Onyx the Fortuitous and the Talisman of Souls feels like a labour of love from start to finish, even if its story isn’t as enjoyable as its individual gags.
Before we go any further, I must admit to not having been familiar with Onyx the Fortuitous and the Talisman of Souls’ titular character before watching the film. From what I can tell, director and star Andrew Bowser has been portraying Onyx on his YouTube channel for years and has amassed a pretty sizable following in that time. After having seen the film, it’s easy to see why the character has gained popularity, as it taps into a very specific brand of humour that, for better or for worse, feels like it’s been ripped straight from the weirdest corners of sites like Reddit, delivered with a remarkable amount of confidence and commitment that makes even the worst joke strangely charming.
Onyx himself feels like the ultimate caricature of what one would assume a stereotypical Reddit user to be like. He proudly wears a fedora, his voice sounds like he’s constantly trying to impress every person who hears him, and once it’s established, his virginity is the subject of essentially every other joke. Almost everybody hates due to just how odd he is, and yet, his spirit seemingly never dies. It’s a solid premise for a comedic persona, but I do think it suffers from not feeling particularly fresh. Social media has beaten this kind of stereotype of death, so there’s just nothing that is comedically inventive anymore about seeing a socially inept nerd try to make his way through a strange situation.
This brings me to what I think the main issue of Onyx the Fortuitous and the Talisman of Souls is, and that’s the fact that its story just isn’t very interesting. Essentially, Onyx is invited to attend a mysterious ritual that’s taking place at the mansion of his idol, Bartok the Great (Jeffrey Combs). There, he meets a variety of strange personalities and finds himself embroiled in a supernatural conflict, one which involves demons, prophecies and plenty of brilliant practical effects. There’s plenty here I do like, namely the absurdity of it all, but I think my biggest issue is the fact it’s just not big and wacky enough. It mostly takes place inside the same mansion, which just feels like it’s constantly limiting the potential of the gags.
A character like Onyx the Fortuitous feels like one made for an adventure, and the practical effects on display here show that the crew behind the film were more than capable of making something even bigger, so it’s a shame that it constantly feels a bit too safe. As it is, there are plenty of individual scenes that are great, with some genuinely hilarious gags, but when it comes to the story as a whole, I’m just not overly bothered. I was never wondering what was going to happen next, I was never particularly invested in the other characters; all I wanted was to see what demon design they would surprise me with next, or what the next gag would be.
What helps the film massively is the obvious commitment from everyone involved. Whether it’s Re-Animator (1985) star Jeffery Combs hamming it up as the maniacal Bartok, or the constant brilliant costume design on display in every frame, it’s a film that never once feels half-arsed. I admittedly do wish it was that bit shorter, as after a while, it does feel like it’s fully revealed its hand. It’s very much at its best when it’s not having to heavily lean on its overarching story, so once it gets to the third act, it can definitely start to feel like it’s losing steam.
With that being said, from start to finish, Onyx the Fortuitous and the Talisman of Souls really does feel like a project made with love. The brilliantly named Andrew Bowser obviously loves this character to death, and it’s evident in almost every single scene. This is truly his film, and I have to take a second to applaud him for his effort. After it finished, I decided to take a proper look at his YouTube channel and I saw a variety of short parody videos that he made promoting the film – all in character as Onyx. It’s things like this that make me so happy that Onyx the Fortuitous and the Talisman of Souls exists. Whilst its brand of comedy might not be for everyone, Andrew Bowser obviously made this for himself first and foremost, and I think that’s glorious.
Onyx the Fortuitous and the Talisman of Souls will be released in US theaters on October 19, 2023.