Lights, camera, howls! Larry Fessenden’s latest indie gem Blackoutrecently celebrated its World Premiere at the 2023 Fantasia Film Festival. An expansion of Fessenden’s contemporary remix of the Universal Classic Monster stories (a welcome choice with the failed Dark Universe project on the back burner for the foreseeable future), Blackoutstars Alex Hurt as the cursed hairball, with supporting performances from genre icon Barbara Crampton (also appearing at Fantasia in Joe Lynch’s Suitable Flesh), Rigo Garay (The Leech), Jeremy Holm (The Ranger), and Marshall Bell (Total Recall) as small-town America’s asshole extraordinaire.
Charley Barrett is an artist and struggling alcoholic who is desperate to get his life in order before the next full moon. Perpetually 24 hours from leaving town for good, Charley attempts to make amends with the loved ones he’s hurt through his addiction, and atone for the corporate sins of his father that threaten to destroy his hometown. The only trouble is, he keeps turning into an uncontrollable, insatiable monster. Not unlike his benders on bourbon, Charley goes into a frenzy after the sun sets and blacks out until the morning when he’s left to put together the pieces of a night painting the town red…
“Despite a limited budget Blackout still delivers razor-sharp werewolf moments…”
Blackoutis a little shaggy and rough around the edges, which actually feels pretty appropriate for an indie werewolf flick. Despite a limited budget it still finds delivers razor-sharp werewolf images, including a shot torn straight from the pages of EC Comics with a snarling wolfman hunching over the naked corpse of a female victim.
And of course, what’s a werewolf movie without a transformation sequence? It’s the pièce de résistance of any werewolf movie and Blackoutfinds fun approaches for its centerpiece moment including a transformation while driving a car and another A+ sequence shown entirely through oil paintings. Fessenden is a filmmaker whose perspective is always surprising, and his recent stint in the Universal Monster sandbox has provided him a perfect canvas to tell his particular brand of horror story.
“Fessenden is a filmmaker whose perspective is always surprising”
In his Frankenstein reimagining Depraved (2019), he used Mary Shelley’s immortal tale to dive into some of the darker sides of the United States’ Industrial Military Complex. And with Blackout, Fessenden uses the inner workings of the animal psyche to explain some of the philosophical pitfalls of the human condition, particularly our inability to exercise empathy.
As with so many indie monster movies it can be a little “talky” for some but it’s an impossible feat to top those Mount Rushmore moments in werewolf cinema. The concepts and ideas in a movie like Blackoutare what help to set it apart from the Wolfman movies that established the subgenre. I would have loved to see more mayhem (shout out to a full werewolf POV set piece!) those splashy effects driven sequences can really only be found in big-budget studio pictures. And as much as I want to see the Wolfman take Hollywood by storm again, he’s just as well suited in smaller character-drive pieces like Blackoutthat explore the duality of man, always as odds with the darkness that consumes us when the light disappears.
“…explores the duality of man, always as odds with the darkness that consumes us when the light disappears.”
[#Fantasia2023 Review] An Artist Battles His Inner Demons in Indie Werewolf Flick BLACKOUT
Despite a limited budget it still finds delivers razor-sharp werewolf images. Fessenden is a filmmaker whose perspective is always surprising, and his recent stint in the Universal Monster sandbox has provided him a perfect canvas to tell his particular brand of horror story.
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