Fantasia Festival: Blackout (2023)

Director: Larry Fessenden

Running Time: 103 Minutes

Starring: Alex Hurt, Addison Timlin, Motell Gyn Foster, Joseph Castillo-Midyett, Ella Rae Peck, Rigo Garay, John Speredakos, Michael Buscemi, Joe Swanberg, James Le Gros, Kevin Corrigan, Barbara Crampton

Writer/director Larry Fessenden opens his latest feature with a couple outdoors, ready to have sex under the moonlight while unaware they are being watched. As the camera captures the unseen figure's point-of-view, it moves closer intent on breaking the intimacy in visceral fashion, until it brutally strikes.

Within a small-town, artist Charley Barrett (Alex Hurt) finds himself in despair. He has distanced himself from former fiancée Sharon (Addison Timlin), and feels helpless seeing self-appointed mayor Hammond (Marshall Bell) whipping the town into a mob. Charley plans to leave town, although that is halted by the reason he has sunk into solitude; he is a werewolf.

Central to the lead's struggle is the grapple between the man he is and the vicious creature he becomes on full-moon evenings. This effectively mirrors how Charley contends with the contrast of his father's legacy versus the man he actually was, haunted by both his dad's death and the horrors he inflicts while transformed. Key to this is Hurt's effective performance, capturing the character's wounded nature and resignation with life that cause him to push away his love. The man is hurting inside and unsure how to heal himself, channeling his grisly acts through paintings.

An old school look is employed for the creature which resembles Lon Chaney Jr.'s clothes wearing wolfman, fitting Fessenden's approach to the film as the Lycan tale mirrors the societal issues at the heart of this small-town divide. While tense horror sequences make good use of the darkness, the town are manipulated by ruthless developer Hammond into scapegoating one of the Latinx people who were promised jobs.

Despite a wolfman in their midst, the biggest danger to the townspeople is their own panic as the braying mob are in a frenzy targeting Miguel (Rigo Garay). With the innocent man's life at risk, Charley finds himself repeatedly drawn back into the town's issues. Fessenden attempts more than the feature can handle, with the elements not all coming together as some threads feel too neatly resolved. Despite this, what has been delivered is a fascinatingly original take on a classic creature.

Blackout made its World Premiere at Fantasia Festival 2023