Director: Larry Fessenden
Starring: Alex Hurt, Addison Timlin, Barbara Crampton, Kevin Corrigan, James Le Gros, Joe Swanberg, Marshall Bell, Ella Rae Peck
Did you ever hear the one about the painter who thought he was a werewolf? Well, Larry Fessenden did and decided to make a film about it. The indie horror icon returns again with Blackout, one of the films chosen to spearhead the opening of Fantasia International Film Festival 2023, to tell the story of a man racked with personal struggles who, every full moon, transforms into a lycanthrope and embarks on a murderous rampage across the small town of Talbot Falls.
Charley (Hurt) is a man feeling the pressure of life, and he’s just trying to make the best of what he can despite what he has unwittingly, yet knowingly, done. Personal and professional problems have pushed Charley to his limit and drinking seems to be an easy way out, but will that be enough to prevent his regular bloody activities? If not, he has an entire town who can tell something isn’t quite right with him.
"Whilst the dramatic angle is interesting and the allegory is well presented (if not entirely original), the film lacked a sense of urgency or energy."
Fessenden’s latest take on the classic Universal monsters (following 2005’s Habit and 2019’s Depraved) leans more into human drama than horror and spends more time focusing on contemporary socio-political issues in America. In fact, Blackout is unashamedly political throughout - from Marshall Bell’s Trumpian businessman Hammond to white lynch mobs, gun-loving nutjobs, and racism galore - Fessenden shines a light on society in modern America - whether people like it or not. Now, this is executed well narratively but the characterizations aren’t always portrayed satisfyingly. Alex Hurt is solid enough in the lead, however, I couldn’t help but feel that those around him received far less nuance or depth to their characters which left the film feeling flat at times.
The film as a whole is paced in such a way that adds to the overall flat feeling. The flourishes of horror scattered throughout are well done, the practical effects employed look great and there’s blood galore when required, but these are intertwined with pedestrian sequences of uninteresting characters moving from A to B or attempting to create tension and/or emotion where there really is none. Whilst the dramatic angle is interesting and the allegory is well presented (if not entirely original), the film lacked a sense of urgency or energy - though it did have some fun gags peppered throughout.
Blackout feels very Fessenden in its approach, the director is doing what he knows and does best, lo-fi indie horror with a satisfying throwback tone - whilst the colour palette is muted, the film looks good - and whilst it may not be to everyone’s taste, fans of his work will undoubtedly enjoy Blackout. More political than petrifying, Blackout tells an interesting story but one that lacks real tenacity…or bite.
July 21st 2023