want, but the preferred plan is for this to be as much of a group exercise as possible, with all of us viewing it "together" and discussing after.

Of course, you are totally encouraged to participate in these threads even if you haven't watched the movie on the designated day.
Even if you haven't watched it in years, or are not participating in the Horror Challenge, please feel free to chime in.

Spoiler tags are unnecessary in these discussion threads, so if you have yet to see the film BEWARE OF SPOILERS.

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Old 10-09-10, 11:41 PM
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Re: "Black Rainbow" Reviews/Discussion - 2010 Horror Challenge: Day 9

Half way through I felt confident in saying this is (almost) the worst movie I've seen this month but the ending really picked up. There's some nice imagery.

I can appreciate the themes and the emphasis on the supernatural. However, every time the father talks it seemed like he was trying to tell a bad joke so some of the acting is off (but it's a lower budget film). While perhaps thematically important some of the characterization seems to change on a whim. It is funny the way the film mocks mundane activities of living.

Last edited by Undeadcow; 10-10-10 at 05:10 PM.
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Old 10-10-10, 06:10 AM
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Re: "Black Rainbow" Reviews/Discussion - 2010 Horror Challenge: Day 9

Directed by Mike Hodges, Black Rainbow is a grimy, slow-burning Southern Gothic. Urban, industrial and rural landscapes sell the ideas of toxicity, decay and lingering presences. There's an out-of-time quality. Trains, hotels and apparel give a thirties or forties air to proceedings. Before she begins foretelling deaths, we never are clearly sure if Martha's gift is all an act. Whether it is or not, the image she uses to describe her connection to the afterlife, that of a rainbow, is about to become very blackened indeed.

In a film like this, the characters have to be well-drawn. As Martha, Rosanna Arquette is intensely ethereal. I don't think she's ever looked more stunning, and likewise, I don't think she's ever given a better performance. She vividly conveys the essence of the character, a woman who turns to sporadic bouts of nymphomania for her only form of gratification. Emotionally worn and hardened by the existence that's been forced on her, Martha lives an empty life giving hope to others while keeping none for herself. Jason Robards plays her father, a louse of a man using his daughter as a cashcow while deriding her every step of the way.

At one point in the film, Martha is branded a witch due to one of her predictions. The same woman was more than happy to take part in her showings when they were reassuring, but the moment she foresees something bad, the woman does a 180 and puts her down. That's human nature for you. This leads to Arquette tearing into her final audience with a diatribe about the affirmation of their own lives through the afterlife. Hodges peppers his film with many themes, a key one clearly being the human need for assurance.

Under his direction, everything comes together beautifully. One scene is a real stunner as we bear witness to the force of an unseen explosion. I didn't realize what I was seeing at first, but once it became clear, I had to go back and watch the scene again. A lovely example of creativity through subtlety. Really, despite the run down locations, despite the macabre nature of the proceedings, the entire film has an underlying beauty radiating throughout it. It's a delicate balance, but one that's fully achieved.

As was the case with my pick last year, End of the Line, I went with an overlooked favorite of mine that I think deserves more attention. The subset strikes me as a good opportunity to talk about such gems rather than the same old, same old that gets discussed relentlessly. Hope at least a few people enjoyed it.
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Old 10-10-10, 07:13 AM
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Re: "Black Rainbow" Reviews/Discussion - 2010 Horror Challenge: Day 9

I loved it. May have never gotten around to seeing it without it being picked here, so thanks J!

I was really able to get into it's film-long exploration of the theme of "what's the meaning of life".

Btw Chad, the link in the subset list for this goes to day #8.
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Old 10-10-10, 10:59 AM
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Re: "Black Rainbow" Reviews/Discussion - 2010 Horror Challenge: Day 9

I enjoyed it as well, although it was tuff to stick through it in the beginning. I did appreciate the gritty crime style, and the performances. Great story. I had to watch the beginning and the end again when it was over. Those two scenes are so far apart from the rest of the story, I forgot how they played out. Great pick.
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Old 10-10-10, 11:30 AM
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Re: "Black Rainbow" Reviews/Discussion - 2010 Horror Challenge: Day 9

Rosanna Arquette stars as a medium who can supposedly see and speak to the dead, Jason Robards plays her alcoholic father/manager, and Tim Hulce is the newspaper reporter who takes an interest in her abilities once she begins foretelling people's deaths. Film starts off confusingly, and there are plot threads that end up going nowhere. The central conceit of the film is interesting, however, and because of this, Black Rainbow only really comes alive when Arquette is onstage doing her medium thing. I tried very hard to like this movie, but the variable performances by the leads, the excrutiatingly awful score, the muddled storyline, and some wonky 11th hour happenings all combined for a mostly unimpressive viewing experience.

Having said all that, I'm glad that I was "made" to watch a film that I otherwise would have never seen. Even if I didn't particularly like the film, I think that it's good to be forced out of my self-imposed viewing rut every once in a while. So, J. Farley, while I don't exactly agree with your choice, my hat's off to you for your reasoning behind it.

Last edited by rbrown498; 10-10-10 at 11:37 AM.
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Old 10-10-10, 05:44 PM
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Re: "Black Rainbow" Reviews/Discussion - 2010 Horror Challenge: Day 9

Originally Posted by Trevor View Post
Btw Chad, the link in the subset list for this goes to day #8.
Fixed. I swear that wasn't intentional!
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Old 10-17-10, 05:06 PM
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Re: "Black Rainbow" Reviews/Discussion - 2010 Horror Challenge: Day 9

Finally got the disc in from Netflix.

The ending makes you want to explore the film again like the Sixth Sense, only this time you don't know for sure whether she really was a ghost or not. You can only guess, but that works well here, making you appreciate the story rather than the production value.

The filming of the shockwave rather than the explosion itself really was a very effective visual. That and making it a detective type story rather than a traditional ghost/horror helped make her "disappearance" more effective.

The title itself makes a lot more sense after watching.
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