Blackout (2023) by Larry Fessenden ***2023 Fantasia Festival***

Director: Larry Fessenden
Year: 2023
Country: USA
Alternate Titles: N/A
Genre: Werewolf

After a series of strange animal attacks, the life of a small town gets turned upside down when they believe the culprit of the attacks to be an immigrant that fits the mold of their ideal target not realizing the real target is a struggling painter trying to rescue his family's reputation.


Overall, this was a pretty enjoyable effort with a lot to like about it. One of the better features here is a strong and immersive storyline that brings about the lives of the people within the small town. The central setup of this one revolving around the work of the artist trying to not blow up at everything the residents say about him while they go about their own lives working on illicit property deals or personal squabbles that keep them at each others' throats. That this all feels remarkably well done for the kind of small-town atmosphere that's being attempted here that comes out in full force after the attacks start occurring which signals the film's shift into a full-on political commentary on the nature of mob mentality and small-town-justice taking over their lives.

That provides this one with a strong slew of creature attacks that come off rather nicely. The initial attack with the figure's point-of-view approaching an amorous couple and attacking them which is told from that vantage point the entire time is a standout sequence making for a highly effective opening. A later attack where the victim transforms in their car and runs rampant on a few eyewitnesses to the crash that transformation caused ends up leaving a nice trail of carnage once it's all over while another solid sequence of his recounting the backstory of his transformation offers a bit more to like. The frantic finale, featuring the full-on attacks in the neighbors’ house or the final assault in the police station where everything gets put into the open for everyone, manages to give this a lot to like.

There are some rather big flaws here that hold this one down. One of the biggest issues with the film is a decidedly overlong focus on the lives and nature of the townspeople here leaving this one with only a few pieces of creature action. Going on and on about the lives of the residents to build up an incredibly detailed part of their apathy and prejudice towards others leaves the film without much in the action here as the dragged-out pacing leads to a decidedly overlong running time filled with talky exposition sequences. The ideas are perfectly sound and really don't have much wrong here with the sociopolitical messaging apparent within them but that doesn't help the muted amount of creature action even if all of this wasn't inherently tiresome and cliched being utilized frequently over the years.

The other problem with this one is a decidedly unfocused and unclear tone that leaves this one quite scattered and chaotic. The film's introduction to the town occurs in such rapid succession info-dumping nearly an entire plot on its own regarding who he is and why he's in town, the residents and their connection to him and his father, the relationships he has with the ostracised locals who are trying to get by without being the subject of racial oppression for their supposed involvement in the attacks and much more in the span of minutes. That this is all serious before handling a lot of the interactions here with a type of low-key humor that misses the mark completely with the scattered focus here. These issues really end up bringing this one down the most.

Overview: **/5
A watchable at best but decidedly disappointing overall werewolf effort, the ideas are in place here for something fun but it's tied down by underwhelming factors that are immensely detrimental. This is really only for those who appreciate this kind of indie genre effort or are fans of the creative crew, while most others who aren't into those factors should heed extreme caution here.

This review is a part of our coverage of the 2023 edition of the Fantasia International Film Festival. Click the banner below to see our complete coverage of the festivities: