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“BLACKOUT” Film Review: Deeper Than Average Horror Fare for Those Seeking Something Meatier To Chew On

Blackout opens in a fashion that is typical of the horror genre. An unsuspecting young couple chat excitedly as they strip naked to enjoy a little al fresco (s)exercise, blissfully unaware of something lurking with murderous intent close by. The camera cuts to the killer’s POV as they move in for the kill and…splat! The boyfriend is dead and his blood-soaked, butt-naked partner, runs screaming into the woods. However, helmed by visionary auteur and prolific multihyphenate, Larry Fessenden, the film takes a path less trodden, weaving a more complex elaborate yarn of humanity and morality, albeit with added teeth and claws.

Charley (Alex Hurt – “Bonding”) is a troubled artist and alcoholic. After getting blackout drunk one night his artwork changes: Peaceful landscapes give way to dark, unsettling portraits. Now, newly sober, Charley slips into a (rather hairy) existential crisis as he comes to realize he’s a werewolf. Alex, son of the late great William Hurt, delivers a soulful performance as a man afraid of his own transforming psyche that is perfectly complimented by Fessenden’s keen eye for complex character studies tinged with horror, the latter having been notable throughout the filmmaker’s career.

Determined to go out on his own terms – his friend has kindly made him some silver bullets – and make amends before he does, Charley starts by trying to dig up incriminating evidence of dodgy dealings against local businessman Jack Hammond (Marshall BellTotal Recall, Starship Troopers), whose daughter also happens to be his ex-girlfriend and someone who he is still hung up on.

In a further subplot involving Hammond, the gruff old curmudgeon is quick to accuse local construction worker Miguel (the excellent but underused Rigo GarayThe Leech) of being the murderer, and there is some brief social commentary about immigrant workers and smalltown mentality towards outsiders that could have been further fleshed out, particularly as Miguel is such an intriguing character.

This monster movie springs to life once Hurts’ athletic build transforms into the wolfman, sprinting and leaping through the woods on two legs. The FX work by artist Brian Spears (Smile, “American Horror Story”) is impressive and still allows for a great range of facial expression through layers of prosthetics. In a refreshingly different approach, the transformation sequences are illustrated through some striking but all too brief animations. In one of the movies standout scenes, Charley inconveniently shapeshifts at the wheel of his car, only to be found by two hapless cops who meet a predictably grisly end.

Fessenden pays homage to classic films, with the most overt reference being to the Universal Studios classic The Wolfman. The town, for example, is called Talbot Falls after Lon Chaney Jr’s character.

While Blackout occasionally leans too heavily on dialogue and dips into familiar horror tropes, the film ultimately transcends cliché to offer a contemplative, artful exploration of a well-worn sub-genre. Fessenden rewards viewers with superb performances from his talented cast and, for this reviewer, an education in Umwelt, which challenges our assumptions and broadens our perspectives – something audiences have come to expect and appreciate from his bold and cerebral shockers.

VERDICT:

Blackout will be released nationwide on digital platforms and VOD on April 12th, 2024.

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