Blackout Theatrical Poster

Blackout (2023) Review

With his latest film, Blackout (not to be confused with Blackout or The Blackout), Larry Fessenden finally gets around to tackling the werewolf mythos. He’s dealt with vampires in Habit, Frankenstein and his creation in Depraved, and even the Wendigo in the film of the same name. Now he ventures to Talbot Falls, I wonder where he got that name from, for a tale of lycanthropy, small town corruption and what it means to be human.

Blackout begins traditionally enough for a horror film with a couple having sex outdoors, running afoul of a large, hairy creature before introducing us to Charley (Alex Hurt, Minyan, Cut Shoot Kill). He’s an artist with a drinking problem, or at least that’s what he tells people is the cause of his monthly blackouts. 

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Of course, he, and the viewer, knows otherwise. He plans on dealing with the problem, but first he needs to come back home to Talbot Falls and tie up a few loose ends. Those include his ex Sharon (Addison Timlin, The Town That Dreaded Sundown, The Feast of the Seven Fishes)and her father Hammond (Marshall Bell, Identity, Director’s Cut). 

Hammond was also his late father’s business partner, and Charley suspects him of covering up groundwater contamination to make sure his real estate development gets built. As if that wasn’t enough, he’s trying to pin the recent killings on Miguel (Rigo Garay, The Leech, Crumb Catcher), an immigrant construction worker.

Fessenden is no stranger to mixing genre elements with social and personal issues, but in Blackout he stretches his ability to juggle them all effectively to the limit. The result is a film that in many ways isn’t so much a horror film about a werewolf as it is a drama about a man who happens to be a werewolf.

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The title itself, Blackout, suggests that lycanthopy is being used as a stand in for the kind of substance abuse that can also destroy lives and get people killed. That’s further pointed up in a scene where, failing to get home before the moon rises, Charley transforms while behind the wheel and crashes his car. The look on the Sheriff’s face when he realizes the two men who die as a result were a couple is another bit of quiet commentary.

But it’s other themes, such as the clash between the jobs and money Hilltop Estates, could bring to Talbot Falls versus the damage that could be done to the ecosystem, Immigration and racism that take up much of the film’s running time. Fessenden makes the town a microcosm of American society and the issues facing it. Charley is one of the casualties of that conflict, he knows he needs help, but is too caught up in the myth that admitting he needs it is a sign of weakness.

When Blackout does show its animalistic side, it is done quite well. The budget doesn’t allow for a full Howling style transformation, so skilful camera work by Collin Brazie (All I Need, Come Find Me) and editing from Fessenden are used to convince the viewer they’re seeing more than they really are. The attacks are, while not overly gory, bloody and savage enough to satisfy horror fans. It’s the lack of these scenes that will be the problem for some viewers, however.

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Alex Hurt, yes he is the son of the late William Hurt, gives a strong performance as Charley, one of several in a cast that also includes another celebrity relative, Michael Buscemi (BlacKkKlansman, I Now Pronounce You Chuck & Larry) as well as James Le Gros (Phantasm II, The Last Winter) and an obligatory cameo by Barbara Crampton (From Beyond, Snow Valley) as a lawyer.

If you’re familiar with Fessenden’s work as a director or have an idea of what to expect from Blackout, you should enjoy it. Just don’t expect a blood and thunder werewolf film, if you want that, might I suggest The Werewolf and the Yeti.

Dark Sky Films will release Blackout to Digital and VOD Platforms on April 12th.

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Our Score

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