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Blackout Review

April 13, 2024 | Posted by Joseph Lee
Blackout Image Credit: Glass Eye Pix
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Blackout Review  

* Alex Hurt as Charley
* Addison Timlin as Sharon
* Motell Gyn Foster as Earl
* Joseph Castillo-Midyett as Luis
* Ella Rae Peck as Alice
* Marshall Bell as Hammond
* Barbara Crampton as Kate
* James Le Gros as Tom Granick

Story: Painter Charley (Alex Hurt, Minyan, TV’s New Amsterdam) wakes up in an upstate motel where he appears to have been living for some time. After he packs and leaves he encounters various people in the small town where everybody knows your name. Charley is saying goodbye to the estranged love of his life, Sharon (Addison Timlin, Submission, TV’s American Horror Stories), and settling his affairs with a manic urgency that culminates with a call to a friend, Earl (Motell Gyn Foster,Marriage Story, A Dog’s Way Home), saying: “You better be ready, I’m coming.” But Charley never makes it to his friend’s house: When the sun goes down he has convulsions while driving his car, goes off the road and ends up in a ditch. Charley, it seems, is a werewolf. He attacks his rescuers and moves through the outskirts of town at night wreaking havoc. But the next day he can’t remember the things he’s done. Now the tight-knit town must rally to find out what is tearing it apart: mistrust, fear, or a vicious monster.

Larry Fessenden is a mixed bag for me. He’s obviously talented as a writer, director and actor (seriously, go watch him in Brooklyn 45). However when it comes to his directorial efforts, I’m usually left cold. Maybe it’s just me, because Wendigo and The Last Winter in particular are films I’ve seen widely-praised. His latest film tackles another mythical monster as Blackout is his take on the werewolf film. He’s already given his take on the Frankenstein monster (Depraved) and vampires (Habit), so why not?

The first thing you need to know going into Blackout is that this thing was shot on a small budget. That doesn’t make it a bad movie, and in fact there are sometimes clever workarounds to the problem. Obviously this movie can’t afford a werewolf transformation. So instead, it uses the old trick of cutting to the monster in various phases. Once, it shows the sequence in animated form. You can’t go wrong with a movie that is made with people willing to work around limitations.

The werewolf itself is of the Wolf Man variety, as in bipedal and resembling more of a man with wolf-like features. That only makes sense, as the movie’s set in Talbot Falls of all places. That’s a smart decision, as it requires less makeup than another movie might with a full prosthetic or suit. The monster looks fine, if a little goofy at times. It wouldn’t have been the worst idea to have it be black and white, to accentuate the positives and downplay the negatives. If you’re going all in on a Wolf Man movie, go all in.

As with any movie of this type, you need a lead capable of portraying the gravitas of being a monster and being unable to control it. Alex Hurt seems more than up to the task, as he plays a relatively amiable, if short-tempered artist. The movie doesn’t do him any favors sometimes, but he makes the most of what he’s given. I would have liked if he had more to work with though, particularly when it came to Charley’s relationship with his ex. It seems that is only brought up when convenient when it would have better served the movie to be the core of it.

That’s Blackout‘s biggest problem. A low budget can be worked around, and questionable makeup effects can be forgiven. This movie doesn’t seem to know what it’s about, just that there’s a werewolf in it. There’s a subplot about a racist accusing a Mexican man of murder, but it serves no purpose. The character is there to simply be a weak villain in a movie that doesn’t really need it, and the subplot is resolved with zero tension.

When Blackout is not strictly about Charley and his lycanthropy, it loses focus. Scenes tend to meander, and other scenes feel like they don’t belong at all. One scene in particular features Sharon and her current lover just hanging out for five minutes. There’s no suspense to it, it’s just there and then the werewolf shows up. It really drags the movie’s down and hurts its pacing. A movie like this doesn’t need all werewolf, all the time, but if you want this movie’s ending to work, you need to do the work in the story to get there.

Blackout is a mixed bag. The limitations are worked around and the werewolf scenes are generally good. Alex Hurt is definitely trying his best, as are a few of the other cast members (really enjoy seeing Barbara Crampton in anything). However, the story lets it all down as there are scenes that go nowhere, subplots that exist to eat up time and questionable editing and dialogue choices.

Keep an eye out in the beginning when the motel manager keeps looking towards the camera after her dialogue. Or the weird sound editing choice of pouring wine after a death, only for the actual wine pouring to show up later than expected. I would never insult someone making movies longer than I’ve been writing about them, but this is a movie that feels like a rough draft. A half-moon instead of a full one. It’s a disappointment, mostly because you can see a better movie inside, trying to escape the movie we get on the outside.

The final score: review Not So Good
The 411
Blackout has its moments, usually thanks to the performance of Alex Hurt and the stunning animation. However, it features a lot of meandering scenes that add nothing and some questionable editing choices. Sometimes it borders on unintentional parody. There are worse werewolf movies out there, but there are also far better.

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Blackout, Joseph Lee