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A Story of Spiritual Bewareness

January 06, 1994|JANET KINOSIAN

Writer-director Mike Hodges conjures up a weird, dreary world in "Black Rainbow," a supernatural thriller about a fake medium (Rosanna Arquette)--who might not be a fake after all--and a crooked corporation killing off its workers.

Martha Travis calls herself "a spiritual telephone exchange," transmitting messages from the dead to their survivors, as her drunken father drums up business along the Bible Belt.

Martha performs in front of the audience in white robes, on a rosewood carved chair with organ music in the background, turning her head to the side as if listening to the dead.

She relays a typical message to one woman: Husband Tommy is doing fine "on the other side," after his bloody murder. But the woman says Martha has got the wrong man--that her husband is alive and well and watching TV. The woman returns home, finding her husband as she left him. Minutes later, however, he dies in the violent way that the clairvoyant had described.

Martha continues her public hereafter telephone conversations with people who aren't yet dead. And soon she is hunted by the law--and a hit man.

The atmosphere is modern Southern Gothic--full of revivalist religion, reactionary corruption and steamy sex. The cast is above-par, especially Arquette, who makes the most of her angel-slut role.

The film ends with many unanswered, or partially answered, questions. But that's the central fun of this film.

"Black Rainbow" (1991), directed by Mike Hodges. 103 Minutes. Rated R.

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