Friday, April 12, 2024

Fessenden’s Blackout

Charley Barrett wants to be the righteous amateur investigator fighting the evil real estate developer, like in China Town, or thousands of other movies. Instead, he is a werewolf, like Larry Talbot in The Wolf Man. Heck, he even lives in Talbot Falls. Since cleaning up, he no longer gets blackout drunk, but he still has no memory of full moon nights. A serial killer has been stalking Talbot Falls and Barrett knows he is the beast in Larry Fessenden’s Blackout, which releases today on VOD.

Even though his old man was Hammond’s lawyer, Barrett has long crusaded against the local real estate tycoon. To make things even more awkward, he was dating Hammond’s daughter, Sharon. He cleaned himself for her, only to break things off for her protection when he became a lycanthrope. Compounding Barrett’s guilt, Hammond has been accusing an innocent immigrant of his werewolf murders, to demonize the local Mexican community. Yes,
Blackout is really that in-your-face didactic.

starts slow and craters towards the end, but it has some decent werewolf stuff in its bloody mid-sectiont. Much to Barrett’s horror, he learns it is not just the full moon that transforms him. The moon is also sufficiently luminous to do the trick on the nights before and after. Of course, he seeks a tragic but necessarily final solution like Lon Chaney Jr. in the Universal Monster movies, but his plan crumbles into a comedy of horrors.

Horror genre diva Barbara Crampton looks half her age in her all too brief scene as Kate, an attorney advising Barrett. However, horror dabbler Joe Swanberg is largely wasted as Sharon’s bland new boyfriend. Yet, arguably the most memorable “cameo” comes from the late William Hurt, lead actor Alex Hurt’s real-life father, who is pictured in photos of Barrett’s deceased dad.

Hurt is convincingly haggard and bleary-eyed as Charley Barrett. It is a heartfelt genre performance, but it is undermined by Fessenden’s heavy-handed contrivances and message-making. Ironically, the film’s saving grace, so to speak, is its depiction of the compassionate town minister, Pastor Francis. Fessenden-regular John Speredakos’s down-to-earth performance might be the best of his career.
Blackout really needs him, because Marshall Bell and James Le Gros embody stilted caricatures as Hammond and his enforcer, Tom Granick.

Blackout, Fessenden devotes too much effort to scoring ideological points and not enough to generating scares. It is a shame, because there are some clever werewolf elements here. They are just waterlogged by the advocacy group talking points. Frustratingly not recommended, Blackout releases today (4/12) on VOD.