Onyx the Fortuitous and the Talisman of Souls won’t appeal to everyone. Even for those who like this kind of campy indie horror comedy there will be definite parts of its hefty one hour and 50 minutes where either the jokes or the gore fall flat, stretched too thin for its narrative.
That said, the journey of this movie from its short form years on YouTube and TikTok, its Kickstarter days, to its theatrical release, and now to its exclusive streaming release on Screambox is testament to how a specific fandom can be a self-fulfilling promise that eventually leads to living the dream.
I mean, Onyx was shown at this year’s Sundance Film Festival along with Talk to Me, another movie (albeit a very different kind of horror film). Just like Onyx’s director and main actor Andrew Bowser, Talk to Me was made by two former YouTubers, the twin brothers Andrew and Michael Philippou.
Onyx the Fortuitous and the Talisman of Souls is a tribute to 80s horror comedies
If you’ve seen the often viral clips of Bowser’s character Onyx the Fortuitous, then you’ll be familiar with his gimmick of inserting himself into old horror clips (often from 80s gore slashers) and making comedic jokes from their iconic moments.
Onyx is a pretty nerdy guy who likes horror and the occult, often irritating and longwinded, speaking in a unique, singsongy manner that trails of with an “I don’t know!” at the end as a dialogue quirk almost like his own glottal oddity.
Going into the screener, I had zero idea about all this viral history, but Bowser’s movie follows an instantly recognizable vein of 80s camp and absurdity. It takes notes and cues from movies like Beetlejuice and Evil Dead where you can get spooked and guffaw in the same running time.
Brad Miska, Managing Director of Bloody Disgusting, nailed it when he said on the media kit that: “It’s Elvira: Mistress of the Dark meets Fright Night, Beetlejuice, and even Ernest Scared Stupid with practical effects that will leave you speechless.”
I wasn’t left speechless but the Scooby Doo meets Satanic procedural was indeed a fun romp. Hilarious sketches and cool creature effects abound when it’s wasn’t busy stretching out bad jokes for obvious lolz or fan service.
Onyx starts out as a pretty relatable character. He’s a nerdy horror fan who’s gone hardcore for Bartok the Great, a popular occult celebrity that’s a cross between Christopher Lee, Alesteir Crowley, and maybe some Rob Zombie if they ever released workout vids and demonic cat instructionals.
Onyx the Fortuitous and the Talisman of Souls laughingly hails Satan
Marcus J. Trillbury aka Onyx has an awful life, that’s why he escapes into the empowering Satanic fantasy personified by Bartok. He’s bullied at his dead end fast food job and his mother (horror icon Barbara Crampton), as well as her boyfriend, give him so much grief for being…well, him.
Which is why Onyx rejoices when he finds out he’s one of the five winners of a contest sponsored by Bartok. As winners, they’ll be rewarded to a weekend with Bartok at his glorious mansion.
At the said event, Bartok will take them through a ritual that summons a demon who shall, fingers crossed inversely, grant them the secret of true immortality. When he meets the four other winners, Onyx shares an instant feeling of belonging.
They oblige when he says he wants to be called Onyx and they don’t even laugh at his lunchbox slash luggage of Bartokian merch. From there on, the movie becomes an ensemble cast of misfits.
Notable among the gang is the academic Mr Duke who likes delving into occult lore (played by Terrence Carson of Afro Samurai and SW: Clone Wars fame) and Mack (played by School of Rock’s Rivkah Reyes), a non-binary witch with a cool Breakfast Club vibe.
More horror icons grace the screen when they meet Bartok the Great (played by cult icon Jeffrey Combs) and his beautiful, green-haired assistant Farrah (The Magicians’ Olivia Taylor Dudley) giving off shady, malevolent vibes right from the start.
Despite being star struck, Onyx and his newfound friends eventually discover that wanting to be in league with Satan’s host isn’t enough. Bartok and Farrah want to sacrifice them all as the price of admission for their own evil immortality.
The rest of the movie details how the Satanic Scooby-Doo gang manages to survive and thwart the plan of their former idol.
Onyx the Fortuitous and the Talisman of Souls isn’t for everyone
Despite scratching my head at the flourishes of what I was sure were inside jokes, like the running bit about Onyx’s extended virginity and all the cobwebs being strategically located to go into mouths, I thoroughly enjoyed the twisted tongue-in-cheek hijinks that were laid out.
Two high points for me include playing out an iteration of a Beetlejuice scene and an almost note for note homage to Meat Loaf’s I Would Do Anything for Love music video—where Onyx plays the doomed, beastly protagonist.
My laughs were genuine and cathartic. Those scenes made the watch worth it, for sure.
Oh, there’s also times when some folks were turned into ghouls and I liked the practical effects they put into making them look more, well, ghoulish. The rest of the time though, the movie simply played out a very done and very obvious story about a group of friends needing to save the world from evil, with Onyx emerging as the hero who steps up and rescues all in the end.
Onyx’s character quirks will either make you like him or detest him and though I actually know people who have these same kinds of speech habits, having him play it over and over throughout the runtime got pretty tiring pretty quick.
Onyx the Fortuitous and the Talisman of Souls should have been a short film
More to the point, the same short form formula that netted Bowser’s videos over 300 million views online doesn’t have the same kind of content heft or storytelling meat to sustain a full-length film.
There were times I went to the toilet or made myself a snack, looking away from the screen for minutes and came back to see that I hadn’t missed anything.
Still, the strength of Onyx is that it knows its audience and the kind of laughs and spooks that they want. If you think you’re one of the target viewers, put this one on when you’re with friends who like this horror comedy shtick and dig the nostalgia.
Or, if you are a fan of Onyx’s YouTube vids, watch that weird Satanic guy frolic through his debut movie complete with candelabras, gaudy oversized knives, and an Olivia Taylor-Dudley reveling in green-haired demonic camp.