Fantasia Film Festival 2023 reviews: Lovely, Dark and Deep and Blackout

Alex Hurt from Blackout; Georgina Campbell from Lovely, Dark, and Deep.
Alex Hurt from Blackout; Georgina Campbell from Lovely, Dark, and Deep. Pic credit: Courtesy of Fantasia.

Lovely, Dark, and Deep and Blackout have vastly different storylines that explore fascinating trauma-related themes.

Lovely, Dark, and Deep is a psychological horror film that gradually builds tension, leaving the viewer with an unsettling feeling at all times.

In contrast, Blackout takes a more traditional approach to werewolf movies but with interesting meta concepts.

Teresa Sutherland’s cosmic nightmare features a character grappling with past losses.

At the same time, Blackout uses its lycan monster to comment on addiction, pain, and the struggle to cope with family issues.

Here are our reviews of Lovely, Dark, and Deep and Blackout playing at Fantasia Fest 2023.

Lovely, Dark, and Deep review

Lovely, Dark, and Deep starts quietly, much like Ti West’s House of the Devil. The film lulls viewers into a false sense of security before plunging them into unimaginable horror. However, unlike House of the Devil, director and writer Teresa Sutherland’s nightmare has a touch of cosmic horror. It’s an excellent companion piece to The Outwaters, as both films withhold their horrifying mysteries and explore the unexplainable terrors of nature.

The movie follows Georgina Campbell as Lennon, a reserved park ranger who has transferred to what her colleagues describe as a “dream job.” However, whispers about her mental health abound. As the film progresses, Lennon walks through the forest, marking maps of her daily hikes and recalling traumatic memories of past tragedies.

Soon, Lennon discovers that random individuals are disappearing from the area, prompting a forest-wide search and rescue mission. As the search unfolds, Sutherland’s direction takes the character and the viewer on a nightmarish journey. It becomes increasingly difficult to distinguish what is real from what is not, resulting in a disorienting and unsettling experience.

This horror film eschews jump scares in favor of psychological terror, much like Nightmare on Elm Street. Sutherland stages scenes that get under the skin, leaving viewers feeling creeped out. Some moments are so visually stunning that the horror of the sequence lingers long after the film ends.

Georgina Campbell in Lovely, Dark, and Deep
Georgina Campbell in Lovely, Dark, and Deep. Pic credit: Courtesy of Fantasia

Lovely, Dark, and Deep feels like a horror video game in the vein of Silent Hill, where characters walk with flashlights in unreliable realities and fear what might lurk ahead. It makes one wonder if Sutherland is a millennial who grew up around horror games like Alan Wake and Resident Evil.

Georgina Campbell’s performance is remarkable, as she carries the film with strength and vulnerability, just like she did in Barbarian. If she wants to become the new queen of horror, we’re here for it. Campbell’s character has a tragic past with the forest, and she confidently conveys the emotions of someone working through grief.

Aside from the performances, Lovely, Dark, and Deep is an impressive full-length feature debut for Teresa Sutherland. It’s a bone-chilling horror film that is both patient with its scares and satisfying. As an experience at Fantasia, we love to watch these types of movies. They are dark, inspired, and confident genre flicks that provoke fear deep in our minds.

Blackout review

The film Blackout offers a blend of different experiences. It presents interesting ideas and seeks to evoke the traditional portrayal of werewolves, particularly in the style of the classic Wolf Man. In this style, the beast walks upright on two legs, resembling a ferocious Chewbacca.

Directed by Larry Fessenden, the film delves into intriguing concepts, such as letting go of past traumas and discovering oneself amidst past troubles. However, some parts of the film suffer from pacing problems, unrealistic scenes, and exaggerated supporting characters.

The movie’s plot revolves around Charley (Alex Hurt), an artist confronted with two significant challenges. Firstly, he suspects that his father used unethical means to gain success in their town, leading to corrupt practices. Secondly, brutal murders happen at night in the community, and his friend Miguel (Rigo Garay) is accused of them, which might be Charley’s fault as he thinks he might be a werewolf.

In the film, we meet Charley’s ex-girlfriend Sharon (Addison Timlin), who appears to be distant from him due to reasons that are explained in an expository manner. Charley holds Sharon’s father, Hammond (Marshall Bell –known for his roles in Total Recall and Starship Troopers), accountable for the split, but Sharon firmly believes that Charley is to blame due to his personal issues.

Alex Hurt in Blackout. Pic credit: Courtesy of Fantasia
Alex Hurt in Blackout. Pic credit: Courtesy of Fantasia

In this part of the story, the themes take on a self-reflective quality. When Charley attempts to leave town, he undergoes a transformation triggered by the full moon. As he transitions into a wolf, he turns to drinking to make the process easier. While the movie suggests that alcohol helps with the transformation, one might interpret it as a commentary on alcoholism. Moreover, William Hurt, Alex Hurt’s father, struggled with alcoholism during his lifetime. If the role of Charley is Alex Hurt’s way of acknowledging and coping with his family’s struggles, it’s evident in his performance.

The werewolf aspects can also be seen as a commentary on substance abuse. It might be a bit on the nose but a creative choice worth appreciating. When Charley transitions, he blacks out, loses memory of what happened the night before, and people get hurt—a common side effect of drinking.

While Blackout has strengths, some of the supporting characters’ performances fall short. Certain townspeople come across as if they belong in a different movie, with their exaggerated portrayal of angry townspeople trying to catch a killer. This tonal inconsistency becomes more noticeable when the film has a serious character in the lead role.

Additionally, some scenes require a suspension of disbelief. For instance, there is a moment when Charley is walking down the road in his usual white pants with noticeable blood stains, yet passing vehicles and bystanders don’t react or call for help. It’s possible that this reviewer may have too much faith in society’s ability to do the right thing.

Blackout has some admirable aspects, but it doesn’t quite live up to its potential. The lead, Alex Hurt, delivers a nuanced performance that stands out. The film also explores interesting themes such as addiction and generational trauma. However, those seeking a horror movie might be disappointed. Blackout doesn’t aim to be a horror film, even though the other actors sometimes perform as if they were in a cheesy B-Grade horror flick.– The other characters may be, but Charley, played by Hurt, is not.

Be sure to read our Part 1 and Part 2 most anticipated films at Fantasia and our reviews of Shin Kamen Rider and Stay Online. Stay tuned for more Fantasia Film Fest reviews at Monsters and Critics.

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