Onyx the Fortuitous and the Talisman of Souls can’t really be judged in the usual good/bad way. The movie isn’t trying to be “good,” it’s trying to be weird, which it absolutely succeeds at. Given that success, “bad” doesn’t necessarily apply. No, the issue at hand is whether the particular brand of weirdness on display is your type of thing or not. If it is, you’ll have a reasonably good time. If not, you’re very likely to feel an ongoing sense of annoyance. I expected to be in the first category yet ended up in the second.
Marcus Trillbury (Andrew Bowser), a.k.a. Onyx the Fortuitous, is wannabe occultist who lives with his mother Nancy (Barbara Crampton). He enters a competition and wins a trip to the home of noted satanist Bartok the Great (Jeffrey Combs), where instruction in the dark arts will be provided. Four other people have also won. Bartok and his assistant Farrah (Olivia Taylor Dudley) put them through a series of bizarre rituals that seem intended to rob them of their souls. (A duplicitous Satan worshipper! Imagine that!) Onyx is a goofball, but he might also be the “chosen one” prophesied to take Bartok down.
The set-up is pretty threadbare, existing as an excuse to throw a lot of quirkiness at the audience. Onyx and the others aren’t characters, they’re caricatures. You can’t identify with any of them because they’re played like cartoons rather than actual human beings. As an example, Onyx inexplicably speaks with the overinflection of an old-time radio announcer. That’s funny for the first ten minutes, then becomes irritating.
Storytelling stakes are low for the same reason. Everything in this movie is a lark. There isn’t a single sincere moment. It’s non-stop neon signs calling attention to the pervasive wackiness. Movies with that approach can work provided they move. They need to have snap. Airplane! is a great example. Onyx the Fortuitous, on the other hand, is too slow, taking 110 minutes to tell a story that would have been better at 90.
To be fair, there are parts of the film that are genuinely funny. Bowser, who also wrote and directed, comes up with a few good jokes and bits of absurd comedy. Horror icons Barbara Crampton and Jeffrey Combs give fun performances. Seeing the Re-Animator and From Beyond co-stars in the same movie again will certainly please any red-blooded horror fan. Cool old school practical effects are additionally pleasing.
Again, there’s certainly an audience for this sort of madness. That’s the deal, though. Onyx the Fortuitous and the Talisman of Souls is a niche picture that will delight a select few and confound many.
out of four
Onyx the Fortuitous is unrated, but contains strong language and violence. The running time is 1 hour and 50 minutes.