While it might be considered a horror movie in some aspects and a bit of a thriller in others, there is very little of the former present within unless one counts the personal demons felt by Martha Travis, those garnered throughout her life and those she receives from her gift.
Written and directed by Mike Hodges, the film is not a bad one as it definitely keeps the interest of its audience from the first minute to the last but there is nothing that will frighten or scare, even when Martha uses her powers, as accurate as they might be. Instead, Black Rainbow is more family drama than anything else with just a touch of the supernatural to keep things interesting. Starring as Martha would be Rosanna Arquette in the lead followed by Jason Robards who plays her father Walter and the man who would make a buck off of his daughter’s suffering should that be what she experiences and it seems like she indeed does just that. Martha is a gifted psychic who can commune with the dead and uses her talent to pass on messages to those who are willing to pay and sit in the audience. Things take a turn though when she relays words from those who are not even dead as of yet and it is the consequences of those actions that follow her from that point onwards as with each additional show she puts on, more and more messages from those who are soon to die are spoken.
The performances are strong with perhaps the exception of Tom Hulce who plays reporter Gary Wallace, the man seeming as if he is only going through the motions for most of it and then making up for it with a little overacting during the finale. More than anything it is Arquette and her portrayal of the fractured Martha and Robards as the broken father who is desperate to keep the truth from his daughter that really make this film shine. Sadly, it is also the performances that the film has to rely on as there is little in the way of fright or suspense to keep it going. There is a murder early on in the picture after Martha’s first show and a little violence in the final act, not to mention what may or may not have been Martha’s ghost which might have made things a little more interesting if that angle had been played up but for the most part, it is the horrors that live on in Martha’s head which the film relies upon to sell itself, being a little more melodramatic when all is said and done.
All in all, Black Rainbow was a decent enough experience to be had and yet whatever one calls this whether supernatural thriller or horror or whatever, it needed just a little more of that to really move it solidly into that genre. Worth viewing for the performances over that of anything else.
3 out of 5