Onyx the Fortuitous and the Talisman of Souls Poster 3

Onyx the Fortuitous and the Talisman of Souls (2023) Review – Dark Bridges

Based on a YouTube character created and played by writer/director/star Andrew Bowser (Worm, Enter the Dangerous Mind), Onyx the Fortuitous and the Talisman of Souls was the opening film at this year’s Dark Bridges Film Festival. And it was a fortuitous choice, getting things off to a fast-paced and fun start.

Marcus J. Trillbury (Andrew Bowser) is, to be blunt, a loser he lives in his mother Nancy’s (Barbara Crampton, Alone With You, Beyond the Gates) basement, has no friends but attracts bullies, works at fast food place Marty’s Meat Hut, “How can I make your day a bit beefier?”, and most importantly to the plot is still a virgin. His luck seems to take a turn for the better however when he wins a contest and becomes one of five people invited to meet and perform a ritual with his idol Bartok the Great (Jeffrey Combs, Batman: The Doom That Came to Gotham, Feardotcom) and his assistant Farrah (Olivia Taylor Dudley, Chernobyl Diaries, Dumbbells).

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But it doesn’t take long before he and his fellow winners, Jessminder (Melanie Chandra, Distancing Socially, Hot Mess Holiday), Mr. Duke (Terence ‘T.C.’ Carson, What Love Is, Final Destination 2), Shelley (Arden Myrin, Daphne & Velma, Satanic Panic), and Mack (Rivkah Reyes, Alex/October, Bad Animal) find out that while somebody is going to be granted immortality it won’t be them.

How much you like Onyx the Fortuitous and the Talisman of Souls is going to rest on how you feel about Marcus or Onyx the Fortuitous as he dubs himself. Given his huge followings on YouTube and TikTok, a lot of people do find him funny. While his over the top annoyingly awkward mannerisms might work well in short videos, his grating mannerisms
tended to get on my nerves in longer stretches.

Thankfully the other characters are a lot easier to put up with and take the edge off his schtick and make the film a lot more bearable. The characters are send-ups of the characters you would expect in a film like this. Duke is a scholar whose quest for knowledge has led him to the dark side, Jessminder is the flake who believes she and Bartok were married in several previous lives, Mack is a witch and Shelly the disillutioned church lady who turned on God after her family were killed.

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They’re well enough drawn, with some backstory and character arc that the viewer can feel for them. Onyx himself is given a history that manages to make us feel sympathy for him without seeming pathetic. There’s also a genuine chemistry between the cast, especially between Onyx and Mack, that makes their interactions work. Unfortunatly we’re denied the chemistry most fans would want to see as Crampton and Combs don’t have any scenes together.

And that’s a good thing the title character doesn’t manage to ruin it, because Onyx the Fortuitous and the Talisman of Souls is frequently quite funny and inventive.  For me the highlight was a parody of the video for Meat Loaf’s “I’d Do Anything For Love (But I Won’t Do That)” although a running gag about cobwebs was a close second. There are also the expected references to films ranging from Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory to Beetlejuice, Scooby-Doo and even Lifeforce.

For an indie film with its roots in YouTube sketches, Onyx the Fortuitous and the Talisman of Souls has some excellent production values. The main set representing Bartok’s mansion is just what you would expect from an evil magician’s country estate, complete with secret passages and a dungeon. Cinematographer Dan Adlerstein (Scooby-Doo, Where Are You Now!, Huluween Dragstravaganza) has a field day shooting in what must have seemed like a playground to him.

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The effects are also surprisingly good, with the film’s large effects team leaning on practical effects rather than CGI wherever possible. That includes lifesize puppet versions of characters in their ghoul form that look like they came from a Jim Henson version of Beetlejuice. When the film does resort to computer generated effects the quality is considerably better than expected.

Considerably better than expected is actually a good way to describe Onyx the Fortuitous and the Talisman of Souls. It does the difficult job of expanding a comedy sketch to feature length without dragging, and it looks good while doing it. The characters have franchise potential and the ending recognizes it, I just hope they tone Onyx down a bit in the sequels.

Cineverse has picked up the rights to Onyx the Fortuitous and the Talisman of Souls and plans to release it to theatres in the fall and then on its streaming service Screambox. And while you wait, you can consult the Oracle of FilmTagger for some similar films to help kill the time.

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Where to watch Onyx the Fortuitous and the Talisman of Souls
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