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Onyx the Fortuitous and the Talisman of Souls Sundance Review: A Zany, Charming Horror-Comedy Mash-Up

Onyx the Fortuitous and the Talisman of Souls

Although festival midnight sections are generally associated with horror flicks, there is an important subsection of the “midnight movie” that can be just as — if not more — fun: camp. Onyx the Fortuitous and the Talisman of Souls, inspired by writer/director Andrew Bowser’s viral character featured in the “Weird Satanist Guy” video on YouTube, is the definition of pure, unadulterated fun.

The film follows inexperienced and dopey satanist Onyx the Fortuitous as wins a contest to attend a once-in-a-lifetime satanic ritual at the mansion of his idol. It’s a goofy horror-comedy that feels like a grown-up version of the type of gateway “horror” movies that young ones dipping their toes in the genre would watch — more spooky than scary, and a ton of fun.

Although the idea of basing a feature-length movie off a meme has led to some movies that… aren’t of the highest quality (*cough* Slender Man *cough*), Talisman of Souls benefits from having a legitimate story idea. It feels like Bowser had a good story to tell first and foremost, and Onyx is a natural part of it, rather than him being desperate to build something around Onyx.

Onyx the Fortuitous and the Talisman of Souls Still 2
Andrew Bowser appears in Onyx the Fortuitous and the Talisman of Souls by Andrew Bowser, an official selection of the Midnight section at the 2023 Sundance Film Festival. Courtesy of Sundance Institute. | Photo by Dan Alderstein.

Also Read: Talk to Me Sundance Review: Polished Teen Horror That Squanders Its Potential

This is a film made for horror fans by horror fans. There are so many ways that one could describe this hilarious and endearing concoction of genre homages, but some of the most obvious comparisons include Beetlejuice and Elvira. There are so many references that it can even be fun to attempt to spot them all.

Much of this movie’s success will hinge on the viewer’s appreciation of Bowser’s Onyx character. Although prior knowledge of the YouTube videos isn’t necessary, at least watching “Weird Satanist Guy” would be a good start to gauge whether or not this is your thing. For the wrong people, Onyx could definitely come across as annoying — but for the target audience, he’ll be charmingly goofy in a Pee-Wee Herman kind of way.

Although the supporting characters are somewhat archetypal, it works for the heavily throwback-oriented vibe for which Bowser is aiming. It might not have been as effective had the entire cast not been entirely game. For example, Terrence ‘T.C.’ Carson is wonderful in a role that feels like he’s channeling his inner Keith David. And Olivia Taylor Dudley is amazingly alluring as the succubus.

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A still from Onyx the Fortuitous and the Talisman of Souls by Andrew Bowser, an official selection of the Midnight section at the 2023 Sundance Film Festival. Courtesy of Sundance Institute.

That being said, the real star of the show here is the visuals. Although one wouldn’t necessarily expect much from a Kickstarter-funded horror-comedy, the effects they were able to achieve in Onyx the Fortuitous are surprisingly amazing. There’s obviously a camp factor, but in a movie that obviously owes so much to ‘80s and ‘90s classics, this level of absurdity is absolutely on-par.

Onyx the Fortuitous and the Talisman of Souls might not be the most refined film playing at this year’s Sundance Film Festival, but one would be hard-pressed to find anything that offers more of a pure enjoyability factor. It’s made with a very specific target audience in mind, and for those who share Bowser’s nostalgia, this is sure to be an absolute delight.

Onyx the Fortuitous and the Talisman of Souls is playing at the 2023 Sundance Film Festival, which runs January 19-29 in-person in Park City, UT and January 24-29 online.

Rating: 8/10

8 Out of 10

Also Read: In My Mother’s Skin Sundance Review: A Hypnotic Dark Fairy Tale

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Written by Sean Boelman

Film Critic and member of the CACF.