Monday, March 11, 2024

Blackout (2023) opens March 13


Larry Fessenden returns to the director’s chair with the story of an alcoholic artist who begins to think that his blackouts may be harboring something sinister…perhaps he is a werewolf and is the one responsible for the trail of dead bodies in his small town.

The films that Larry Fessenden have directed over the years fascinate me. While I can nitpick some of the choices he makes, I am absolutely enamored of the fact that no one makes films like he does. This is especially true of any “genre directors” who always try to keep their films within the lines of whatever genre they are working. Fessenden doesn’t do that; he’ll frequently leave the genre by the side of the road for a while until it’s time to wander back and pick it up again.

You have to hand it to Mr. Fessenden, he is a man who making the films he wants to be making and dealing with the themes he feels are important. I love that he seems to be doing what he wants to do even if it doesn't always seem like it should be in his genre film. No one is making films like his and we are poorer for it (hell he doesn't direct enough). Honestly, I love that he is mixing things up and using genre to bring people into the discussion of themes and idea that he feels are important. His seeming “B” films, highlight the discussions of important ideas, like corruption, or climate change (in LAST WINTER) or notions of self (in DEPRAVED) which are headier and better thought out than most “A” or even art house films. I am always curious what Fessenden directs because I know we are not going to get anything that we expect.

Such is the case of BLACKOUT. Billed as a werewolf movie, the film begins with a werewolf attack, the film the film frequently forgets there is a monster on the loose for character study of the main character and an examination of corporate greed and small-town politics. Come in at the wrong point and you wouldn't know it's a horror film. Then, just as we begin to wonder what is happening the werewolf pops up , almost as if to say: “remember me?”  The drifting nature makes for an uneven viewing experience since it isn’t always clear what we are supposed to be feeling, but it keeps us thinking.

While I like much of BLACKOUT the uneven nature of the parts keeps me from truly loving it.  Yes, all of the pieces are good (well most of the pieces, there are a couple of bumpy dialog passages) but they don’t always fit together neatly. We can feel the gears shifting as Fessenden throws something else into the mix of things he’s juggling. This isn’t fatal, it’s more you wonder how the fish got mixed into the various balls he has in the air. The result is a film I like more than love. (Though I still love what he’s trying to do.) Actually, the one thing that the film left me with is desire for a more straight forward werewolf movie in the old school style.

While I am mixed on the film, I still think it, like all of Fessdenden’s films, is worth seeing, simply because they are unlike anything else out there.

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