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Why can’t something as compelling and great be said about character actors, just like in the case of directors who used to act? Larry Fessenden (“Depraved”) is one great That Guy who appears here and there in genre movies, mostly horror. Additionally, he’s the producer of Glass Eye Pix and sometimes writes and directs for them too. Fessenden’s latest werewolf psychodrama called “Blackout” is a good example of his usual meticulousness with both performance and character-related minutiae. That comment may be surprising considering this low-budget monster piece filled with lead performances that are downright amateurish.

In a Larry Fessenden film everyone plays a character complete with their own idiosyncrasies, disabilities, obligations. Much of this was glimpsed only in “Blackout,” which was not an entirely successful but still valid adaptation of Fessenden’s audio drama from one of Glass Eye’s “Tales from Beyond the Pale”: radio drama style horror stories.

The audio play version of “Blackout” was basically a B-movie take on Charley (Fessenden), an unhappy loner seeking to put things right before unexpectedly turning into a werewolf again. This adaptation has extra storylines some of which seem irrelevant. The new “Blackout” also features several standout moments and a Poe-like air of melancholy dread that should already be well known by fans of Fessenden’s work. But it isn’t very original or necessary for the most part; however, it still works because the scriptwriter/director together with his cast did an outstanding job.

This follows Charley Barrett (Alex Hurt), a beloved drunkard who happens to also be a lycanthrope named Blackout. Being aware that he is actually lycanthrope he wants to murder himself at least until he kills more people accidentally passing by him. Inarticulate tremble going through the exurban Talbot Falls, Charley meets a series of people he wants to talk to first. Mostly people he either wants to avoid or doesn’t want to get into a deep conversation with. For instance, Pastor Francis (John Speredakos), who is inquisitive but caring and gives Charley a ride. Or maybe Jack Hammond (Marshall Bell), who is a grouch developer and whom Charley always argues with. There’s also Sharon Hammond (Addison Timlin), the concern mother of his baby daughter and Jack’s estranged wife who is now dating other guys (Joe Swanberg couldn’t be better).

Meanwhile, the police are looking for a person who has committed several random killings. At one crime scene civic-minded cop Alice (Ella Rae Peck) together with her skeptical partner Luis (Joseph Castillo-Midyett) noticed animal fur lying on the ground. After that they had been discussing the German idea of “umwelt,” which means “self-centered world”: where everyone lives in their own personal bubble.Plotwise, this pivotal dialogue helps understand some things about “Blackout”, as well as Fessenden’s filmmaking preferences. I wish there were more conversations like these in “Blackout” where they spout philosophy like college sophomores at two-thirty in the morning only much smarter than that.

But his aimlessness is not frustrating at all: it is sometimes frustrating, the circuitous course of Charley. In fact, “Blackout” does not wander far enough into lo-fi psychedelia and macabre verse that Fessenden excels in since the character has productive dialogues occasionally even with individuals he enjoys their company like Miguel (Rigo Garay), a family man falsely accused by Jack of Charley’s offences or Earl (Motell Gyn Foster), a lonely speaker who, on his request, makes silver bullets for him. While this pointed dialogue doesn’t always sound genuine when spoken by Fessenden’s actors/actresses, it forms a good pretext for the best part of this film which is largely conversational.

In fact, Blackout’ is least interesting when it gets too formulaic as we dutifully follow along behind Charlie as the body count climbs and the cops get closer. Pastor Francis sprouting platitudes or even bar fly Bob (Kevin Corrigan) spewing tough talk while drunk who wants to fight underpaid Mexican migrant workers and misquotes Winston Churchill represent these guys as well as being bit players that obviously enjoyed Fessenden’s affection.

More Umwelt! If there was any one thing missing from “Blackout,” it would be more umwelt. The movie’s opening scene sets the mood perfectly well. Clay von Carlowitz & Asta Paredes play young couple, strip down then try to fuck in an open field. She mocks him and keeps asking if this he daydreams about. By them getting attacked, we know enough about these characters to wish we knew more about their lives personally but can’t because they barely take part in Charley’s tale.

Still you can see why other minor figures catch Fessenden’s fancy as well though he himself may find them difficult to bring into one beast flick experience after another; His monster looks and sounds good, but it’s not really special as Fessenden’s movies often are. On the other hand, “Blackout” is perhaps too little ambitious for a filmmaker with such well-earned reputation of going to the more distant places with more poetic whimsy than most; While Fessenden’s latest has much to recommend it, there is not enough of it in order to be completely satisfying.

You can still see why Fessenden likes these and other supporting characters, even if his reasons don’t always translate smoothly into a creature feature. His monster looks and sounds good, but it’s not really special as Fessenden’s movies often are. If anything, “Blackout” is cursed by its director’s well-earned reputation for going farther afield and with more poetic whimsy than most. Fessenden’s latest has a lot to recommend it, but not enough to fully satisfy.

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