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: Fledgling occultist Onyx and a group of worshipers attend a once-in-a-lifetime ritual at their idol BARTOK THE GREAT’S mansion.
Before jumping into this film, I was utterly unaware of Andrew Bowser’s Youtube popularity, as well as of his character, Marcus J. Trillbury, better known as Onyx the Fortuitous. As I was mere seconds away from starting the movie, I noticed a paragraph after the official synopsis that added some information about the Youtuber and how this was his attempt to bring his famous character to the big screen, which immediately worried me. One thing is someone coming across a short video online and laughing at some random funny stuff a character says or does. Another completely different thing is making a feature-length film about that same character.
I’m going to be totally honest straight off the bat: when it comes to viewers without previous knowledge of what and who the movie is about, there’s no doubt I’m in a very, very small minority of people who will actually enjoy Onyx the Fortuitous and the Talisman of Souls. The first and main reason for this is the fact that the protagonist is an excruciatingly annoying, grating person. To be clear, this is an objective observation: Onyx is intentionally like this. Bowser constructed the character precisely to be known as “the weird guy”. Someone who talks and acts in an extremely awkward manner, which might be – and probably will be – unbearable for most viewers.
Not for the equally weird author of this review. The unique, dumb humor surrounding the entire film is right up my alley of stupidity. If the first five minutes make audiences run away, I’m interested in what Onyx the Fortuitous and the Talisman of Souls has to offer. Undeniably, there are moments in which the comedy falls flat, and Onyx is way too difficult to tolerate. In the end, the success of the movie is inherently connected to how much the audience is able to not only “get the joke” but connect with the protagonist and the story enough to help with the less entertaining phases.
The second reason is related to Bowser’s committed, proud vision. Onyx the Fortuitous and the Talisman of Souls is far from breaking any ground in the storytelling department, following a pretty generic fantastical narrative without any surprises. That said, it always holds something that, as a viewer, I’m eager to see resolved. From characters having to complete rituals and games to silly prophecies yet-to-be-fulfilled, I felt surprisingly captivated throughout the entire runtime. The third reason might also have something to do with this…
The overall production value of a film that started from absolutely nothing. A Kickstarter campaign funded Onyx the Fortuitous and the Talisman of Souls, and I can’t not appreciate this. I’m certain fans of Bowser and Onyx will absolutely love this flick, and in the end, that’s honestly all that matters since they’re both the reason why the movie was possible and its definite target audience. Nevertheless, ignoring all that, I was genuinely impressed at the cool visuals, remarkable costumes, and fun creature designs. In fact, I wish more films within this subgenre could embrace the silliness of their premise more.
The cast is also quite good. Everyone understands the assignment perfectly, embodying the over-the-topness of Onyx the Fortuitous and the Talisman of Souls. Jeffrey Combs brings back the crazy, caricatural type of villains efficiently, while Olivia Taylor Dudley serves as a kind of tonal balance, interacting with every character throughout the movie. Terrence ‘T.C.’ Carson is addictive to listen to – what a voice! – and Rivkah Reyes holds the most compelling personality, adding more heart to the story than I ever expected. Finally, the climactic ending holds an absolutely hilarious, epic one-take scene that makes the whole viewing worthwhile.
Once again, I feel the need to be clear: Onyx the Fortuitous and the Talisman of Souls isn’t for everyone. As a matter of fact, I should probably state it will barely please anyone besides its own fans. However, if the first few minutes don’t frustrate you that much for some reason, then I highly suggest giving the film a chance. It’s not going to blow your mind. The story is pretty formulaic, and the jokes don’t always land. But if this is “your jam”, then you’re not going to have a bad time at all.
I'm a Portuguese critic based in Sweden with a tremendous passion for cinema, television, and the art of filmmaking. I try to offer an unbiased perspective from someone who has stopped watching trailers since 2017. As years went by, I was able to develop my voice within the community and cover major festivals. Co-host of a weekly film podcast, R&M: A Conversation on Cinema. Outlets: Firstshowing, InSession Film, That Shelf, Filmhounds Magazine, Echo Boomer (PT), Magazine.HD (PT). Proud member of associations such as GFCA (Global Film Critics Association), IFSC (International Film Society Critics), and OFTA (Online Film & Television Association). You can find me across social media through @msbreviews. Portfolio: https://linktr.ee/msbreviews