Movie Review (Sundance 2023): ‘Onyx The Fortuitous and The Talisman of Souls’ is an Acquired Taste

Movie Review (Sundance 2023): 'Onyx The Fortuitous and The Talisman of Souls' is an Acquired Taste

Director: Andrew Bowser

Writer: Andrew Bowser

stars: Olivia Taylor Dudley, Jeffrey Combs, Arden Myrin

Synopsis: Rookie occultist Onyx and a group of worshipers attend a once-in-a-lifetime ritual at the mansion of his idol BARTOK THE GREAT.

Before jumping into this movie, I was completely unaware of Andrew Bowser’s popularity on YouTube, as well as his character, Marcus J. Trillbury, better known as Onyx the Fortuitous. As I was seconds into the movie starting, I noticed a paragraph after the official synopsis that added information about the Youtuber and how this was his attempt to bring his famous character to the big screen, which immediately concerned me. It’s one thing for someone to come across a short video online and laugh at some random funny things a character says or does. It’s another thing entirely to make a feature film about that same character.

I’m going to be totally honest from the outset: When it comes to viewers with no prior knowledge of what and who the movie is about, there’s no question that I’m in a very, very small minority of people who will actually enjoy it. Onyx the Chance and the Talisman of Souls. The first and foremost reason for this is the fact that the protagonist is an irritating and unbearably irritating person. To be clear, this is an objective observation: Onyx is intentionally so. Bowser built the character precisely to be known as “the weird guy.” Someone who speaks and acts in an extremely awkward manner, which could be, and likely will be, unbearable for most viewers.

Not for the equally strange author of this review. The unique and silly humor that surrounds the entire movie is right up my stupid alley. If the first five minutes make the audience run away, I’m interested in what Onyx the Chance and the Talisman of Souls has to offer. Sure, there are moments where comedy falls flat, and Onyx is just too hard to take. In the end, the success of the film is intrinsically linked to the audience’s ability to not only “get the joke” but also to connect with the protagonist and the story enough to help with the less entertaining phases.

The second reason is related to Bowser’s committed and proud vision. Onyx the Chance and the Talisman of Souls it’s far from breaking any ground in the storytelling department, following a fairly generic fantasy narrative with no surprises. That being said, it always has something that as a viewer I can’t wait to see resolved. From characters having to complete rituals and games to silly prophecies that have yet to come true, I found myself surprisingly enthralled throughout the entire runtime. The third reason might also have something to do with this…

The full production value of a movie that started from absolutely nothing. A funded Kickstarter campaign Onyx the Chance and the Talisman of Souls, and I can’t help but appreciate this. I’m sure fans of Bowser and Onyx will love this movie and in the end that’s all that matters as they are the reason the movie was possible and its ultimate target audience. Ignoring all that though, I was really impressed with the great visuals, remarkable costumes, and fun creature designs. In fact, I wish more movies within this subgenre could embrace the silliness of their premise more.

The cast is also pretty good. Everyone perfectly understands the task, embodying the exaggeration of Onyx the Chance and the Talisman of Souls. Jeffrey Combs brings back the wacky, cartoony type of villains efficiently, while Olivia Taylor Dudley serves as something of a tonal balance, interacting with all the characters throughout the film. Listening to Terrence ‘TC’ Carson is addictive – what a voice! – And Rivkah Reyes has the most compelling personality, adding more heart to the story than she expected. Finally, the climactic ending contains an absolutely hilarious epic scene that makes it all worth watching.

Once again, I feel the need to be clear: Onyx the Chance and the Talisman of Souls it’s not for everyone. In fact, I should probably say that it will hardly please anyone but its own fans. However, if the first few minutes don’t frustrate you that much for some reason, I suggest you give the movie a shot. It won’t blow you away. The story is pretty formulaic, and the jokes don’t always land. But if this is “your jam”, then you will not have a bad time.

Grade B-