(Written by Allison Brown)
Fans of Syfy’s The Magicians rejoice! Olivia Taylor Dudley is back in something equally mystical and devilish: Onyx the Fortuitous and the Talisman of Souls! Not quite the lead, Olivia has a weighty role that will satiate the appetite of all who miss Alice Quinn. Olivia’s sister, Madison Reed Dudley, even has a small cameo!
Potential viewers may recall internet meme sensation, “Weird Satanist Guy,” a comedic character originated by Andrew Bowser. Bowser not only plays “guy” Marcus J. Trillbury, who calls himself Onyx the Fortuitous, but also directs, and wrote the script. I personally find Marcus (Andrew Bowser) to be incredibly grating and dull; I am assumably not the prime audience for this film. Thankfully, despite his large presence, I found the plot and secondary characters to be robust enough to find a balance. As a result, Bowser succeeds more as a director than as an actor.
We are introduced to Marcus through a video entry for a “grand getaway contest,” where he shows off his fanboy adoration for Bartok the Great (Jeffrey Combs) and the occult. He has taken his “Letting a Little Devil In” courses, listened to his music, and reduces himself to a devoted follower at his feet. Marcus is a loser in every way; he lives in his parents’ basement, has bullies even in adult life, works in food service at Marty’s Meat Hut, and is a virgin. Luckily, he is selected as one of five winners for this life changing opportunity. Marcus will take part in a demonic ritual with Bartok.
Upon arrival, the five are given peridot necklaces to “cleanse [them] of any unwelcome spirits before [they] enter [the] sacred and unholy space.” In return, they must leave behind a personal object to “ground [one] to the house as an offering of familiarity.” There is significant bespoke lore to the plot. If one is distracted for even a moment, they might miss something important. I could see a whole universe of films built off the information presented.
The visitors are greeted once inside with a deceased Bartok on the floor, and a video playing with means to revive him. The group are successful at this test, and Bartok, along with faithful delegate Farrah (Olivia Taylor Dudley), describe the itinerary for their time spent at Briardale Manor. There will be three rituals, with the first two in preparation for the third, and if fruitful, all are promised immortality. Hijinks ensue, and the visitors learn that Bartok may not have good intentions after all.
Genre fans will eat this up, especially those who love looking for an homage to the classics. Bowser blends the likes of Beetlejuice and Meat Loaf’s “I’d Do Anything For Love (But I Won’t Do That)” music video with 80s and 90s visuals and callbacks. Olivia and Bowser even sing during a climactical interlude, and quite well. Furthermore, it has a comparable quality to some of The Magicians musical episodes. The demons are built with a similar aesthetic to Jim Henson’s The Dark Crystal. Expect hilariously nerdy allusions for genre afficionados at each and every turn. I could easily forsee Onyx the Fortuitous and the Talisman of Souls becoming a cult classic in the near future.
Onyx the Fortuitous and the Talisman of Souls will drag the audience to hell when it premieres at the 2023 Sundance Film Festival.