Andrew Bowser’s Viral Character Hits The Big Screen In A Shockingly Bland Horror-Comedy [Sundance]
Feb 11, 2023
Even if you’re not familiar with Andrew Bowser’s viral comedy skits as delightfully awkward Onyx the Fortuitous, all you need is the opening scene of the new film, “Onyx the Fortuitous and the Talisman of Souls,” to really understand exactly the type of humor the film aims to capture and why people have fallen in love with the character. Conversely, if you watch the opening scene of ‘Talisman’ and roll your eyes, the nearly two-hour film is going to be a tough sit. However, for fans of silly humor, campy horror, and ‘80s nostalgia, ‘Talisman of Souls’ is a fun, if not flawed film… idunno.
“Onyx the Fortuitous and the Talisman of Souls” follows Marcus J. Trillbury (Bowser), who absolutely loves his job at the local fast food joint, and dreams of meeting his idol, the evil Bartok the Great. Marcus, who just wants to be called Onyx the Fortuitous, is bullied by nearly everyone in his life, including his mom and stepdad, and dreams of escape. And after winning a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to meet Bartok and participate in a ritual to summon a demon, Onyx believes this is his chance to become a new man or something… idunno.
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Really, ‘Talisman’ lives and dies through the performance of Bowser in the lead role. As if that pressure wasn’t enough, the actor/comedian also wrote and directed the film after a successful Kickstarter campaign raised more than $600,000 to bring it to life. Thankfully, in terms of his performance, Bowser delivers the goods. He clearly has immense love for the character and has performed in so many skits as Onyx that his performance in ‘Talisman’ is effortlessly charming. And if you’re concerned that 110 minutes of the “idunno” lines are going to grate the nerves, you’ll be happy to know that Bowser adds more depth to Onyx over the course of the film, delivering laughs in a variety of situations that extend well past what he has shown online in the past… idunno.
Unfortunately, when you get past Bowser’s performance as Onyx, the cracks begin to appear in this horror-comedy. While the film doesn’t look cheap, per se, there is a way that the film is lit that gives the whole feature a “sketch comedy” quality, like what you might see in a variety show. There are only really one or two scenes that try to invoke a bit of mood and style, and sadly, those don’t show up until the very end of the film. Up to then, everything just looks well-lit and shockingly bland… idunno.
When there is style on screen, you can’t help but notice how Bowser wears his inspirations on his black t-shirt sleeve. The ghouls in the film are interesting, well-crafted physical sculpts that would look scary in a certain light, but instead, they give off Tim Burton vibes, particularly in something like “Beetlejuice,” as everything is brightly painted and there isn’t a shadow to be seen. In addition, for a film about a demon rising from Hell after his minion stabs people in the chest and steals their souls, ‘Talisman’ is noticeably bloodless. Make no mistake, this is an R-rated film, as the characters, particularly Onyx, have no problem dropping F-bombs every other line. But when it comes to the frights and horror, there is a distinct lack of gore that just makes everything feel like it’s part of some sort of off-kilter, “Pee-wee’s Playhouse”-esque children’s show. There’s one particular scene towards the end, where a sword is used in a way that recalls a moment at the fast food joint and could have been really funny if you actually saw the action take place. Instead, the camera avoids the actual gore and, oddly, focuses on the reactions of the characters, neutering the effect of the joke and actually making it a little difficult to fully understand what is happening… idunno.
The children’s show vibe also extends to the acting in just about every supporting role. In a film where the main character, who calls himself Onyx the Fortuitous, especially, is supposed to be so ridiculous, it makes you laugh out loud, you need to have plenty of “straight men” to play off of. Unfortunately, everyone in this film is so over-the-top and campy, it makes Onyx look downright normal by comparison. That isn’t to say the other characters are terrible, however. There is genuine humor to be found in the performance of Arden Myrin, specifically. Her golly-gee-whiz midwest mom character is actually one of the highlights of the film, particularly when she recites her hilarious, albeit devastatingly sad poem at the dinner table. But when you have every actor going so big and colorful with their performances, it really does feel like a cast fighting for the spotlight when it should be squarely placed on Bowser and his Onyx… idunno.
Sadly, it’s hard to wholeheartedly immerse yourself into the world Bowser and his cohorts have created in “Onyx the Fortuitous and the Talisman of Souls.” There are plenty of ideas here that sound great on paper but just aren’t executed the way you hope, which causes a lot of obvious missed opportunities. If ‘Talisman’ wants to be an absurdist, over-the-top horror-comedy cult classic, then why not embrace the R-rating and go full-tilt with the blood and gore? Or, if you want to make something that could appeal to younger teens, with the bright, colorful ghouls and ridiculously campy performances, tone down the language and make this a PG-13 film that could turn into a ‘Pee-wee’-esque franchise. As it stands now, despite a delightful, endearing performance from Bowser, “Onyx the Fortuitous and the Talisman of Souls” is a competent, if not bland horror-comedy shockingly afraid to really take risks… idunno. [C-]
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