Onyx the Fortuitous and the Talisman of Souls - New Release Review
Director: Andrew Bowser
Starring: Andrew Bowser, Rivkah Reyes, Jeffrey Combs, Olivia Taylor Dudley, Barbara Crampton
Written by: Andrew Bowser
Produced by: Clark Baker, Olivia Taylor Dudley, Michael Mobley
Cinematography by: Dan Adlerstein
Original Score by: Matt Mahaffey
Fledgling occultist Onyx and a group of worshipers attend a once-in-a-lifetime ritual at their idol Bartok the Great's mansion.
In the 80’s and 90’s there was a slew of sketched based movies coming from SNL. Everyone remembers the classics like 'Wayne’s World' and 'The Blues Brothers', but often forget the disasters like 'Coneheads', 'Stuart Saves His Family' and 'It’s Pat'. Coming into the 2000’s, the rise of YouTube meant that we started see regular people present their unique style of comedy to the masses (for better or often worse.) Channels like Fred, The Nostalgia Critic and Ashen’s have all ventured from YouTube to the big screen but have all failed to deliver a product worth watching. Enter Onyx (played by Andrew Bowser), an odd nerdy character that would turn up at public events and get himself interviewed on television. Like many internet characters, Onyx is a very particular sense of humour, often playing on how nerdy he is, how he still lives with his parents and his struggles with people of the other sex. It’s very clear that the character is meant to be autistic, and some people may find that offensive, but Bowser never plays the character with malice thankfully. The film itself was able to be made thanks to a very successful Kickstarter; so clearly there’s an audience for this character, but did writer/director Andrew Bowser, Onyx himself, deliver?
First of all, your enjoyment of this film will really depend on your enjoyment of the character of Onyx. Bowser fully commits to the bit but I can see it being a big turn off to an audience member if you find this guy annoying, because he’s literally in every scene of the 110 minutes of the movie. Thankfully for me, I didn’t mind the Onyx character and actually started to enjoy him by the end. Onyx as a character is like a human version of SpongeBob SquarePants, so if that sounds terrible, I've got some bad news for you.
The rest of the cast are all clearly having a lot of fun here. Rivkah Reyes (my childhood crush from School of Rock, hi Rivkah) is great as Mack, a Hunter S Thompson inspired investigator who come to find the secrets of Bartok the Great. Bartok is played by Jefferey Combs (my adult crush from Re-Animator, hi Jeff) and he absolutely hams it up in the role to great effect. Everybody plays off Onyx well, never making it feel like he’s a character they don’t want to be there. This can often be the downfall of these type of films, when a character being weird brings the film to a screeching halt as the characters around them must stop what they’re doing to react to the weirdness.
The plot itself is pretty basic; Five strangers come to an old mansion owned by Bartok the Great with the promise of a new life. Bartok has his own motives, of course, using the souls of the strangers to gain eternal life. The weirdest thing about the film is if you took out the swearing, it’d be perfect as a gateway horror for young teens. The humour is often very silly and cartoonish, in a good way. The practical effects are fantastic and a major highlight of the film. It's incredible what they’ve been able to achieve with such a small budget. It’s very clear that creator Andrew Bowser is a big fan of 80’s horror, taking influence from films like 'Castle Freak' and 'Fright Night'. I can also feel that Bowser takes influence from Jack Black as a personality and the film often feels like the Tenacious D film ‘Pick of Destiny’.
With a runtime of almost 2 hours, Onyx kind of overstays his welcome. There’s a tight 90-minute movie here with some editing, that I think would have kept me more invested in the ridiculous plot. The pacing of the hour is honestly very quick and snappy, never lingering on any unnecessary scenes. It’s in the second half of the film where things start to drag out as the film just doesn’t know how to wrap up.
'Onyx the Fortuitous and the Talisman of Souls' as a fun filled horror romp, depending on how patient you can be with the character of Onyx. Director Andrew Bowser creates the best film to come out of the YouTuber genre, delivering a film full of insanely good practical effects and big laughs!
'Onyx the Fortuitous and the Talisman of Souls' is available to stream exclusively on SCREAMBOX from November 13th