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Thursday, April 27, 2023 | Reviews


Starring Andrew Bowser, Olivia Taylor Dudley and Jeffrey Combs
Written and directed by Andrew Bowser

Some may already recognize the titular Onyx the Fortuitous from a viral video in which interviewer Tessa Smash talks to a varied crew of excited gamers at that year’s E3, most notable of all a stuttering and nervous occultist who loves Diablo. Though the sketch perfectly executes an “Is this guy for real?” suspension of reality, Onyx is, in fact, Andrew Bowser, who has been making content as this loveable weirdo for many years. In 2021 Bowser began a massively successful Kickstarter campaign where 7,493 backers pledged $610,467 to bring “Weird Satanist Guy” to the silver screen, where Onyx the Fortuitous will battle demons, bad guys, and the alleged rumors of his virginity.

ONYX THE FORTUITOUS AND THE TALISMAN OF SOULS follows Marcus J. Trillbury (otherwise known as, you guessed it, Onyx the Fortuitous), an amateur occultist and burger flipper who hates his step-dad, Todd, and dreams of a magical life. He receives a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to enact an ancient ritual with warlock Bartok the Great (Jeffrey Combs) and packs his bags to head for an enormous mansion in the middle of nowhere. He is joined by a crew of fellow devotees who received a similar call: a gothy woman who claims she’s been Bartok’s wife in many lifetimes (Melanie Chandra); a bubbly former Christian who turned to Satan (Arden Myrin), a non-binary pal, whose life has been enriched by occultist studies (Rivkah Reyes); and a brilliant professor obsessed with ancient rituals (Terrence Carson). The crew are told that they will be participating in three rituals: the first two in preparation for the last in which the demon Abaddon will be brought to Earth. Sounds easy, right?

Bowser’s film is a huge swing for the fences and makes great use of the fan-funded budget. It features incredible creature design, with puppets that will thrill fans of ‘80s horror, eliciting a love-letter tone similar to Todd and the Book of Pure Evil. The genuine joy for filmmaking pulsates out of ONYX THE FORTUITOUS, with a palpable effort to fulfill exactly what people show up for when they press play on a movie like this, especially for existing fans of Bowser’s character. For the uninitiated, however, some may question the length. The film is basically a viral gag stretched to fit a 110-minute runtime. From the title credits alone, one can assume it’s a pretty gross and immature movie, which is fine, but where it falters is in humor that mostly hinges on characters hammering down on a punchline instead of letting the jokes breathe. This can get obnoxious if that style isn’t something you’re immediately on board for.

Though ONYX is undoubtedly not for everybody, the film is a great choice to open up the Calgary Underground Film Festival. It is raunchy and gregarious, with outlandish performances and dazzling puppetry that played great with a crowd wanting essentially a midnight movie experience. You don’t need a crystal ball to see that Andrew Bowser loves what he does and has great respect for the fanbase that birthed his career. That heart alone makes for an endearing experience.

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